Festival review: Live At Leeds 2018

The Vaccines on stage at O2 Academy Leeds, at Live At Leeds. Picture: Mark BickerdikeThe Vaccines on stage at O2 Academy Leeds, at Live At Leeds. Picture: Mark Bickerdike
The Vaccines on stage at O2 Academy Leeds, at Live At Leeds. Picture: Mark Bickerdike
Now in its 12th year, Live At Leeds has become one of the country's biggest urban music festivals, attracting thousands of music lovers to watch hundreds of artists performing at a score of city venues.

Here’s some of our music reviewers’ impressions on the 2018 event...

David Hodgson’s Live At Leeds

Nadine Shah

Ash at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony LongstaffAsh at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Ash at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Shah’s album of 2017, Holiday Destination, featured strongly during this set but it was the rethinking of Matador from her second album that hit hardest.

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Shah was genuinely enthusiastic about her set and that came through every second of her performance. Songs off her most recent album were given more brawn, more strength by the band. The saxophonist isn’t as strong on the recorded version but lifted this set. An absolute triumph.

Nick J D Hodgson

Ex-Kaiser Chief Nick Hodgson released his debut solo album earlier this year, which is full of hooks and charm. The same hooks weren’t as apparent during this set and Hodgson never seemed to move up through the gears. Even a cover of Oh My God failed to land a blow but the quality of song and music writing was always a constant and it was that which pushed the set over the line.

Idles at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony LongstaffIdles at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Idles at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Sunset Sons

There seemed to be a degree of nervous energy from Sunset Sons’ frontman Rory Williams before the set opened as he frantically ensured that all the instruments required to create the band’s bombastic guitar sound filled the Academy. Having quickly settled down Sunset Sons produced half an hour of strong rock that justifies their ever increasing groundswell of support.

Tom Walker

Walker’s profile has been sharply on the rise in recent times and a set of his raspy vocals over guitar rock with its origins firmly in the blues show why. There was a large mid-afternoon crowd in The Church for Walker’s engaging and hook laden energetic set, all knowing that this wouldn’t be the last they’d hear of this Scottish singer as he continues his ascendency.

The Magic Gang at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony LongstaffThe Magic Gang at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
The Magic Gang at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Kimberley-Marie Sklinar

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Live at Leeds has grown from a tenner-a-day discovery to a full-on behemoth of acts old and new, with the queues and crowds to match.

We started our day at the trippy Superorganism show at the University of Leeds’ Stylus venue, which saw the eight-piece fit onto the stage comfortably for a psychelic show, brimming with avant-garde outfits and dancing to match. Already busy at 3.30 in the afternoon, a sunny day switched Leeds city centre from shopping haven to city festival effortlessly.

Ash opened the Leeds Beckett University stage with a belting rendition of A Life Less Ordinary, one of the more unexpected tracks of the day, as the band beckons their eight album release just next week. Goldfinger, Kung Fu and three new tracks never performed before also made the setlist cut, followed by Fling – who sound like The Drums meets The Beach Boys, toting slacker surfer rock in skeleton outfits and stripy trousers.

Rae Morris at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony LongstaffRae Morris at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Rae Morris at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Fizzy Blood brought their raucous trademark hair flinging to The Key Club later on, adding a heavier flavour to a festival with mostly smoother headliners, and Bad Sounds at new venue The Church were a refreshing punch that invigorated mid-evening as they bounced about the stage.

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The Horrors, surrounded by dark blue lights and a doomy stage, played tracks from all over their discography whilst frontman Faris Badwan shook with fidgety aggression like a haunted gothic David Bowie when the band finally came on.

Pale Waves were the last act of the night, playing indie pop to an at-capacity Brudenell Social Club, and drew this year’s Live at Leeds to a deserving close.

With the addition of music industry events around the festival, how long is it until Leeds is hosting a rival to Brighton’s industry-clad The Great Escape?

Ross Heppenstall’s Live At Leeds

After a terrific day of live music in Leeds, it was fitting that The Vaccines ensured the day ended with a glorious crescendo.

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Superorganism at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony LongstaffSuperorganism at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Superorganism at Live At Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

The London five-piece band, armed with new album Combat Sports and a raucous fanbase, were on top form in front of the adoring crowd.

An impressive set included old classics like Teenage Icon, Norgaard, If You Wanna and a mix of stuff from albums across the last seven years including Dream Lover, 20/20, fan favourite Wetsuit and I Always Knew.

The great thing about The Vaccines is their songs are catchy and get you dancing which, in a compact venue like the 02 Academy, will always go down well.

This was a great party with plenty of dancing and singing at the end of a glorious day which confirmed Leeds as one the best cities in the UK for live music.

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These Vaccines are just getting better with age, and will be a favourite with indie fans of all ages for years to come.

Rob Chadwick’s Live at Leeds

As always Live at Leeds marks the inaugural path to my festival campaign. Usually the weather holds out however this year it went one step further, as the legendary John Tegada once wrote, it was literally ‘sweat on the walls’. That said, it brought everyone that extra bit of happiness and anticipation maxed as they floated between the venues. The line up was sublime, with cast like Circa Waves and The Horrors, providing an epic sound track. With both acts having performed here on numerous occasions you could say they have Leeds in their blood, and it showed!


Live at Leeds has always had a great organisational model when it comes to arrangement, timings between bands and venue lay outs; they always minimise the risk of disappointing fans and this year was no different – between The Church, O2 Academy and Beckett University they offered a plethora of legendary talent mixed with the new and the up and coming.


The faithful wait in angst for the year’s LAL line up to go live. This year we were offered another six-pronged attack, then just when we thought they couldn’t go any further the team hit us with The Vaccines who headlined. This garnered even more publicity in the local eye, which made for a historic Live at Leeds

Key acts of the weekend:


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Along with Ash they really kicked my Live at Leeds off to a cracking start with an emphatic full house at 02. Sweaty and diverse the band maxed out at the end with a jam session that left the audience wanting more.


The legendary Irish trio were the first band that garnered a full house; and with a rip-roaring sound system and beautifully orchestrated set list, they created a nostalgic barrage of timeless ensembles that brought back my childhood memories. A Girl from Mars stole it, of course!

Tom Walker

After interviewing him only three weeks ago, I needed to check out the man himself, he opened up proceedings at The Church, the perfect venue for this sultry tones. The born-again Mancunian, who is set to debut his new album this autumn, was a sheer delight to watch and a thoroughly nice chap to boot. Definitely one to watch leading out of the summer.