Festival review: Let’s Rock Leeds! at Temple Newsam, Leeds

Tony Hadley
Tony Hadley
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In a day packed full of 80s sing-a-long anthems, Nick Heyward’s ‘Fantastic Day’ best summed up a sun-drenched trip down amnesia lane, 14,000 revellers basking in the Temple Newsam sunshine.

Latecomers might have missed Technotronic’s curtain raiser, their infectious classic ‘Pump up the Jam’, perhaps a little early in the day for those still unfurling their picnic blankets, whilst also puzzling at Doctor and the Medics’ vocalist, clearly having not seen today’s weather forecast, his long white faux fur jacket appearing somewhat incongruous in the 80 degree heat. Nevertheless, the crowd lapped up Medics’ chart-topper ‘Spirit in the Sky’, proving they knew all the moves as well as words to any classic thrown at them.

A Flock of Seagulls, then set the standard for all to follow with their killer hit ‘I Ran’, before Hazel O’Connor, flying the flag for female artists, reminded many of long forgotten teenage angst with the still resonating ‘Will You?’.

The stage was then set for ex-Haircut One Hundred frontman Nick Heyward, achieving a more chilled vibe with the still excellent ‘Blue Hat for a Blue Day’ and ‘Love Plus One’; Heyward then making way for another Smash Hits cover staple Hue and Cry, instantly endearing the local crowd when confessing that the ‘Linda’ in question was actually from Leeds.

From the Jam fronted by Bruce Foxton, were warmly welcomed; ‘That’s Entertainment’, was quickly followed by ‘Eton Rifles’, ‘Going Underground’ and ‘Start’. Everyone then rose to their feet for ‘A Town Called Malice’, Foxton proving every inch a Modfather, if only for Let’s Rock Leeds!

Roland Gift’s unique cover of Elvis’s ‘Suspicious Minds’ was one I’d forgotten about, three more FYC floor-fillers ‘She Drives Me Crazy’, ‘Good Thing’ and ‘Johnny Come Home’ following suit. The soul groove continued, firstly with a lively set by Imagination’s funked-up falsetto frontman Leee John – effortlessly boogying his way through ‘Body Talk’, ‘Just an Illusion’ and ‘Music and Lights’. Kid Creole and the Coconuts, then paid homage to 80s power dressing, Kid’s flamboyant attire and choreographed performance headlined by the Caribbean infused soul of ‘Annie I’m not Your Daddy’.

The Human League headlined Let's Rock Leeds.

The Human League headlined Let's Rock Leeds.

With dusk approaching Howard Jones appeared clutching a keytar, his 80s smashes sounding very current in a polished performance, the audience joining in with gusto on ‘Like to Get to Know You Well’, ‘Life In One Day’ and ‘What Is Love?’.

Tony Hadley, ever the retro festival veteran never failing to deliver, provided another master class in giving the people what they want. When you can sprinkle Bowie, Queen and Kings of Leon covers amongst a plethora of Spandau anthems including ‘Lifeline’, ‘Through the Barricades’ and school disco classic ‘True’, you know you are being entertained. And there is no better climax to a Hadley performance than a crowd rousing rendition of ‘Gold’.

In a Yorkshire setting it felt fitting to close with a band from the county, The Human League providing a fine finale as ‘Love Action’ and ‘Mirror Man’, instantly transported you back to an era of hairspray and Diana haircuts, followed by the song everyone wanted to hear (and sing) ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ bringing a truly ‘Fantastic Day’ to an end.

From The Jam

From The Jam

Max Chapman. Picture: Leon Layman

Music interview: Max Chapman