Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Reading: A Review

Reading Day 1:

After arriving back from Prophets at 6am, I end up sleeping in and so do not get to Reading until the late afternoon. A wander around the guest area holds me back even longer, but I finally get into the main area to catch the ever wonderful Alexisonfire on the Lock Up Stage. Playing their second set of the day after an earlier stint on the main stage, the band plough through a rip roaring set that sees them on the best form I have ever seen them. There is something different about them today, a tangible sense of aggression and danger really sets this show off. Singer George seems intent on destroying himself and anything else around him, from stamping around the stage to bending the mic stand around his shoulders. Incredible.

On our way over to Faith No More we catch a bit of Kings Of Leon. They're an incredible band but for me, they never quite hit the spot live. Their songs are great, but there is very little in the way of a visual experience. They are not the kind of band to incorporate a huge live show, and so it is very much a case of watching four beardy men work their way through some really great songs. This kind of makes their set feel a little unimportant. Great songs though.

After a few songs we leave the main stage and take a trip to the NME/Radio 1 stage to catch Faith No More. Within seconds it becomes clear that this is going to be the set of the weekend, and quite possibly of the year. Mike Patton is clearly on good form, playing with the crowd, teasing them and tutoring them to sing harmonies. Twice the band drop into a short rendition of the "Eastenders" theme tune to hilarious effect. There is no other band like them and no one that incorporates a truly exceptional display of musicianship with a very dark, wry sense of humour. Their set at Download was exciting, but it left me a little stilted as they veered away from a crwod pleasing selection of songs. Tonight however, they tear through a set that sees hit after hit rolled out to the great glee of the audience. The sound is perfect and their performance effortlessly brilliant, Patton's voice at times leaving the entire audience in awe.

Reading Day 2:

Enter Shikari are the first band we catch today. Playing the main stage to an already busy crowd, it's a stunner of a set. I've always felt that Shikari have the ability to either play jaw droppingly brilliant sets or ones that can often fall short of the mark. There is no middle ground, and I guess I find this genuinely exciting. Today is a incredible though, from the minute they hit the stage they tear through a set split equally from both of their brilliant albums. The crowd react suitably crazily, throwing up huge dust clouds as they circle pit and mosh throughout the entire set!

Set Your Goals are on the Lock Up Stage next. Despite a mix that pretty much consists of vocals and drums, the band still manage to play a blinder of a set. Weighed heavily towards their recent second album, their songs are so instantly singable and their delivery so excitably likeable that it is impossible not to love them. Just a shame the sound didn't possess that bit more of a crunch in the guitar department.

You Me At Six are my next stop as they play to a huge crowd on the Radio 1 stage. They have grown as a band immensely over the last 12 months and it certainly shows as they appear entirely confident and comfortable as they woo this huge crowd. It always worry's me though when the biggest response a band gets is for a cover (in this case, Lady Gaga's Poker Face). Their new songs are a huge step up from anything from the Take Off Your Colours debut, and it bodes well for album number two. It's a shame the band feel the need to drop in mini break downs and "metal" moments into their songs. It comes across a little forced. They would just be better playing to their strengths - writing incredibly catchy pop songs- rather than worrying about gaining cred from the rock world.

After a bite to eat, I catch the last half of The Bronx's set. If ever there was a band that you can rely on to impress live, it's The Bronx. They always put on a no frills, white knuckled rock and roll ride of a show, and today is no exception. Singer Matt leading the crowd through their set like a deranged pastor leading his congregation. It is a shame the crowd is so small- a sad indication that not enough people have caught onto the sheer genius of this band.

Bring Me The Horizon's set is sheer carnage. Even before the band take to the stage, there is the pushing and barging of kids trying to get closer to the scenesters biggest hero. When the band take to the stage, it is with an explosion of energy unlike anything else we have seen this day. It is very clear that BMTH are out to impress today, and they do just that. Circle pits are opened up, a wall of death is called upon and there is a sense of excitement and buzz around the set that is not seen anywhere else this weekend.

The Blackout close the night for us, and after such a fervent set on this stage from BMTH before them, they certainly have a challenge on their hands. Their crowd is slightly smaller, but no less excited, and The Blackout are certainly not about to be upstaged. The perfect blend of their anthemic songs and witty onstage banter sees them deliver a set of near perfection. Each song played sounds huge and every chorus is sung back to them with glee from the audience. It's a great end to a great day.

Reading Day 3:

We're up early this morning to catch our friends in Kids In Glass Houses open up the main stage. After their disappointing set with NFG the other day, it is great to see them back on form today. The sound is not amazing as the midday winds blow it from left to right meaning Aled's vocals are almost entirely lost in this mix. This doesn't stop them from playing their hearts out to a surprisingly busy and vocal crowd for this time of the day. New song Sunshine, once again proves to be a the highlight of the set with its massive chorus reminiscent of Feeder back when they knew how to write a rock song!

Lethal Bizzle astounds us today. Always entertaining, he pulls the biggest crowd we have seen all weekend to the Radio 1 stage and gives a performace that shows he is worthy of all the press and hype he gets. The crowd are clearly in the palm of his hand as he rips through his set which includes a couple of new songs that suggest that album number 3 should be a bit of a belter!

Brand New are a band known for being awkward. Their main stage set and the recently announced Wembley show suggests they are ready to play ball a little more and ready to embark on a slightly more commercial period in their career. Today however, suggests it's not all going to be plain sailing and big choruses. The band's set weighs heavily on their awkward (but utterly brilliant) "Devil And God..." album. Despite a great performance it leaves the crowd slightly glum, who were undoubtedly hoping for a few more tracks from their far more accessible Deja Entendu album.

The Gaslight Anthem should be playing the show of their lives today. If any band have had a dream-like year in 2009, it is they. This time last year, they were early on at the Lock Up Stage. Only those in the know were down to see them as the rest of the Festival carried on about their day. This year they are in the cavernous Radio 1 stage which is bustling with punters eager to catch sight of New Jersey's biggest export in recent years. Their set is tight and the songs are there, but something is lacking. Perhaps the fact that I've heard their underdog story before or simply that as great as their songs are, their sound is so unique it does limit variation over a 50 minute set.

Our last set of the weekend comes courtesy of the never boring Gallows. Despite this being a 6/10 set from a band that usually tear anywhere they play a new arsehole, the funny thing is that the usually volatile Frank Carter seems in a surprisingly chipper mood! He's obviously excited to be back in the UK and very happy to be at Reading Festival as he cracks jokes between songs instead of getting into the crowd. The fact that their set today leaves me wanting more is not the sign of a bad show just the fact that this band are so good that a set where they incite a circle pit around a huge sound desk and end the show with 6 people drumming the same military beat as Frank sets fire to his Grey Britain flag is simply average compared to their usual insanity fueled sets.

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