After a decade of live music you think you’ve seen it all, but Reading Festival continues to deliver unique experiences year after year and nothing can compare to this festival’s atmosphere, excitement and passion.
This year saw the return of Green Day and Eminem to the headliner slot on the Main Stage, and a long-awaited rise of Biffy Clyro to close the show with a, frankly tremendous, bang.
The arena this year has had a re-jig, expanded to include a new stage and split the entrance into two – one heading to each side of the campsite – a tactic which largely works, though a bit of crowd education is necessary.
Highlights of the afternoon were New Found Glory, who began the retro trend with a complete rendition of breakthrough album Sticks and Stones.
“They forgot to check how long we needed and only gave us 40 minutes,” said frontman Jordan Pundik. “Our album is 42.”
As a result the band struggled to fit everything in, and in the end skipped the last track in favour of ‘All Downhill From Here’.
The show was well received by fans, despite many being only children when the album was originally released, and the bands energy was in full show.
As the evening drew in, Bastille drew the biggest crowd, packing out the NME/Radio 1 Stage with their calm melodies, and then, in contrast, the return of System of a Down to the Main Stage was met with a fantastically enthusiastic crowd.
At the same time, both The Living End and Alkaline Trio added weight to the line-up on the Lock-Up Stage, proving that these established bands can still deliver.
Green Day’s set on the Main Stage was hotly anticipated, and overall did not disappoint, with something for every fan, old and new, with a flurry of new songs at the beginning giving way to a complete rendition of Dookie, the band’s breakthrough release – which has it’s 20 year anniversary next year.
The band’s charisma was in evidence, particularly that of Billy Joe Armstrong – ever fond shouting ‘eh-oh’ to the crowd in true Freddie Mercury style.
But, in the band’s defence, the crowd responded, and caused Armstrong to proclaim that Reading is “the greatest festival in the world.” To which there was little argument.
The second day brought a change of feel and a change of crowd as headliner Eminem sets the tone, and changes the demographic of the crowd. Oddly there’s even racial diversity, something not often seen at this predominantly Caucasian festival.
Lower Than Atlantis earn their billing on the Main Stage with a fantastic set, for a band which played the Festival Republic Stage only last year. The band’s latest album shines particularly brightly and has the crowd entranced despite the inevitable rain.
The Blackout brought a strong dose of Wales to proceedings, who were well represented in the crowd throughout the weekend. The medley of hip hop classics was particularly inspired segment.
Strength of the bill through the afternoon holds up, with Twin Atlantic and even more so White Lies keeping the crowd entertained.
The latter pledged to give a set with more ‘girth’ in the programme and delivered, finishing with the timeless ‘Bigger Than Us’.
Imagine Dragons were the draw for everyone as the evening built up momentum. Playing most of their debut album, Night Visions, the band had their audience entranced and singing along with every single song.
‘Radioactive’ proved to be an epic closer, and the band made full use of the on stage percussion to give an epic, almost film soundtrack-like quality to the atmosphere.
Eminem’s set in the evening reflected the complete journey he has been on as an artist. There was banter from the crowd, singing along with hits such as ‘Real Slim Shady’ and ‘Without Me’.
There was an even a rare appearance of collaborator Dido as the rap star brought out his radio-friendly tune ‘Stan’. This prompted widespread arm swaying and singing along from the audience, which was massive and filled almost the entire arena on its own.
Following a teasing encore, there was a return to ‘Lose Yourself’, prompting yet more singing along. In all the show met everyone’s expectations.
Best kept secret of the night was the films in the Radio 1 Extra Stage, which featured Star Trek Into Darkness, prompting a huge woop from the crowd as soon as Benedict Cumberbatch came on screen.
The final day’s highlights were strewn throughout the day, but the Main Stage remained the place to be.
Hadouken! brought a real disco vibe which recalled the classic performances of acts like The Prodigy in the past, with an element of Pendulum. The crowd enjoyed the early afternoon boogie and it got the energy levels up early considering how late in the weekend it was.
Editors brought gravitas of a strong, well-established British band, with a number of hits – most of which you can’t quite remember the name of – and the crowd responded well. Songs from the new album did better live than on record.
The Lumineers went the extra mile, with front man Wesley Schultz fending out into the crowd to play a song, though the momentum was somewhat lost by Fall Out Boy delivering a set full of songs from all areas of their career but forgetting to put them in a discernible order, leading to a haphazard mix of styles clashing.
As darkness fell the might of Nine Inch Nails‘ light show was undeniable, with dozens of lights creating a hypnotic and dazzlingly elaborate display.
The set was slow to start, focusing on the band’s electronic sound, but by the end the rock was back in full force and slapping the audience in the face.
Finally it was the turn of Biffy Clyro to close the show. The new album Opposites was a fantastic platform to build the set around, packed with instant classics, and the hits from their back catalogue just kept on coming.
The show reflected the range in the band’s style well, even featuring ’57’ from the band’s first album, and the crowd responded with some of the loudest singing along of the entire weekend.
Closer ‘Mountains’ hit the sweet spot of the audiences knowledge, with old and new fans being drawn in.
The festival in all was a success, some questionable car parking organisation aside, and leads to thoughts of who might hit the line-up in 2014.
James Michael Parry