POP / A great big yes: Ryan Gilbey on the headline acts at the Reading Festival

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The Independent Culture
Rain-clouds filled the sky at last weekend's Reading Festival, but had the decency not to burst until Friday's headliners Cypress Hill had stomped off stage. The Lemonheads were first, though. Singer Evan Dando, growing out a Jean Seberg crop, flirted with his famously adoring fans. 'Anyone fancy a shag?', he asked, that distinctly British colloquialism sounding clumsy on his American tongue. The feverish response left him in no doubt that he could have unzipped any tent-flap on site and found an accomodating sleeping-bag. The band whizzed through bite-sized pop nuggets like 'The Great Big No' and 'Confetti', omitting 'Mrs Robinson' (in everyone's best interest).

They would have been opening-night heroes had Cypress Hill not followed with an inebriating punch of rap and hip-hop. Their disarming humour negates the po-faced machismo which so often dogs the rap scene. And they counter live rap's tendency to be little more than two Adidas-kitted boyz in hoods stalking the stage hectoring the audience.

Enter the dock, then, Ice Cube. Apart from a moment of sensitivity so rare it stung, with Cube commanding silence for the fan stabbed to death at his Glasgow gig, the set was a dismal pantomime. When he and his stooge began bickering about whether or not it was indeed a man's, man's, man's world, the dispute was settled by a laughable indulgence ('All the fellas in the house say Yo]') that Chas & Dave would have been ashamed to instigate.

If Saturday's two stages delivered an impossible predicament - Shed Seven, a band on their way up, or the near- imploded Manic Street Preachers - then there was no such quandary for the congregation gathered before Primal Scream. Opening with the triple-whammy of 'Jailbird', 'Rocks' and the gospel-flavoured 'Movin' On Up', the heights their funk- rock scaled cannot be charted on any graph. The pairing of the emaciated, Pierrot-like Bobby Gillespie and the sensuous backing singer Denise might be the most absurd since Sonny & Cher, but they engage in some infectious camaraderie. Building to a colossal 'Loaded', where the Clash's Mick Jones chipped in, the show closed with that most showbiz of traditions, the reprise ('Rocks', in case one helping didn't sate you), proving that there can never be too much of a good thing.

Ryan Gilbey will file a further report on the Reading Festival on Thursday's Pop pages