By Mark Savage

BBC Music Correspondent

Lewis CapaldiImage source, Getty Images

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Lewis Capaldi’s debut, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent, was the UK’s biggest-selling album of 2019

Lewis Capaldi has a problem.

“I just want to say now, I have no new music to play you,” he tells the Latitude Festival, two songs into his headline set.

“I rescheduled a lot of shows last year because I was like, ‘Guys, I need to finish my new album’,” he explains. “And I was supposed to do it, but I am horribly lazy.

“So we’re just going to play you all of the old stuff,” he says, prompting a huge cheer.

“I’m glad you enjoy it,” he deadpans, “because it’s all we’ve got.”

The Scottish singer was originally due to headline Latitude two years ago, as part of a victory lap for his Brit Award-winning debut album, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent.

But even after 24 months out the limelight, he draws the biggest crowd of the festival’s opening day – a feat that does not go unnoticed.

“Thanks for coming back in this many numbers,” says the star. “I always get the feeling people have forgotten us.”

Capaldi’s lovelorn ballads may not be experimental or complicated, but they resonate like a drum.

Fans of all ages holler the melodies of Hold Me While You Wait and Before You Go with their eyes screwed shut, emotions coursing through their veins.

But Capaldi – looking and sounding ever more like Andrew Strong in The Commitments – sings them better than anyone. His unaffected rasp conveys every battered heartbreak with startling clarity even when, towards the end, he starts to strain against the high notes.

Image source, Getty Images

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The singer fleshed out his set with a cover of Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles

Aware that his material can be heavy-going, he punctuates the set with self-deprecating humour. Spotting a sign that encourages him to take his top off, he responds: “Please do not objectify me, Latitude. I am not a piece of meat, I am a sentient human being.”

Later on, he takes his top off anyway, proudly showing off his “lockdown belly”.

“The baby’s due in March,” he announces. “We’re all very excited.”

He finishes with Someone You Loved, a singalong to end all singalongs, that makes you wonder if a joke about “the pressure to come back with a successful second record” was more loaded than it seemed.

However, music industry rumour has it that the star’s second album is already finished… and that his record label is holding it back for a high-profile Christmas release.

He hints as much before the encore, telling the audience he’ll be back “very, very, very soon”.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Image source, Latitude Festival

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Self Esteem – aka Rebecca Lucy Taylor – was one of the day’s biggest highlights

Capaldi isn’t the only musician to draw a huge crowd on Latitude’s first day.

Over in the BBC Sounds tent on the Henham Park site in Suffolk, there’s barely room to breathe as left-field pop star Self Esteem takes to the stage.

There’s a sense that her recent album, Prioritise Pleasure, has really affected the audience, who recite her lyrics of self-acceptance and female solidarity with passionate sincerity.

At times, the gig resembles a church service for the emotionally damaged; and the worship is sometimes too reverent.

“I accept you all for who you are,” says the singer, singling out a particularly devout section of the crowd, “but it’s good for my ego if you dance a bit”.

They duly oblige, as Self Esteem and her backing singers hair-flick, high-kick and prowl the stage in unison, as her album’s intensely physical, percussively thunderous tracks roar into life.

Rising star Rina Sawayama gets a similar reception for her psychologically complex brand of avant-pop bangers.

She arrives on stage attempting a Beyoncé-esque power stance, but her composure breaks as the audience start chanting her name, and a wry smile spreads across her face.

“Are you ready to slay?” she asks, before launching into a high energy set full of dramatic vocals, shredded guitars and strike-a-pose choreography.

The set is largely drawn from the self-titled debut album that propelled her to Elton John-endorsed cult stardom; but, encouragingly, two singles from her forthcoming second album, Hold The Girl, sound even better in a live setting.

She’ll be back in a more prominent slot next year.

Image source, Getty Images

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Rina Sawayama was playing her first ever main stage festival show, but she approached it like a headliner

Elsewhere on the bill, Alfie Templeman serves up a welcome slice of feel-good indie pop; Phoebe Bridgers crowdsurfs during a triumphant version of I Know The End; and Newcastle’s Maximo Park attract the day’s biggest mosh pit during Apply Some Pressure.

US art rock band Modest Mouse are a spiky and angular presence on the main stage, but they are not recognisable enough for Latitude’s predominantly mainstream audience.

Pop singer Maggie Rogers, who is second on the bill, faces a similar problem of audience familiarity – but wins the crowd over with her boundless, gamine energy and a well-judged cover of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

She also sounds fantastic – her husky voice moving from tender to ferocious and jubilant as the songs require. Highlights include a soaring version of Be Cool and a brand new ballad, Horses, that leaves the singer in tears.

A crack team of US session musicians adds a rhythmic muscularity to her earlier folk-pop material, while a handful of songs from her upcoming album, Surrender, are harder, heavier and ready for the road.

Like Sawayama, she seems destined for bigger festival slots next year.

Latitude continues for the next two days, with appearances from Foals, Little Simz, Mark Owen, Frankie Boyle, Aisling Bea and Snow Patrol.

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