First Night: Reading Festival, Berkshire

3.00

Arcade Fire burn bright as Reading finds its feet again

"We're punctual at least, right?" Arcade Fire's Win Butler smiles, near the start of his band's triumphant Saturday set. He's referring to Guns N' Roses' Friday night fiasco, when Axl Rose lost his grip on rock as an art or profession in an hour-late headlining set that is already a byword for career immolation. By contrast, Arcade Fire strive to reach fans with their complex, less familiar music, till the moment they're anointed as a major band.

Reading lost its way last year. This weekend saw one band's definitive fall, and another's steady rise, as well as the reunion of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat's Libertines. Something was at stake every time. Arcade Fire play much of their recent No. 1 album The Suburbs, meaning the set is heavy with nostalgia for the 1970s-built Montreal suburban landscapes Butler grew up in. Songs such as "Modern Man" and "Rococo" depict a sickened reaction to the modern world. But Butler is a novelistic, not angst-ridden writer. The fear in Arcade Fire's songs is transcended by the drive and fierce joy of this seven-piece band's stage-filling sound.

The last time The Libertines played here, Pete Doherty had been expelled, after burgling Carl Barat's flat. Such seedy behaviour seems in the past. The self-lacerating psychodramas of songs such as "Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads" and "Can't Stand Me Now" have their meaning reversed here, as Barat frequently hugs Doherty. The ambiguity of lines such as "Can't take you anywhere... I would take you anywhere" tip towards brotherhood not break-up. A raw blast of Doherty's harmonica as darkness falls sparks a sea of waving arms. When Barat kisses Doherty on the lips, Doherty angrily tears away, ripping his shirt open. But detente, and the idealism and wit of The Libertines' early years, is restored by the end.

Reading also happily restored its hard rock credentials this year. Queens of the Stone Age's stoner psychedelia was a little too sluggish on Friday, but Blink 182 were due to headline a Sunday of dedicated, diverse head-banging. Touring the site, and stumbling over trusting encampments of young people sitting in the pitch dark, I found Berlin's Atari Teenage Riot ranting over a rhythm section like a pneumatic drill, next to Enter Shikari's muscular emo.

Earlier, Springsteen favourites The Gaslight Anthem play elegant, compact rock, as singer Brian Fallon howls his self-conscious poetry with husky commitment. The crowd stay unmoved, his mythic New Jersey more than an ocean away. Fellow East Coasters The Walkmen are more tightly wound and tuneful, while Modest Mouse's Americana stays dourly workmanlike, missing Reading's point as much as Axl. UK indie survivors The Futureheads and The Mystery Jets get warmer welcomes.

Dizzee Rascal, a teenage Nirvana fan back on his Bow estate, brings a rock band complete with hairy guitarist, another artful, ultra-commercial pop curve from this formerly furious artist. Fans sway on the spot, wannabe grime kids dancing like 1960s ravers to their favourite family entertainer; pop at its transformative best. Nearby, Villagers' Conor O'Brien fills a tent with his Mercury-nominated poetic torrents. "How they change," someone sniffs. Too nakedly calculating for someone so fresh-faced, his songs can't be denied.

Only Axl Rose will be remembered in future years, like a slowly fading scar. Truly great music was, as usual, hard to find. But Reading refound its form, with a sometimes daring cross-section of rock in 2010.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn