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As the wind whips up around Victoria Park, news filters through that Critics’ Choice BRIT award winner, Sam Fender, has had to pull out due to doctor’s orders. This is the second sledgehammer to proceedings, with British punk duo Slaves also having had to surrender their headline slot due to vocalist Laurie Vincent awaiting the imminent arrival of his second child.
Not perturbed by the news, we head over to the Stage 2 tent (it is actually called that), where The Futureheads have returned after a seven-year hiatus to revisit their razor-sharp post-punk from their self-titled LP. The set is packed with mid-noughties indie bombs including; a punchy version of Meantime, elegantly poppy fan favourite Skip to the End and head first into the driving drums and lo-fi guitar signatures of Carnival Kids. “We’ve got one left, can you guess what it is?” declares Barry Hyde with a wry smile, before launching into a frantic rendition of Kate Bush’s 'Hounds of Love', sending the local crowd into hysteria.
As The Charlatans entertain those at the main stage we opt for a trip to the Neighbourhood Inn to witness some half cut festival-goer karaoke complete with a full band. On entering the tent, we are treated to a beer soaked rendition of Queen’s, 'Don’t Stop Me Now' and then a ramshackle attempt at The Strokes, 'Last Nite'. 200 miles south in a park that goes by the same name, the New York quintet are gracing the stage at All Points East – it’s clear that this rendition has definitely gone west. It really good fun all the same and the crowd have clearly switched into night time mode.
Back at Stage 2, White Lies really up the ante with a brilliant performance of musicianship which treats us to new material from their current album, Five. This includes Tokyo, a beautiful piece of 80s electronica, the dark progressive rock of 'Time To Give' and a shimmering indie version of 'Kick Me' which wouldn’t be out of place on Radiohead’s, The Bends.
However, the band still realise they are playing a festival and duly oblige by rattling through their biggest hits. They drop the infectious synths and pounding drums of 'To Lose My Life' as the crowd bob and weave into their stride followed by a tip of the hat to Joy Division via 'Farewell to the Fairground'. They close the set with 'Death' and by this point we well and truly feel like we are at a festival.
Richard Ashcroft takes to the stage in buoyant mood, which is not surprising given the recent news that The Rolling Stones have finally signed over the royalties to the seminal, 'Bittersweet Symphony', 22 years after it’s release. Kicking off with the beautifully crafted call to arms of 'Sonnet', it sends the field into raptures and sees the younger clientele in the crowd breakout their flares whilst hitching a ride on their friend’s shoulders. 'Space and Time' still sounds majestic and encourages us that “we just can’t make it alone” and latest single Surprised by the Joy’s upbeat and reflective mood is a welcome addition to his vastly introspective material.
The more reflective numbers (Break The Night With Colour, These People, This Is How It Feels) offset to more anthemic numbers, i.e the brooding 'They Don’t Own Me' followed by an energised 'Song For The Lovers'. It’s clear from the outset that this will be a strictly Urban Hymns and solo material set, with no signs of any of the big hitters from A Storm In Heaven or A Northern Soul.
The encore treats us to the mass sing-along of 'Lucky Man' and a solo rendition of 'Drugs Don’t Work' before he dedicates 'Bittersweet Symphony' to “Keith and Mick and everyone bringing home the bacon”. As the ethereal strings wash over a well-lubricated crowd, people embrace and sing every lyric like their life depends on it.
A timeless piece of modern day blues that depicts the struggle of modern life is not likely to waver in the public consciousness any time soon. However, with Boris Johnson in the running to become the next Prime Minister, Article 50 still a different proposition from one cabinet meeting to the next and the NHS being privatised through the back door, it feels more poignant than ever.
After another successful year, Neighbourhood Weekender has already announced it will return in 2020. The festival will take place on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th May 2019 with tickets going on sale on Friday 1st June 2019.