Headlining Friday night is George Ezra. With his sunny demeanour and catchy tunes, he wows his young audience through the patters of the rain. Like a 21st-century Rick Astley with splashes of Johnny Cash and Talking Heads, his sing-along ditties rock the crowd as this English summer evening continues.
“This is one I sing on karaoke after four pints on beer!”, he exclaims as he starts up his own composition, Hold on the Girls. It’s a nice tune but who performs their own songs on karaoke? Surely We Built this City on Rock and Roll by Starship or Rock Lobster by the B52s would be more appropriate. However, the audience lap it up, merrily joining in where Ezra leads.
The concert continues in much the same vein, finishing with his earworm classic Shotgun accompanied with a burst of fireworks.
Completing the evening over in the Speakeasy is a science slot from Chris Lintott and Steve Pretty called the Universe of Music. These two amiable raconteurs talk enthusiastically about their separate disciplines, Pretty as a trumpet-playing musician and Professor Lintott as an astronomer.
Grasping tentative links between the exploration of the sky and composition of music the two friends discuss how space is dead acoustically but should sound like Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey soundtrack as it is what everyone associates with space already. Pretty plays the most icon signature from the film live and it is a beautiful stirring piece.
The lecture hits its stride when Professor Lintott shares his knowledge about planets and stars. The spectators are amazed to find out that is now common thought in the scientific community that practically all stars will have planets orbiting them. Not only that but it is calculated that there are 100 billion stars in each galaxy and estimated 100 billion galaxies within the universe; truly mind-boggling stuff.
Planet systems are being discovered all the time apparently. If you look at a star and it blinks it means a planet has passed in front of it and you have found yourself a new system. The vastness of it all is breathtaking. It is here where the evening ends, with a film of the expanding universe in front of our eyes as haunting trumpet music is being played. A fittingly wondrous end to behold.
Saturday starts with a jaunt to the Comedy stage. Canadian stand up, Katherine Ryan, star of stage and screen, appears in a glorious glittery outfit. This is to compliment the fact she is performing excerpts from her Netflix show The Glitter Room. At ease from the off, in total command and at the top of her game Ryan shines both in terms of the sharpness of her material as well as the clothes she is dressed in.
Pulling out stories from her life as a single mum who doesn’t need a man to validate her, Ryan revels in the life she leads; from the feud she has with an over competitive bully mum on the school run to the interaction she has with her rival’s ham coloured, circumcised, fitness-obsessed husband. All observations made by Ryan are extremely funny and have the large crowd doubled up in laughter.
The improvisation she gets entangled in with the crowd is fabulous. Always funny and a joy to watch she is one of the best and most likeable comedians at Latitude and on the UK tour at the moment.
The dragonflies hover, a gondolier passes by and both banks of the lake and the bridge in-between are crammed full in anticipation as we move to the Waterfront stage where Ben Folds is about to start a one-man show; just him and his grand piano.
Nonchalantly arriving, rucksack on his back, as if he had just happened to find the piano, Folds lunges at the keys and begins to play. The veteran musician has been gigging for over twenty years and all his experience shows as at the beginning of the set he battles a faulty microphone stand and an impromptu shower. He takes this in good humour singing Raindrops are Falling on my Head and takes the chance in the break to try out some well worn but amusing cracker style jokes.
Folds is master of his instrument and blasts through a set of classic tunes with the odd made-up song, a favourite being a song about the “Bridge People”, which is both catchy and very funny.
He goes on, trying a couple of quiet ones, despite the competition from other, louder, stages. A dream-like quality comes through the slower music and has the crowd captivated.
Rocking out on the piano is Folds’ trademark and he pulls out some amazingly fast boogie-woogie sounds as the gig develops. Ambitiously, he asks his audience to participate in a three-part harmony. The people are up for the challenge and the results are harmonious and beautiful.
Folds is playful, funny and engaging. This is a powerhouse of a set from this skilled singer-songwriter, even the sad tunes are uplifting.
He ends with his iconic, rousing song, One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces which has the throng cheering and clapping along. The gig comes to an uproarious end with a palpable sense of positive energy in the air. With that Folds, quietly picks up his bag and exits stage left; no fuss or pomp but ever the entertainer.
A fantastic start to what’s already promising to be a fantastic day.
Simon Topping | Image: Gavinfreeborn