Reading Festival 2012 Review | Music | This Is Entertainment

This year’s Reading line up promised much, with an impressive mix of musical styles – from the gritty, political hardcore of Enter Shikari to the cheerful pop punk of All Time Low – and a range of decades well represented, but how did it all hold up in practice? This Is Entertainment investigates.

Friday

With the weather threatening to turn the following day, festival-goers made the most of the weather, (the amount of denim shorts apparently eating themselves was particularly worrying), luckily the music kicked off proceedings in style.

Although there was an impressive show from Coheed and Cambria and Angels and Airwaves on the main stage, the first major “did you see” moment of the festival was gifted to stylish power-pop of Swedish legends The Hives, whose infectious hits quickly had the crowd jumping, screaming and disco-ing.

The group’s usual mix of arrogance and insanity was there, particularly from frontman Pelle Almqvist, who at one point presented the crowd with “your national anthem – it is an Olympic year after all” before breaking into fan favourite ‘Hate to Say I Told You so’.

Sporting top hats and coat tails, the band made an impression visually as well, at one point unanimously stopping dead, leaving the audience to applaud five statues. A prime example of why The Hives remain a must-see live despite their more lacklustre album performance of late.

Friday’s Lock Up Stage roster might not have had the usual amount of big names, but the bands still pulled together to deliver a fantastic show, particularly Bouncing Souls, who nailed hit after hit as well as effortlessly sneaking in tracks from their latest effort Comet.

As night fell Paramore‘s Hayley Williams drifted off stage after an accomplished set, promising they would be returning soon with a new album, having “locked up the studio to come here.” With that the stage was set for possibly the most understated performance of the weekend.

Headliners, ’80s legends The Cure, had little in the way of stage presence, despite an impressive light show, but it didn’t matter. Lead vocalist Robert Smith, who still stacks up incredibly well against his younger self, admitted towards the end of the set that “it’s even hard to talk to you to explain why I don’t talk – after 33 years”.

The years of experience showed through with the music though, which featured every song the crowd could demand and more. A slow start gave way to hits like ‘InBetween Days’, ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Friday I’m in Love’, to which Smith commented: “At least it’s the right day!”

Saturday

Day two is traditionally ‘the indie day’ but in 2012 the peaceful morning was invaded by none other than former Main Stage headliners Green Day. The American idiots performed an hour long set in what Billy Joe Armstrong called “The best worst kept secret in the UK right now.” As ever, the band didn’t disappoint, and for those who were up early enough to enjoy it, put on a crowd-pleasing spectacle which immediately bumped up the energy levels for the rest of the day.

Mystery Jets had the crowd singing along early on in the day with hits like ‘Serotonin’ and there was a curve ball in the form of OFWGKTA, whose hip hop beats threatened to write off the Main Stage for the afternoon. With so many different stages to choose from though (six this year in all), you are never far away from an alternative.

Enter Shikari quickly restored the balance though, delivering a concentrated dose of attitude to mark their fourth Reading appearance in a row. New album tracks like ‘Warm Smiles do not Make You Welcome Here’ and ‘…Meltdown’ blended in with tried and tested classics like ‘Juggernauts’ and ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’, but there was a disappointing lack of ‘Solidarity’. The group were awarded Best Performance of the festival by NME and it’s easy to see why, with the band clearly stepping things up from 2011 and having the most balanced sound to boot.

Bringing in the evening were Canadian rockers Billy Talent, who gave the crowd exactly what they wanted – a combination of tried and tested festival main-stays as well as teasing two tracks from their new album, Dead Silence.

Over on the Festival Republic stage, there was a showcasing of British talent both young and old. Watford punk rockers Lower Than Atlantismade a strong impression, particularly with an impromptu cover of Foo Fighters’ ‘Everlong’ and ‘The Pretender’. Next High Wycombe’s Young Guns drew a strong crowd, helped out by the sudden downturn in weather, and kept hold of them throughout with a set which relied heavily on critically acclaimed debut album All Our Kings Are Dead.

Headlining the tent were pop legends Feeder, whose set spanned the three decades of their career with a sublime mix of old and new tunes. The trio, particularly leading man Grant Nicholas, were humbled by the crowd’s response and were genuine in their admission that the return to Reading had taken too long “but it’s good to be back.”

At the same time the mighty Kasabian, who were confined to the Radio 1 stage back in 2005, had the entire festival field singing along with their pop-friendly hits, epitomised by attendees’ relentless chanting of their #3 hit ‘Fire’ for the rest of the weekend. The songs and the spectacle were there and the band succeeded in appealing to both new fans and die-hards alike, developing a real party atmosphere in the crowd.

Sunday

Everything about the weekend’s final day was dominated by the return of Foo Fighters, who were set to fill the closing evening’s historic overly-long set, but before that there was a whole afternoon of build up.

The excitement really got going with Eagles of Death Metal, who brought rock ‘n’ roll back to the Main Stage with an appropriate ceremony of guitars and howling vocals. The music then took a more electronic turn with a lot of crowd chatter for Django Django, before The Gaslight Anthemand All Time Low really turned up the fun factor for the weekend with some pop/punk, a role usually filled by the likes of Bowling for Soup or NOFX.

All Time Low in particular had the crowd singing and dancing along well above their place on the bill, not to mention having underwear thrown their way – only to be hung as a flag of honour on the microphone stand. The crowd responded to a loving rendition of Blink 182’s ‘Dammit’ and it was clear even those who hadn’t heard the band before quickly had All Time Low on their ‘one-to-watch’ list.

TIE favourite The Joy Formidable performed to their usual high standard in the Radio One tent, forcing a difficult choice for many on who to see in what was one of many severe clashes at this year’s event.

Kaiser Chiefs served as the first real warm-up/support act for the evening’s proceedings, performing all their hits with energy and verve – undoubtedly more confident since the groups participation in the London 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremony.

The Black Keys were quieter, more measured musicians, who slid through their back catalogue in a more laid back fashion. The band clearly had a good time though, and this transferred to the audience in the form of some enthusiastic singing and dancing.

All paled in comparison to the Foo Fighters though. Despite the weight of expectation and anticipation from the crowd, Dave Grohl and co. didn’t disappoint. The show was a deeply personal offering, with Grohl frequently dedicating songs and speaking to the audience about his love of Reading Festival, beginning with “Honey, I’m home.” as the band walked on stage.

The music choices for the night showed how wide an audience the band have attracted, with the majority of the crowd raising their hands when asked if they had never met the Foo Fighters before. Conversely, the band offered up over half a dozen songs from the bands self-titled debut album – despite being almost 20 years old and largely unknown.

The skill and energy of the band remains undeniable though, with Grohl’s effortless charisma carrying the crowd through the evening, but it’s drummer Taylor Hawkins who really stands out. Hawkins not only sings his own Foos tune ‘Cold Day in the Sun’, and provide vocals on other songs, but also takes a moment to praise Grohl as the reason the band is there, calling him a musical genius.

With hits like ‘All My Life’, ‘Monkey Wrench’ and ‘These Days’ going down like a storm, it’s difficult to argue. The crowd were ecstatic and hung on Grohl’s every word, singing their hearts out way back from the stage, bringing everyone together and creating a real family atmosphere.

‘Everlong’ brought the night to a close with a literal bang as fireworks scorched the sky to see the band off. There may have been other bands who have made more dramatic endings to this festival, but there are few who can boast to have done it with such heart.

2012 was the year which marked This Is Entertainment’s 10th Reading Festival (read all about that in a future post), and it proved to be a collection of the greatest things the event has to offer. From surprise sets, cover songs and over-the-top showmanship – 2012 had it all.

So what is there left for 2013? If current form is anything to go by, we are in for a treat.

James Michael Parry

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