Last Night, Reading Festival

Reading wants to rock, but 50 Cent leaves the crowd short-changed
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The Independent Culture

50 Cent came prepared to the Reading Festival. He had met a hostile reaction at the twin event in Leeds the previous night, and by the time he came on yesterday evening, one band had already been booed off.

50 Cent came prepared to the Reading Festival. He had met a hostile reaction at the twin event in Leeds the previous night, and by the time he came on yesterday evening, one band had already been booed off.

So the tough guy responded in kind to the hail of plastic bottles being thrown at him, grinned his gormless grin and quickly fired off a medley of his best-known tracks.

But the boos did not let up, and the interplay between Fiddy and his G Unit colleagues was less than tight. Clutching his crotch during "P.I.M.P." the muscle-bound rapper cut a comical figure. Fiddy continually interrupts his flow for the crowd to fill in, but they didn't. He lasted a scant 20 minutes. The crowd at Reading want to rock ­ and they made it known.

Rock music in the 21st century belongs to the White Stripes. The duo shivered the timbers of thousands with their headline set on Saturday. Their appearance was postponed from last year but it was worth the wait. Jack and Meg, all in black, white and red, formed a captivating on-stage relationship as they exorcised the dramas of their own affair through musical sparring.

Meg has got the look but her drumming remains approximate. All this only adds to the Stripes' sense of triumph over adversity. The musical brilliance has to come from Jack ­ he seems to have mellowed but still sings "Jolene" with heart-rending passion.

Another awesome cover was "Maps". The Yeah Yeah Yeahs never made it sound as desperate as that. "Hotel Yorba" was tired and "Black Mass" incoherent. But the Stripes rise to the overall challenge ­ no one else comes close.

This is not to say they were the only class act. Saturday's line-up would have been the envy of festival organisers everywhere. Razorlights' Johnny Borrel left the stage by the front at 3.20pm topless in the blazing sun after a crowd-conquering performance. Then the New York Dolls won over the crowd with "Piece of My Heart". Next up were the Roots, who lived up to the programme's assertion that they are the best live hip-hop band on the planet. Franz Ferdinand contrasted to the Roots and kept the crowd's feet tapping. And then there was Moz, who received his customary ecstatic reception.

Morrissey's band are not the Smiths and Morrissey is not who he once was. The man's self-pity beggars belief. Awful though it is, the material from You Are The Quarry went down surprisingly well. More importantly he sang oldies imperiously ­ glorious reminders of why he is still held in such reverence.

Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, has in a way inherited Morrissey's role as poet of the insignificant and chronicler of youthful insecurities. But he comes from the hip, urban club-savvy corner and would probably balk at the comparison.

Mikey's soft beats and everyday tales were just what the hungover youth required. "If you're tired, that's cool," Skinner said while walking on 45 minutes early.

By the time the Streets go off, Reading is ready to rock again, and the Lost Prophets' violent nu-metal is rapturously received.

While Placebo play a lacklustre set and the 50 Cent debacle unfolds, the revellers gather in circles around piles of burning rubbish to await the night's headliners ... Green Day.

The simplistic Anglophile punk popsters no longer have youth on their side, and to put them as top billing suggests something of an anticlimax. But determined to party to the end, the crowd roars with delight. It's only rock'n'roll, after all.

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