The sunshine of their native California must have seemed a distant memory to the Red Hot Chili Peppers as they looked out over the vast mudbath that was the main arena at this year’s Leeds Festival last night, August 28, but they were still able to bring enough west coast warmth to West Yorkshire to wind the three-day event up in style.
The two songs in their 16-track Sunday night set name-checking their home state, Dani California and Californication, garnered what were probably their most rapturous receptions of the evening, but sticking to their greatest hits, plus four numbers showcasing their new album, The Getaway, ensured that they were always going to get an enthusiastic response.
Kicking off both their main set and their encore with their traditional jams evolving into, respectively, Can’t Stop and Goodbye Angels, and interspersing their music with a fair bit of banter, including a claim by bassist Flea, alias Michael Balzary, to be of Yorkshire descent, they clearly still love playing live now as much as at any point in their 33-year history.
They also seem to enjoy the mud, sweat and beers on offer at the Leeds Festival, this being their third headlining slot there, following previous visits in 1999 and 2007.
Other highlights of a set which was pretty much wall-to-wall highlights included the singles Scar Tissue, Under the Bridge, Dark Necessities, Otherside and By the Way, plus the 2006 album track Wet Sand.
Friday night co-headliners Biffy Clyro too are Leeds Festival regulars, this being their ninth appearance there, and they also had what, two days earlier, was already a mud-spattered crowd in the palms of their hands from the moment they set foot on the Bramham Park stage, near Wetherby.
Like the Chili Peppers, the Scots weren’t afraid to give new material an airing, tracks from Ellipsis, their latest album, a No 1 hit following its release in July, accounting for a third of their 21-song set, and they went down every bit as well as their more familiar tunes.
Kicking off with Wolves of Winter, the new LP’s opening track, they went on to play Animal Style, Friends and Enemies, Howl, In the Name of the Wee Man, On a Bang and Rearrange alongside old favourites such as Many of Horror, Mountains and Stingin’ Belle.
Some 21 years and five top 10 albums on from their formation in Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire and 15 years on from their first appearance at the Leeds Festival, they still seem genuinely delighted to spark such an enthusiastic response, so a 10th slot there seems only a matter of time.
The Chili Peppers were the festival’s only outright headliners, Biffy Clyro having to share co-headlining honours with Fall Out Boy on Friday, August 26, and Foals and Disclosure doing likewise on Saturday, August 27.
That squeezing of a quart’s worth of headliners into the festival equivalent of a pint pot was indicative of the strength of the event’s line-up, leading to artists of the calibre of acclaimed singer-songwriter Frank Turner, hip-hop superstar Nas and chart-topping indie rockers Blossoms having to settle for afternoon slots or appearances in one of the numerous tents away from the main stage, or both.
That abundance of big names also made for some tough choices for festival-goers over the course of the weekend – whether to see Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon, US heavy metal act Mastodon, Irish indie pop-rockers Two Door Cinema Club or the Chili Peppers last night, for instance.
Happily, the BBC’s iPlayer website will soften the blow of having to give Disclosure a miss in favour of Maximo Park, for example, with lots of sets being available to view online for the next month or so.
Other main-stage acts given a rousing reception included Eagles of Death Metal, the Courteeners, the Vaccines and Imagine Dragons.
Away from the main stage, just some of the innumerable acts that caught the eye – and ear – were Vant, Twenty One Pilots, the 1975 and Kvelertak.
The diversity of acts on offer also serves to give the lie to the reputation attached to the festival over recent years as a rite of passage for Northern teenagers seeking to celebrate, or drown their sorrows over, their GCSE and A-levels results by getting drunk or drugged up, rolling around in mud and generally running amok out of eyeshot of their parents.
True enough, sizeable quantities of inebriated teenagers could be seen rolling around like pigs in muck and even jumping into muddy puddles – a decision probably regretted 72 seconds later, never mind 72 hours, if taken on the Thursday or Friday – and one 17-year-old was, sadly, found dead on Saturday, reportedly after taking drugs, but the festival is of far wider appeal than that, as could be seen by the large numbers of older punters and families with young children in evidence and also the plethora of acts unlikely to be of too much interest to anyone under the age of 30.
Festival-goers wanting to catch up with any acts they weren’t able to see because of schedule clashes, and anyone not lucky enough to be there at all but wishing to see what they missed out on, would be well advised to check out www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007xt4m