Reading Festival: Pearl Jam sparkle on their return to the European rock circuit

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Grunge veterans Pearl Jam made an emotional return to the European festival circuit at the weekend, closing Reading with a sparkling set that proved them worthy headliners.

The band had shunned Europe since eight of their fans were crushed to death at the Roskilde rock and dance festival in Denmark in 2000 and last night the weight of responsibility hung heavy until a wild jam to extend crowd favourite "Even Flow.

Then on, the band were in sparkling form as they powered through a greatest hits set. Usually earnest frontman Eddie Vedder even played Sabbath's " Iron Man" on ukulele.

Rock took centre stage for Reading's last day, though, on the margins, more funky sounds gave the festival the air of an urban warehouse party. Spankrock's bass-heavy party tunes from Baltimore vied with clever rhymes from UK rapper Sway. His cutting-edge beats showed a willingness to take on the US's more fêted stars. Lady Sovereign belied her diminutive size with a venomous performance.

The spoils, though, went to Goldie Lookin Chain in fluorescent steward garb, a sight only seen by many on a screen outside a packed tent. Dropped by their label, these losers were still on a winner as they used house samples to jump on the rave revival.

More melancholy fare came from Hope Of The State, their spine-tingling sound driven by a furious fiddler. Canadian collectors Broken Social Scene trumped them with a layered approach that gave a cosmic seal to their folksy sound.

Saturday's headliners, Muse, combined the paranoid prickliness of Radiohead with the showmanship of Queen. The band's frontman, Matthew Bellamy, seems an intelligent bloke, but the point of his creativity got lost in the bombast of hits old and new.

Having packed a side stage last year, the Arctic Monkeys stepped up to the main stage with ease. Such was the group's confidence they could open with their number one hit, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", though band leader Alex Turner still insisted on asking if people were enjoying themselves, even as fans sung along to B-sides. They managed to take control of previous hormonal rushes by adding thrilling diversions to old material.

Before them, The Streets had been in all kinds of trouble as Mike Skinner struggled to find his voice and the mix of samples and live band failed to fuse. In the end, his set was saved by the gambler's home bankers. " Never Went to Church" was still touching and "Fit But You Know It" encouraged the odd streaker.

Earlier in the day, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the US outfit propelled to fame by the internet, took a while to make an impact. Their driving rhythms were hampered by fuzzy sound, though there was an irresistible, ecstatic feel to their performance.

If this all seemed too jolly for a rock festival, then at least Mark E Smith was on hand to puncture the love bubble. His band The Fall played a typically uncompromising set of harsh, functional riffs from recent albums that suited Smith's raw vocal style. Not even he, though, was immune to the happy vibes, dedicating one number to a chap from his home town of Manchester who had made the journey. Another happy punter, then, at a vintage weekender.

Comments