Live Review: Lytham Festival 28/06/23-02/07/23

This year, Lytham Festival has lined up a stellar list of artists for the annual 5-day festival featuring a myriad of music genres ensuring there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Originating in 2009, historically the festival was more of a classical music event however over the years it has evolved and diversified incorporating genres such as rock, pop and indie.

Taking place at Lytham Green with the Lytham Windmill providing a picturesque backdrop, the festival has a capacity of 20,000 per night with special permission this year to increase to 22,500 for two of the scheduled days as a pilot test for hopefully increased admission next year across the entire festival run. 

Offering a relatively sprawling site for the number of people in attendance, there is a plethora of food options available and excellent staffing numbers to ensure that everything runs smoothly from general admission through to facilities. Nothing feels crammed or too busy and waiting times are generally low creating a super chill festival atmosphere with areas to the far right and left providing ample space to just sit, relax and take in the music without being in the thick of the crowd in front of the stage.

Soul band Stone Foundation are the opening act for the first day of the festival fresh off the back of a recent tour supporting Madness. The band have collaborated with renowned musicians such as Nolan Porter, Paul Weller and Bettye LaVette to name but a few, establishing a solid reputation in the soul and R&B music scene.

Fun Lovin Criminals are next up with their own eclectic mix of style including rock, hip hop, jazz, funk and blues creating a distinctive sound that incorporates witty and humorous lyrics. Debut single ‘Scooby Snacks’, released way back when in 1996, is the clear standout track of the set.

There’s an explosion of colour and sequins as Jake Shears takes to stage with his band, dressed in a very fetching tracksuit clutching a trophy. The setlist features his own tracks from recent album ‘Last Man Dancing’ and few classics from Scissor Sisters including crowd pleaser ‘Take Your Mama’ remixed with George Michael’s ‘Freedom’ and ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’. As the tracks continue, Jake peels off the clothing layers, ultimately ending the set in a rather fetching belted red lycra one piece leaving very little to the imagination! All of the band bring that something special to create a memorable performance with Ms Amber Martin providing fantastic vocal support, adding a true disco belting voice with energetic dance moves that really make the crowd want to get up and dance – even those who are more self-conscious are not averse to quite a bit of head-bopping. Finishing on the rousing ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’, Jake is clearly thrilled with the crowds response, declaring it the largest crowd he’s played to in a decade.

Headliner Jamiroquai brings the funk and acid to close the day in style with lead singer Jay Kay wearing one of his signature hats featuring a feathered headdress. This year marks the 30th anniversary of debut album ‘Emergency on Planet Earth’ and the Lytham show offers a welcome home for Jay Kay with him being born locally in Blackburn. Following on from the disco fest that was Jake Shears, Jamiroquai also brings the party in the form of ‘Little L’ and ‘Space Cowboy’ which sees the crowd show their appreciation. Disco balls feature heavily on the backdrop and see the festival ground turned into a disco itself. Jay Kay jokes that he is only 7 years away from claiming a bus pass, but to anyone in the crowd this is almost unbelievable such is the performance he brings tonight. ‘Cosmic Girl’ and ‘Virtual Insanity’ close the first opening night at this year’s festival, and with such a party atmosphere sets the tone for a great 5 day event.

The second day sees a change in pace and a much more indie vibe going on with Limerick based 3-piece Kingfishr having the opening spot tonight. This band are relative newbies having got their big break last year with debut single ‘flowers-fire’ released in April 2022 and the band have seen their stock rise in quick-fire fashion with a full tour support with tonight’s headliner George Ezra alongside a support slot with Dermot Kennedy thrown in for good measure too. The indie folk band describe themselves as a mix of U2 and Mumford and Sons and singer Edmund ‘Eddie’ Keogh shows his capabilities of growing into a showman role as he jumps down off stage and immerses himself in the crowd playing his harmonica during ‘Shot in the dark’.

Continuing the indie vibe is the London all female band The Big Moon who bring their excellent chemistry and distinctive indie rock sounds. Whilst their genre is primarily described as indie rock, there’s definitely a lean into a more pop sound with some catchy hooks and sing along harmonies.

Next up is Cat Burns who burst onto the music scene during Covid and mastered TikTok, amassing around half a million followers in a mere three months. The British singer-songwriter often reflects on personal experiences and blends these into her songs, ensuring listeners have a first-hand account and a sneak-peek into the day-to-day life of Cat. Following a recent tour with Ed Sheeran, there’s also a quick medley thrown in of his hits including ‘A-Team’ and ‘Love Yourself’ providing those in the crowd who may not be as familiar with her songs, a perfect opportunity to sing along.

Before we know it, it’s time for headliner George Ezra, and a sea of children sit on their loved one’s shoulders desperate for the opportunity to spot themselves on the big screens either side of the stage. George is one of those artists that has tapped into the younger market, meaning there is a true family feel around the festival tonight. George bounds onto stage wearing his signature denim jacket emblazoned with Gold Rush Kid on the back in honour of his most recent album as ‘It’s Not Unusual’ is played over the speakers. Featuring a setlist containing ‘Cassy-O’, ‘Pretty Shining People’, ‘Green Green Grass’ and ‘Shotgun’ there’s many a chance for audience participation in typical call and response fashion and the younger ones love it. There is genuine joy and deep affection from all the families who have had the opportunity to introduce the younger generation to what is likely their first live music festival.

Day three is fast upon everyone and yet another turn in genre with tonight’s lineup appealing to the older generation with the likes of Blondie and Sting but Kaiser Chiefs also thrown in the mix to spice things up a little. First up is Joe Sumner, who jokes with the crowd that he has spent 23 hours on a National Express coach just to be here and that everyone is extremely brave stood on the edge of a cliff in the rain! Being the son of a legend that is Sting must be a hard act to live up to, but Joe has established himself as an artist in his own right, and offers a polished set complete with effortless vocals, emotion evoking lyrics and technical guitar skills.

There’s now a bit of a switch in tempo as the pop trio of Australian sisters Germein take to stage accompanied by two inflatable koalas. Sisters Georgia, Ella and Clara have a palpable energy and bring a feel-good vibe to the now rather cold and damp Lytham Green and the dancing koalas definitely stole the show!

It’s a full set tonight with no less than five artists and next are consummate live performers Kaiser Chiefs. Ricky Wilson is his usual effervescent self, guiding the crowd through the set, offering sing along moments, humour, and sheer stage presence. There’s a couple of new tracks thrown in with Ricky joking that “it’s OK if you don’t know the words but if you don’t know the words to the next track then we’re all screwed”, cue the opening notes of ‘Everyday I Love You Less And Less’. It’s a packed set with plenty of the well-known numbers thrown in and the crowd lap it up to such an extent that it’s somewhat surprising they were not higher up the billing tonight.

Looking around the crowd tonight and hearing snippets of conversation from some, there are a few people in attendance tonight who have come solely for the next artist, Blondie. Only one day away from her 78thbirthday, some are convinced that tonight might offer one of the last opportunities to see Debbie Harry and the rest of Blondie live in this neck of the woods, with many travelling a few hours or so to make sure they are here to see it. The set starts with a bang as classic tracks such as ‘One Way Or Another’ and ‘Hangin On The Telephone’ are followed by ‘Call Me’ and ‘Atomic’ and it’s a set that just keeps on giving throughout with ‘Maria’ and ‘Heart Of Glass’ followed by closing track ‘Dreaming.’

The festival capacity has been increased by 2,500 tonight and it is a sell-out in spite of the typical British weather trying to put a dampener on things, but as Sting walks out in front of the adoring crowd, the weather is all but forgotten. Classic track ‘Message In A Bottle’ is the opener swiftly followed by ‘Englishman In New York’. With a back catalogue spanning many albums, especially considering music from solo work and from his time in The Police, it’s a difficult position to be in to please everyone with the track selection and there are a few notable absences such as ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ but all is forgiven as Sting powers through a stacked set. 

At all the previous performances during the festival run there have been BSL interpreters just off to the side of stage guaranteeing an inclusive presence for everyone, and Sting takes the time to introduce them which is a nice touch. The night closes with a two track encore of ‘Roxanne’ which features a remix with Bob Marleys ‘No Woman No Cry’ and the final song ‘Fragile’. It may have been the worst of the days so far weather-wise, but Sting being the exceptional artist he is, makes the 22,500 strong crowd completely forget about it and just be present in the moment.

Photo Credit: Lytham Festival

The sun is back and breaking through the clouds for the fourth day of Lytham Festival in readiness for the arrival of tonight’s headliner Lionel Richie. Before that though there is a stellar list of support acts to keep the crowd happy, with Kevin Davy White, Kim Wilde and Gabrielle.

First is Frenchman Kevin Davy White, a rock and blues singer/songwriter and guitarist who made waves on these shores when he finished as runner up on 2017’s X-Factor. Blending classic rock with a smooth soulful vocal, and some accomplished guitar skills too, Kevin comes across a seasoned musician with the capacity to engage with the crowd but also deliver those heartfelt song lyrics.

Next up is 80s pop icon Kim Wilde wearing a glitter peaked cap and bursting with energy. Kim’s excitement is contagious and hits such as ‘Rage To Love’, ‘You Keep Me Hangin On’ and ‘You Came’ with a cover of the classic Dead Or Alive track ‘You Spin Me Round’ and the crowd is in full on party mode. There’s a joke about being good value for money as you get a pop star and some gardening tips thrown in and there’s even time for a quick costume change. It’s endearing to see how visibly overwhelmed Kim is with the crowd’s reception, but it’s more than earned. ‘Kids In America’ ends the set on an absolute high with plenty of dancing, foot tapping and Oh Oh Oh’s from everyone watching.

It’s a decade switch up now, moving into the 90s with singer/songwriter Gabrielle. Bursting onto the music scene in 1993 with smash hit ‘Dreams’ it’s hard to believe that the song is now 30 thirty years old yet many in the crowd who are under the age of 30 still seem to know the lyrics, and it’s a common theme through most of the set – despite many of the songs being from the 90s, most of the crowd (whether young or old) singalong throughout. Gabrielle is extremely down to earth, showing her sense of humour through jokes about women’s menopause and mentioning how ‘Sunshine’ is dedicated to her son who is now not so little. Final three tracks ‘Rise’, ‘Out of Reach’ and ‘Dreams’ ensure the set ends with the crowd in full singing force.

There are a few grumblings in the crowd as the waiting time between Gabrielle and Lionel seems to extend longer than anyone would have anticipated with many getting itchy feet desperately wanting to be dancing on the ceiling, but as the helicopter flies over Lytham Green, everyone waits with bated breath for Lionel to make his appearance. Running onto to stage a mere 10 minutes later, Lionel is wearing an orange sequinned jacket spelling out All Night Long on the rear. ‘Running With The Night’ starts the set and Lionel showcases his years of performance engaging with the crowd in a wholesome and unscripted way. Many artists choreograph the chatter between songs but not so with Lionel, it’s a genuine off the cuff feel from the jokes about imposters being in the crowd (someone on barrier has a cardboard cut out mask) through to demanding he have something that a woman in the crowd has had – he requests the video operator to pan to a woman in the crowd on the right wearing a sleeveless vest top, to a gentleman on the right in a flat cap and orange hi vis thick winter coat. There are several jokes about the chilly air that has settled in, with one in particular about not knowing if his fingers are even warm enough to play the piano. Featured tracks come from both his solo work such as ‘Hello’, ‘Penny Lover’ and ‘My Destiny’ and also work with The Commodores ‘Sail On’ and ‘Three Times A Lady’ alongside the classic duet with the great Diana Ross ‘Endless Love’. Ending on the titular spangly jacket ‘All Night Long’ it’s an effortless set from start to finish and goes to show that’s how he can still sell out a crowd and how his career has spanned over 50 years.

In what feels like the blink of an eye, it’s time for the final day of the festival. When Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe announced the recent US stadium tour was going worldwide, many fans were eager to find out where the tour would travel the UK and given there are only four dates across the entire UK run, it was definitely a shock to many that Lytham Festival was one of the dates – a huge coup for festival promoters Cuffe and Taylor. There has been an earlier accident on the local motorway leading to road closures and traffic jams, which has almost doubled the travel time for many, but as the doors open there is still a very quick succession of people powering through the gates to get to the coveted barrier spot. In a sea of denim and leather, chains and iconic band T-shirts (all in black of course), there’s definitely a rock aesthetic in the crowd tonight.

As a co-headline tour, the bands take it in turn for who gets the coveted headline spot and tonight this falls to Mötley Crüe, but first up is support act Vivas. The Sheffield based band have supported a few of the UK dates on the The World Tour, with those in the know aware that the lead guitarist Tyler is none other than Rick Savage’s (bassist in Def Leppard) son. This band have only been on the circuit since last year but have steadily gained exposure and experience, cutting their teeth in the local venues and filling support slots for larger bands. New track ‘Bittersweet’ was played along with a surprising cover of Harry Style’s ‘As It Was’ being well received considering the largely rock music based crowd – testament to the energy and talent that the guys exude overall.

Finally it’s time for the rockers in the crowd to get their fix as Def Leppard arrive as David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ plays out over the speaker. The wind whips around the stage as lead singer Joe Elliot declares “Fuck, it’s cold, it is July isn’t it? Does anyone want a blanket? Well I do, and a hat and gloves too!”. The setlist is a mix of old and new with nostalgic tracks such as ‘Let’s Get Rocked’, ‘Animal’ and ‘Love Bites’ alongside ‘Take What You Want’ and ‘Kick’ from the new studio album Diamond Star Halos. The stage backdrop features a large LED screen showing old tour photos and lyric graphics providing visual as well as aural entertainment. ‘This Guitar’ and the first half of ‘When Love and Hate Collide’ are played as acoustic versions and then there’s a drum solo from Rick Allen during ‘Switch 625’ – a truly magnificent feat considering he performs both barefoot and with only one arm.

The final four tracks ‘Hysteria’, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, ‘Rock Of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’ complete a whirlwind of a set that leaves every fan satisfied. As is customary now at a Def Leppard gig, Joe leaves the stage with his iconic line “We’ll see you next time, and there will be a next time. Don’t forget us and we won’t forget about you!”. Def Leppard are a close knit band and the musicianship, camaraderie, commitment and eclectic musical nuances they offer in their self-developed style set them apart from many of the classic rock artists of this generation. After touring together over a prolonged period, hearing the names Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe together is not really a surprise anymore although for the most ardent of fans they are stylistically quite different which may explain some of the crowd leaving straight after Leppard’s set – although this could also be down to the fear of travel disruption following the earlier debacle.

Finally, after the mock radio news report plays out on the big screens it’s time for this year’s closing act to grace the Lytham stage. Dry ice fills the stage (which is no mean feat considering the wind in place tonight) and the backlit screen is filled in bright red capitals stating The Future Is Ours and the band burst onto stage whipping the fans into a frenzy during ‘Wild Side’. Lead singer Vince Neil asks the crowd “Do you like the old shit?” to roars in response and they take the crowd back to the early 80s with tracks ‘Shout At The Devil’ and ‘Too Fast For Love’.  Machine Gun Kelly makes a brief appearance (if only on the stage screens) during The Dirt following his performance as Tommy Lee in 2019 Netflix biopic The Dirt based on the bands autobiography. The success of The Dirt could maybe go some way to explain the vast range in age here tonight, with several in the crowd who would not have even been born in Mötley’s hey-day. Through all the tracks, the band are supported by two dancers (The Nasty Habits) who provide backing vocals, superb dancing and even several costume changes!

In recent months, much has been made of the lawsuit currently ongoing between former guitarist Mick Mars and the band itself, but nothing can detract from the energy that former Rob Zombie Guitarist John 5 brings as he steps up to the mantle. Slickly running through the solos and interacting with both the crowd and the band, he earns his stripes as a more than capable replacement for the departing Mick Mars. Tommy Lee shows his skills as a pianist as he steps out from behind the drums during Home Sweet Home to many cheers from the audience. For the band member that is mostly stuck behind a drumkit, he is probably the most charismatic and earns the largest cheers of the night – if only due to his encouragement to get some women flashing for the big screens!

During ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ two large, posed statutes are inflated to either side of the stage and the crowd go wild during finale track ‘Kickstart My Heart’. Tonight, was once again one of the larger capacity nights of 22,500 and Lytham proved that 80s rock music is still greatly in demand, regardless of how popular it may be in the commercial music market.

And that’s it, Lytham Festival is over again for another year and the countdown now begins for next year’s event which hopefully offers an even larger capacity. 5 Day Ticket Passes are available to purchase here with next year’s dates confirmed as 3rd July – 7th July. Keep an eye on Lytham Festival’s socials for upcoming announcements about next year’s line-up or sign up for news here.

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