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Citadel came back to Victoria Park for a third year, continuing its quest to be the ‘ultimate summer Sunday’. Last year it bet big on Sigur Ros pulling in the crowds, this year the headliner was a different style but still a massive name in Foals. The wider lineup straddles indie, rock, electro and folk, with Bonobo, Wild Beasts and Laura Marling further down the bill.

The festival had put a lot of effort into bigging up Foals, so it feels only right to start with them. Advertised as a UK festival exclusive, and one of their last dates of 2017, big things were expected of them following their Reading and Leeds headline performances last year.

Forgive me for talking about myself but I think it’s relevant to how I saw Foals’ set. I know various songs from debut album Antidotes without actually having it, I really liked sophomore effort Total Life Forever and in my opinion Spanish Sahara is one of the best songs from 2010. But since then I’ve struggled; their more recent singles haven’t done that much for me and I always seemed to push listening to the last two albums aside for another day.

Before Citadel they’d announced they were going to do a different set to usual, with some songs from the latest albums that they hadn’t played live often but also tracks from the first two that hadn’t been given much of an outing recently. It wasn’t quite a nostalgia set – although one woman behind me said that it was like being 18 again – but it was an interesting decision. It was definitely the right one though as, like me, a lot of the crowd was most buoyed up for the older songs.

It was a confident performance – headlining is definitely Foals’ level. The sound is never going to be great at Victoria Park but it was good enough here and everyone round me seemed happy with the performance. As promised, the band threw in five tracks from Antidotes, while ‘Spanish Sahara’ was ace as expected. They finished on ‘What Went Down’ and then ‘Two Steps, Twice’ for an exploding-ticker-tape finale. A triumphant set for a band based just down the road.

Of the smaller bands, Tigercub were the highlight at the Jagerhaus stage. There was so much smoke that it was a bit like being in an opium den and I don’t think the band could see anything but their thoughtfully angry rock was a treat. We first wrote about them in 2014 and they released their debut album at the end of 2016 but judging by this there’s a lot more to come from them.

Another tip at the festival was Nadine Shah, who we ranked in our top tips for 2013. She was mid-afternoon at the Communion stage but looked to have a decent-sized audience. Her live band was excellent and she gave a charged performance that seemed to strike a chord with the crowd.

Maggie Rogers at the main stage was super-nice as always; I think she’ll be a festival favourite for years to come. Over at the DIY stage, Oscar Jerome came highly-rated but the skaey-indie and rather stilted performance didn’t work for me. Having said that, there was a queue to get in to see him so some people must have liked the sound of it.

One final band to keep an eye out for, especially if you’re a Ben Howard fan, is A Blaze of Feather. Howard himself is in the band but he takes a supporting role; they’re actually the project of his touring guitarist Mickey Smith. I only caught half of their set and they didn’t have much of a crowd, but what I did hear sounded promising.

There’s only so much you can do with a day festival on a Sunday in a crowded part of London, but Citadel did it well. There are the standard gripes like overpriced alcohol and not enough portaloos, but it was a nice crowd and a surprisingly deep and thoughtful lineup. It may not quite be the ‘ultimate summer Sunday’ yet but there surely can’t be many better ways to spend an afternoon in the capital.

Words by Tom Worley


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