Festival Report: Thunder, lighting and magic at Latitude 2014

Sometimes you just know that God is a rock n’ roller…

It had been building up for some time through Damon Albarn’s main set; sheet and fork lightening was all around, the odd rumble of thunder the perfect accompaniment to eerie atmospheric songs such as ‘Hollow Ponds’. Then, with half an hour still scheduled, London’s finest Essex-born singer songwriter disappeared and we wondered what was left? How, with just one solo album, was he going to fill the remaining time?

Albarn returned to huge applause to perform a solo piano led version of Blur’s much loved ‘End Of A Century’. Upon finishing, he took a breath and gazed out on his vast audience: ‘There are some Blur songs I can perform on the piano, and…’, but then, wham! The lightening was right over the main stage now as gasps and cheers came up from the audience. An interrupted and enraptured Albarn ran to the front of the stage, fell to his knees and, with perfect timing, held his arms afloat for Suffolk to hear the biggest rumble of thunder it had ever heard. How do you follow that? ‘Ladies and Gentleman, Mr Graham Coxon’.

It was like the guitarist had been beamed down from heaven; the whole thing orchestrated by an unbeknown higher power. So, as the clouds opened, the rain poured and the crowd sang along to ‘Tender’ you realised that it’s the precious unscripted moments like this that make festivals the most magical place and why, year on year, we keep flocking back for more.

Elsewhere, Latitude 2014 was an undisputed triumph. New York’s Augustines nearly stole Albarn’s tag as act of the weekend as they delivered the rawest of drunk, honest, heart and soul Springsteen inspired sets. Lily Allen too stepped up to the plate, proving her pop diva status and that she more than belonged at the top of a festival bill.

Meanwhile California’s Dawes (who also performed as the impressive Conor Oberst’s backing band) stole the hearts of the small Saturday lunchtime crowd, showing, just like The War On The Drugs did on Sunday evening, that the Dire Straits influence is alive, loud and proudly kicking in 2014. While over in the woods the much hyped Future Islands showed they have more than the story to back up their headlines.

But the scene stealer was Damon Albarn – his natural star quality was simply unmatchable by anyone. A wonderful show the likes of which you just couldn’t repeat. An everyday robot he most certainly is not.