Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro closed Reading Festival on Sunday with a set encompassing both hard, sweaty graft and moments of inspired invention, mainly from their current, first chart-topping album, Opposites.
Likewise, this long-running event has also rung the changes while respecting traditional values. Rock still dominated the main stage, from Nine Inch Nails' build-up to demented fury, albeit with Trent Reznor’s new material sounding his most accessible to date, to a triumphant mammoth set from day-glo pop-punks Green Day.
Recovered from substance-abuse issues, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong maintained close empathy with his fellow “freaks” as he called the band’s army of fans. Saturday was stronger and more varied, boasting the return of Eminem, whose barnstorming headline set was aided in part by a surprise cameo from the dulcet tones of British singer Dido on his stalker hit ‘Stan’.
Despite reaching 40, hip hop’s perpetual antagonist was a perfect fit for the that remains young-at-heart.
“How many people here had issues with their parents?” Eminem asked to an affirmative response before his mother-castigating ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet’. This, though, was as anti-authoritarian as the rap star got in a greatest hits set delivered with fierce energy if not seething rage. Following mass arrests at a warm-up gig in Ireland and memories of his last appearance at this festival in 2001 that coincided with a mini-riot at its Leeds sister, Eminem was greeted by a hedonistic crowd where rock and dance fans cohabitated peacefully.
In fact, Chase And Status had more cause for concern, the dance outfit pausing to prevent crushing at the front. They still maintained the momentum of a well-constructed performance that built from melancholy soul through Prodigy-style dark turns to retro-tinged rave revival. All the while, the duo’s ear for winning vocals put them in a different league to the brain-numbing EDM of Skrillex. This year, Reading hosted a dance stage for first time, though it was somewhat overshadowed by events elsewhere, especially Major Lazer’s infectious dancehall/techno mix in a rammed Radio 1/NME tent, producer Diplo zorbing across the melee in an alarming manner.
Disclosure provided cutting-edge pop-dance thrills plus a cameo from rising star Aluna Francis, also commanding with her perky duo AlunaGeorge. current hip-hop bad-boys Odd Future – in their Earlwolf guise - proved rap fans can mosh too at the main stage. Another notable debut came from Azealia Banks, displaying impressive rap technique over propulsive beats. Also making a first appearance at the festival on the final day were Haim, the three sisters of that surname who previewed their long anticipated debut album with an effervescent show that combined sunny LA pop-rock with quirkier moments usually involving tightly drilled percussion. Maybe it was just the summer, but with such warm vibes, Reading could easily lose its lairy reputation.