As rain crashed down upon the bedraggled Reading crowd, The Killers took to Saturday night's main stage accompanied by a spectacular light show, their glittering suits offset by an inky, indigo sky.
And yet, despite their dramatic entrance, Las Vegas' answer to U2 got off to a slow start as frontman Brandon Flowers fumbled with the basics, often singing out of key and away from his microphone. However, it wasn't long before The Killers recovered, blasting out epic crowd pleasers such as "When You Were Young", "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr. Brightside". As the band approached their encore, the audience sprawled into the distance, soggy but satisfied.
The previous day had also been dominated by an electrifying headline act. With sirens ringing out over a feverish crowd, the four members of rap metal pioneers Rage Against The Machine stood silhouetted upon Reading Festival's main stage.
After an eight-year hiatus, LA’s grandmasters of anarcho-angst were back and determined to make a point. For a band who described their 2007 reunion as “a vehicle of opposition against right-wing purgatory”, that came in the somewhat inevitable guise of Bush and Blair-baiting rhetoric.
Clad provocatively in the orange jump-suits and black hoods of Guantanamo inmates, the band tore into opener ‘Bombtrack’. Despite experiencing sound difficulties that would become a feature of the main stage throughout the weekend, the untempered aggression of fan favourites ‘Bullet in the Head’, ‘Calm Like A Bomb’ and ‘Killing In The Name Of’, proved Rage Against The Machine have lost little of the intensity of their early days.
Meanwhile on the NME/Radio 1 stage, Babyshambles were struggling. Pete Doherty’s band of ragged trousered raconteurs appeared to alienate sections of the audience, who were streaming from the arena during a performance that relied too heavily upon crushingly dull second album ‘Shotters Nation’. It was only during a euphoric rendition of ‘Albion’ late in the set that glimpses of Doherty’s flailing potential could be seen.
Elsewhere, the highly anticipated Queens of the Stone Age performance became yet another casualty of a muddy sound, while without doubt the biggest surprise of the day came from Vampire Weekend, who transferred the energy of their debut album to the stage immaculately. With their clean-cut, Ivy League image the band hauled in the spectators, rendering the arena too small for either the crowd or their excitement.
After a morning of indie-mediocrity, Saturday really began with Dirty Pretty Things. Much like his former Libertines-band mate Pete Doherty, Carl Barat’s new project suffered from a jaded lethargy, failing to spark any real reaction from the audience. A poorly rehearsed cover of Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’ ached for appreciation but came across a tad desperate.
Not so Seasick Steve, whose charming disregard for all things commercial hasn’t limited his appeal with Reading’s adolescents, who could hardly contain their enthusiasm for the bluesman’s countrified boogie as they waited to see the magnificent Foals perform next.
Another band not resting on its laurels is Bloc Party. In spite of the rain drenching their fans, the quartet reeled off tracks from their first two albums in style, ensuring headliners The Killers had a tough act to follow.
Sunday at Reading Festival is a more raucous affair. Dropkick Murphy's blend of hardcore punk and Pogues-ian folk revived the inebriated crowd, while electro-metallers Mindless Self Indulgence took rock posturing to new levels.
Elsewhere, Arctic Monkeys' frontman Alex Turner was greeted warmly as he took to the NME/Radio 1 stage with side-project The Last Shadow Puppets, while Sunday night's main stage headliners Metallica returned to their thrash metal roots with a tight, retrospective performance.