We’ve already talked about the top ten random happenings from the weekend last week. Luckily for those who missed out on some of the big names (or just weren’t there – where WERE you guys?!), This Is Entertainment presents a run down of the best of the three days of top quality music.
Architects opened the festival on the main stage, injecting an element of hardcore directly to the audiences throats. Unfortunately technical difficulties prevented the band from getting the best sound, but they still put in some of the enthusiasm which festival crowds expect, and also becoming the first band to request people to get up on each other’s shoulders.
Welsh rockers The Blackout hit the stage next, with a suitably angry banner, but despite some decent songs to their name, failed to really grab the audience’s attention – as can often be the stage during the day on the Main Stage, with the area not being backed until early evening.
Next up were pop/punk heavyweights New Found Glory (see above), now in their 14th year, who got the crowd moving with their usual blend of upbeat power-chord-based tunes. The band also played some songs from their latest album Not Without a Fight which received a mixed reaction from the crowd, though their cover of Kiss Me had everyone singing along happily.
Rise Against were the first band of the day to really make an impression, with the crowd fist-pumping along to their anti-establishment hardcore melodies (see main picture). The band opened with ‘Chamber The Cartridge’ and spewed hit after hit from their back catalogue – including fan favourite ‘Prayer of the Refugee’. The energy from the band, particularly high-kicking guitarist Zack Blair, was impressive and saw the first solid ‘mosh’ pit of the festival spring up.
With the screeching feedback of Deftonesringing in the crowd’s ears, punk/rock legends The Offspring took to the stage for what can only be described as a trip down memory lane. Aside from one misjudged acoustic number from their latest album Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, the band assaulted the audience with energetic tunes which we know and love, and even the new song slotted into the set neatly. The highlights proved to be a reflection of the age of the audience in Self Esteem, which had many joining in with the drunken ‘las’, and a complete run through of Have You Ever and Staring at the Sun from the band’s breakthrough record Americana.
Supporters 30 Seconds to Mars got the crowd singing along to their anthemic tunes, partly due to frontman Jared Leto’s near-refusal to sing himself, and the atmosphere was energetic by the time the other Jared took the stage with My Chemical Romance.
A fiery red-haired Jared conducted the crowd through the band’s hits, though ballady ‘I Don’t Love You’ was conspicuous by its absence, and boasted pyrotechnics abound. The crowd filled the air as the band played ‘The Black Parade’ – now joined by Queen guitarist Brian May – and closed the evening in suitable headlining style.
The sun came out for Saturday and the mood was instantly lifted. The Joy Formidable proved to be suitably lively and upbeat for the occasion, with the soft vocals of Ritzy Bryan washing over the audience – almost hypnotising them.
Indie group The Pigeon Detectives were up next to pick up the pace, with their hits ‘Take Her Back’ and ‘I’m Not Sorry’ as well as a selection from their new album, along with the customary plug. Luckily it was done just softly enough to not be irritating, and the mood suited the early afternoon slot well.
After Two Door Cinema Club had laid down some happy tunes it was the turn of household names Madness to offer up a slice of British old school ska. There was skanking across the field as, after a slow start, the band launched into classics such as ‘House of Fun’ and ‘Baggy Trousers’ before a more ‘cuddly’ ending with ‘It Must Be Love’. The group have aged well considering they formed back in 1976 – 35 years ago! Frontman Suggs can still carry a tune, as much as he ever could, though there is a slight tinge of dirty old man about him these days…but nontheless a terrific performance all round, and well received in the sunshine.
Jimmy Eat World delivered their songs plain and simple, but with such strong material at their disposal, they had no need for forced hand clapping or stage diving to command the audience’s attention (see above). The mix of songs was perfectly crafted, with usual old-school tune ‘Blister’ the only real sacrifice to cram in some songs from their latest album, Invented. The crowd were built up steadily to a crescendo in the form of the timeless ‘woah’-driven tune ‘Sweetness’.
Punking things up a notch on the Lock Up Stage were Capdown, who command a punk crowd like few others. Their raw ska/punk sound getting everyone moving to the extend that you could see the sense of enjoyment on the band members’ faces.
Keeping the pedigree of Britsh music safe from the likes of the X Factor were Pulp, who returned to Reading Festival for the first time since 1994. The group reformed for live performances this year after being inactive for the best part of a decade. The band’s charismatic frontman – one Jarvis Cocker – successfully kept the crowd entertained as the band delivered hits such as ‘Common People’ and ‘Disco 2000’ with style.
Headliners The Strokes got off to a meagre start after meandering onto the stage over 20 minutes late, but delivered their melancholy hits effectively. Tunes from latest album Angles transferred well to the stage alongside the hits from Room on Fire such as ‘Reptillia’ and ‘Last Night’.
Rocking into the last day of the weekend were Taking Back Sunday (see above) who played a mixture of songs from their five-album back catalogue. As the set went on you could see how they have changed between their first recordings and now, but also how they still fit together despite that. The band performed well, with frontman Adam Lazzara modestly proclaiming that they were “the best fucking band on the planet.”
In a break from the music, This Is Entertainment visited the Alternative Stage in the afternoon, with stand-up comedian Jared Christmas and comedy musician Tim Minchin captivating audiences. Minchin in particular caused the tiny tent to be filled to bursting, making the man himself obscured to all but those at the very front. One particular song, ‘Context’ (not ‘Cont’ as initially stated by Minchin), brought the crowd out in fits on laughter with its provocative lyrics, arranged specifically to sound outrageous, but were in fact reasonable when followed by the next words in the song. The song was played twice, the first time with words missing, leading Minchin to proclaim “I don’t like Jews…” with the crucial context of the statement missing, so the full line reads: “I don’t like Jews…who make and distribute kiddy porn.” Only at Reading Festival eh?
Returning to the music, hardcore rockers Enter Shikari gave the main stage their heaviest moments of the weekend so far. Lead vocalist Rou Reynolds also proved to be the most active, scaling the sides of the stage and leaping from amplifiers throughout the performance, as well as getting involved with the crowd.
Fellow St. Albans band Friendly Fires were quick to lift the mood with their disco-influenced electro-pop, but by now it was time for some more punk with a trip to the Lock Up Stage for Hot Water Music. The band practically had the tent shaking as the crowd went wild for the band’s catchy tunes. ‘Remedy’ and ‘Trusty Chords’ had everyone singing along and the band finished with a cover fellow Warped Tour vets The Bouncing Souls‘ song ‘True Believers’, which pushed the atmosphere to electric proportions.
The crowd watched with bated breath as the band was obscured behind a sheet and a poetic voiceover from a Tom Waits album echoed across the scene with speratic drum beats cueing strobe lighting. The atmosphere was tense before silence fell and the iconic sound of ‘New Born’ came from behind the curtain.
The band played out their album with a fantastic visual display for every song, each having a corresponding video behind, to give an impression of what the song is about, and smoke, pyrotechnics and lasers completing the immersive experience. Why not take a look for yourself here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b0147pmw/ (though you’ll have to be quick as the link will quickly expire)
Following the album the band ran through an expert choice of songs from their other albums including Stockholm Syndrome, Starlight and Plug In Baby. The set ended dramatically with the rock opera ‘Knights of Cydonia’, bringing to an end a mesmerising display of musical brilliance.
Roll on 2012!
Top Tracks of the weekend:
1) Muse – Knights of Cydonia
2) White Lies – Bigger than Us
3) Hot Water Music -True Believers
4) My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade
5) Jimmy Eat World – The Middle
6) Friendly Fires – Jump In The Pool
7) Pulp – Common People
8) Rise Against – Savior
9) The Offspring – Have You Ever
10) New Found Glory – My Friend’s Over You
James Michael Parry