Reading Festival, Reading
Muse's magic will live in the memory
Tuesday 30 August 2011
Amid fears of repeats of last year's violence and a rumour that the Richfield Avenue site was developing its own sodden microclimate, this year's Reading Festival had been awaited hesitantly. The Friday afternoon saw strong performances from Foster the People, hotly tipped on the back of their new album and summer anthem "Pumped Up Kicks", and Noah and the Whale who still seem keen to show they do have more than two songs.
After a slow start, My Chemical Romance eventually got the crowd going as the main-stage headliner. With their violent, angst-driven sound, the band may be better suited to teenage bedrooms than the broader Reading audience, despite the onstage energy of lead singer Gerard Way. Returning for their encore, the band were joined by Queen guitarist Brian May for a cover of "We Will Rock You" and "Welcome to the Black Parade". Way is clearly no Freddie Mercury but Friday was rounded off with enormous enthusiasm from the audience nonetheless.
Saturday saw a fine example of the clash of Reading's musical tastes and types as the end of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros' set was invaded by balaclava-clad youths baying for Wolf Gang. The hip-hop collective is notorious for violent and homophobic lyrics in sharp contrast with the preceding Californian band led by a fictional fallen messiah. However, both groups had a towering command of their audience and both are set to go on to big things.
A double act of Pulp and The Strokes headlined the second evening after a disappointing drop-out from Jane's Addiction. Pulp's Jarvis Cocker alternated between grinding up against speakers and posing flat on the stage with a sexually frustrated vulnerability that was disconcerting yet strangely engaging, culminating in the brilliant "Common People". The crowd seemed to like it at least, greedily welcoming him back for The Strokes' encore after a set that had lacked passion (and lyrics, apparently forgotten by Julian Casablancas).
But without a doubt it was Muse's closing show that will be remembered most. The three-piece captivated their audience with a succession of big songs and bigger special effects, including an enormous flame-thrower and 25ft inflatable eyeballs. Matt Bellamy was electrifying on vocals and guitar, drawing your eye with him wherever he moved about the stage. The fact that two hours later the audience were still begging for a second encore after an exhilarating "Knights of Cydonia" says it all.
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