Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds bring an apocalyptic, climactic close day three of Latitude

Latitude 2009 review

published: Tue 28th Jul 2009

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th July 2009
Henham Park Estate, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 8AN, England MAP
weekend ticket £150 - SOLD OUT, day tickets are priced at £60
last updated: Mon 13th Jul 2009

Luke Wright is the main host and co-programmer of the Latitude Poetry tent. He is a 2007 4Talent award winner, founder of live poetry collective Aisle 16 (who are also performing at Latitude) and poet-in-residence on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live. He reads us a couple of poems – one called 'Another Grotty Holiday', a description of his job as a poet, which I can imagine is fairly accurate, and 'Mondeo Man', which seems to be about conforming as we get older. Wright brings on an 11 year old, Alex, who had watched the poetry the previous day and been inspired to write. After a bit of encouragement, Alex recites his short poem about Sainsbury's which is greeted very warmly. Wright has just set up a new publishing company with the aim of publishing poetry in pamphlets for a year and he'll be publishing Byron Vincent, who's on next.

Byron Vincent makes us all laugh a lot with his deadpan humour and self-deprecating comments – "I have low self-esteem which is more than I deserve". His poetry and prose is quite earthy - there's a hilarious poem about the perils of the internet, basically a long list of things not to buy online. He tells us he was brought up on a dodgy council estate between Preston, Chorley and Leyland, and then reads hilarious descriptions of each place to give us an idea of how rough the area is.

Thom Yorke
Once Vincent finishes, we follow the rest of the crowd up to the Obelisk for Thom Yorke's much anticipated rare solo set. Radiohead's frontman has released one solo album a few years ago but has never toured solo. It feels like the whole of the festival is heading to the mainstage for this midday session; unfortunately the screens either side of the stage are switched off (it's rumoured that this might have been at Yorke's request), a bit of a downer for those at the back but the sound is perfect. Yorke starts with a piano ballad, 'The Eraser', the title track from his solo album. He plays a mixture of songs from Radiohead albums, as well as five songs from his solo offering, an unreleased track called 'Follow Me Around' which he says has "been on the shelf and never really came off the shelf", and debuts a new song called 'The Present Tense', played on acoustic guitar, which sounds simple and beautiful with the repeated refrain of "in you I'm lost". The highlight of this set for me is 'Harrowdown Hill', where Yorke loops a nagging bassline and plays haunting keys over the top. The song is about the apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly, the weapons expert, not long after the Iraq war started in 2003; the circumstances of his death remain controversial. A couple of Radiohead songs are played in the encore – 'There There' and 'True Love Waits'.

Across to the Film & Music tent hoping to see the intriguing session of Lightspeed Champion playing Cat Stevens songs from the film 'Harold and Maude'. Lightspeed Champion has cancelled and Jeffrey Lewis & the Junkyard are standing in, which is good news. Lewis shows a couple of his cartoon illustration videos – one is an interesting visual interpretation of the Nirvana song 'Sifting' and the other is his song 'Creeping Brain', which is funny and slightly disturbing. They also play 'To Be Objectified' and ‘'Roll Bus Roll' from their most recent album.

Over in the Poetry tent, Dockers MC, aka Laura Dockrill, is bringing South London vividly to life through her poems and the different voices she uses for characters in the rhymes. Roger Lloyd Pack is up next, perhaps best known for his role as Trigger in 'Only Fools and Horses', he's performing a weighty piece of work – 'The Waste Land' by T S Eliot. He's accompanied by a cellist, Melissa Phelps. Lloyd Pack warns us that Eliot wrote the poem after the first World War when he was recovering from a breakdown and explains that the piece is in five sections and incorporates different languages, music even, as well as referring to Greek mythology, pagan and Hindu beliefs. The piece takes 40 minutes and quite a few people in the crowd don't have the stamina for it and leave during the reading. It is, on this listening, quite depressing and unsettling, and seems disjointed. Lloyd Pack acknowledges at the end that it's 'a difficult piece to listen to'. Though his delivery is excellent, I think the poem might have been too high brow even for Latitude.

Lisa Hannigan
There's an absolutely torrential downpour during Lisa Hannigan's set at the Obelisk and she loses a third of the audience, who just run away, though this doesn't seem to daunt her and she smiles throughout (maybe she'd just got the news about being a Mercury Music prize nominee?). Hannigan is an Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, most renowned for her collaboration with Damien Rice, particularly on his highly successful album 'O'. Today, she sings songs from her debut album 'Sea Sew' in a soft, pretty voice, which reminds me of Bjork, and swaps between playing the guitar, melodica, squeezebox and mandolin.

We go for 'Afternoon Tea with Stuart Maconie & Friends' in the Literary venue; there’s no evidence of tea but a box of biscuits is passed around the crowd. Stuart Maconie, DJ, TV presenter, journalist and author ("the English Bill Bryson" according to one review), is joined by novelist Jonathan Coe and comedian/crime writer Mark Billingham, to chat about Maconie's latest book 'Adventures on the High Teas in Search of Middle England'. They have a lively and amusing discussion and take questions at the end, covering issues like "is Latitude quintessentially Middle England?", "is middle England middle class?", and "is the Daily Mail the voice of Middle England?".

around the festival site (3)
I go to the Film & Music tent in anticipation of SonVer's session but arrive in the middle of a talk about the Cape Farewell project by comedian Marcus Brigstocke. This project leads expeditions to the Arctic of artists and climate scientists to raise awareness about climate change. A special guest is billed for this slot and Jarvis Cocker is announced to huge cheers. He plays a piece of music called 'Slush' which resulted from his experience on the boat during one of the expeditions. Then Shlomo, who's also been on one of these journeys, is invited on to demonstrate his incredible beatboxing skills. I've seen Shlomo a couple of times before but am still awestruck by the sounds that he can build up. He does a great beatboxing version of The Prodigy's 'Out of Space', as well as showing us that he's learnt how to do a scratch noise and beat simultaneously, and by using two mics, how he can capture the bass sound that comes from the throat. He then performs 'Shlomo's Mouth' which uses all these skills and a loop sampler. We're then treated to an apparently spontaneous collaboration between Jarvis Cocker and Shlomo – a guitar piece with Shlomo's additional beatboxing vocals, which turned into 'Purple Haze'.

SonVer, a four piece London band with guitars, drums and cello, are performing an audio-visual show 'The Alchemy of Man'. (Note: alchemy according to wikipedia is a philosophy and a practice with the aim of achieving ultimate wisdom as well as immortality.) Seven short films are shown, produced by different European film-makers, which illustrate the seven alchemical stages – Calcination, Dissolution, Separation, Conjunction, Fragmentation, Distillation and Coagulation. The images are interesting and the musical accompaniment stirring and emotional, sometimes building in intensity and urgency and then falling away to expose the mournful cello. Sadly, I can't pretend to understand what it all meant.

Heading over to the Waterfront Stage, I arrive to see The Irrepressibles perform their last song on a floating music box and realise that I've clearly missed something special. They are a 10 piece orchestra with a gothic look, high-rise hair, matching outfits and lots of make-up. The frontman has a voice described in the programme as "the ghosts of Billy McKenzie and Jeff Buckley wrestling together", a fair description, with a touch of Antony Hegarty thrown in. I shall be looking them up in London.

There's just time to watch Avant Garde before heading over to the Obelisk for the big headliner. Avant Garde is a dance troupe who perform 'abstract streetdance' and for this performance, five dancers, all dressed in black, are combining Chinese pole with hip hop which leads to an extremely acrobatic and balletic dance display.

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
So, the closing act for the Obelisk Arena at Latitude 2009 is Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Cave played here last year as Grinderman. I can't think of a better way to finish any festival than this loud, apocalyptic, climactic set of greatest hits from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Appropriately the wind is howling around the crowd as the charismatic Cave whips his band into a furious storm, which reaches fever pitch by the last song. The set list is: the rumbling, sinister 'Tupelo’', with Cave delivering its lullaby lines like "mama rock your baby" in his growling, demonic voice; 'Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!', the title track from their most recent album; the tumultuous 'Red Right Hand' complete with Cave's posturing and scary finger-pointing at the front of the stage; the jubilant 'Deanna', 'Midnight Man'; 'The Ship Song', a beautiful romantic song; 'Henry Lee'; one of the murder ballads follows in sharp contrast; then a tremendous 'We Call Upon the Author', full of jarring effects; 'The Mercy Seat', powerful as ever with its gory, biblical vision; a swirling 'There She Goes, My Beautiful World', 'The Weeping Song', 'Papa Won't Leave You, Henry'; finally, another murder ballad 'Stagger Lee' which ends on a literal high note of a screaming violin. There's no encore but they’ve played for an hour and a quarter and the majority of punters head back to the campsites sated.

Latitude, I'm shattered but extremely impressed.

around the festival site (1)
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Chris Mathews

Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th July 2009
Henham Park Estate, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 8AN, England MAP
weekend ticket £150 - SOLD OUT, day tickets are priced at £60
last updated: Mon 13th Jul 2009

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