Live review: Split Festival, Ashbrooke Sports Club, Sunderland

SPLIT 2012 ... above The Futureheads rock the crowd, while inset, John Lydon holds centre stage with Public Image Limited.
SPLIT 2012 ... above The Futureheads rock the crowd, while inset, John Lydon holds centre stage with Public Image Limited.

THE organisers of Sunderland’s Split festival have done it again. For the fourth year, the event - which showcases some of the best and wide-ranging examples of local music as well as national names - has got better.

This year saw The Futureheads return to Ashbrooke Sports Club, who brought the curtain down on two days of excellent bands and solo artists and top-notch food and drink, with a triumphant homecoming.

SPLIT: Public Image Limited.

SPLIT: Public Image Limited.

The band played their first-ever gig in the club’s bar more than a decade ago, and have had their fair share of ups and downs since then.

The last year though, has seen something of a renaissance happen for them, with a capella album Rant earning rave reviews and seemingly reigniting the fire in their bellies.

In a set peppered with covers, acoustic numbers and full band performances, they reminded everyone (as if they needed to) of their powers.

A tent full of people were captivated and sang along to every word.

They played on Sunday night, following other Sunderland favourites Field Music (recently Mercury Prize-nominated) and This Ain’t Vegas.

Field Music were masterful and the brothers Brewis played songs from throughout their career with a smile on their faces. Field Music are a unique band and one to cherish.

Other highlights for me were Stockton’s Chapman Family, a truly terrifying live band that play brooding, confrontational rock music with a dark heart, Citizens! who brought a slice of ‘80s inspired funk to the main tent, and ‘90s indie favourites Saint Etienne, who brought a touch of glamour to the festival.

Saturday saw John Lydon’s Public Image Limited headline with a fearsome set and a typically charismatic performance from their legendary frontman.

Rising stars The Lake Poets, despite being further down the bill, perhaps pulled one of the biggest crowds.

Main man Martin Longstaff’s simple tales of his city and his family are stunning, and he has clearly captured the hearts of his ardent followers.

My favourite artist King Creosote also made his way onto the bill (I think the Split bosses had a nose around my record collection before booking this year’s acts) and was, as always, fantastic.

With a huge back catalogue you never know what you’re going to get from the Scottish singer-songwriter but the quality never falters - he gave the crowd a cracking set.

Split Festival, I salute you. You keep getting better and better.