'Booking The Libertines is certainly a risk for organisers, especially with Doherty's impending driving and drugs offences, which could mean he's in prison by the time August rolls round. '
YES says Tom Goodwyn
Reading/Leeds always have problems getting their line-ups right. They can’t afford to overly mainstream, else they run the risk of heading into V Festival territory and upsetting their core fan base of alternative rockers. But they also can’t afford to go too leftfield. Reading/Leeds are many people’s first festival and they see themselves as a reputation forger. They’ve given Muse, Kings Of Leon, Foo Fighters and other such behemoths their first headline slots and need big bands to maintain their reputation as the best festivals in Europe.
On first view the line-up looks a little like playing it safe. Lostprophets, the Cribs and Pendulum are all veterans of the double header and will be familiar fodder to seasoned goers. But given a second look and Melvin Benn and his team have thrown a few curveballs. There’s a huge slot for Biffy Clyro on the Friday night, marking their ascent in the past year, an improved standing for the Maccabees who have just finished up the NME tour and a high slot on the Radio 1/NME Stage for the superb Phoenix, who seem to be winning just about everybody over with their wonky pop. Elsewhere there are good billings for All Time Low, You Me At Six, The Gaslight Anthem and Gogol Bordello, who have all enjoyed wonderful 2010s. Paramore are also rewarded for conquering arenas with the second headline slot on Sunday and then there are the welcome returns of Weezer and Queens of the Stone Age.
As for the headliners, they’re a mixed bag, but the choice of Arcade Fire to top the bill on Saturday is both bold and brilliant. The band have not only produced two breathtaking albums, but their live shows are the stuff of legend. Giving them a slot like this will allow the band to pull out all the stops and create a live show that matches the epic majesty of their music. Blink 182 are another fine choice, having spent three years away from the touring circuit and with two vanity projects now withering away, the band have promised a spectacular, hit packed show. The weakness in the headliners seems strange to say. Especially when they’ve sold as many records and have such notoriety as Guns N’Roses do. But the LA legends are a risky choice. There are a myriad of reasons for this, but Axl Rose’s travelling ego, and the yes men as they’ve now pretty much become, have delivered some shocking headline shows over the years. They were notoriously late on stage and you only have to look at their Download appearance in 2006 to see that they’re far from sure things to rock the place.
The big story of the line up though, is undoubtedly the Libertines reunion. Especially given the band’s farewell appearance in 2004, when they stumbled onstage having left Pete Doherty behind in London to deliver a set that was both heartbreaking and life affirming. Figures have been speculated upon as to what’s drawn them out of retirement, with sums of up to £1.5 million being banded around. And, well, given the number of times Pete Doherty has been in court recently it’s safe to say he probably owes someone a few quid. This slot could go either way, as it’ll either see the band in all their brilliant ramshackleness, barely holding it together and somehow transporting the whole crowd to Albion with them. Or it’ll be slick, contracted and all about the money. In each of these scenarios, the other stage will be empty, the anticipation enormous and it’s still going to be really hard to listen to ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’.
If you’re still not sold on the line up, then just picture the last day of the festival, you’re knackered, you’re dirty, you’re out of cash and you’re just about ready to go home. The lights onstage go down and the opening chords to ‘What’s My Age Again?’ filter through the air. Reunited and revitalised, Blink 182’s slot will be like injecting 5 litres of energy drink straight into your aching muscles. No one does poppy, energetic punk rock like they do. It’ll be brilliant. See you down the front.
NO argues Daniel Fahey
Am I impressed by the Reading and Leeds line-up? I certainly would be if it was 2009. But it’s now 2010 and Festival Republic still seem to be wheeling out the same acts again.
Let’s delve Colombo: The Maccabees, Enter Shikari, Crystal Castles, Delphic, The Gaslight Anthem, Frank Turner, Billy Talent, The Big Pink, You Me At Six and LostProphets are all back again for the first time since…oh, last year. Some may have moved stages, but it’s still around a third of the bands announced!
No worries though, Guns N’ Roses (i.e. Axl Rose and friends) will hit our shores for their first festival since 2006 when Mr Rose arrived late at Download, slipped over and threatened to leave the stage for good. Bodes well doesn’t it? The volatile performer will no doubt be a great draw, but come on, they haven’t produced anything decent in decades and the less we hear from the awful ‘Chinese Democracy’ the better.
Talking of volatile, we’re set for the – allegedly big money – reunion of the Libertines. The most exciting booking on the line-up is certainly a risk for organisers, especially with Doherty’s impending driving and drugs offences, which could mean he's in prison by the time August rolls round. From forum responses, it seems a risk worth taking at least.
Elsewhere the wonderful Arcade Fire are due for their first shot at headlining a major UK festival. It was bound to happen sometime, especially after two outstanding albums, but it could very well lead to the Arctic Monkeys syndrome we witnessed last year. They were two big albums down but the songs from their third LP did nothing but slump their headline show into an odd no man’s land and without any Arcade Fire album teasers knocking about, it’s hard to guess what direction they’ll take and how many of new tracks they’ll use.
Then we come onto the final headliner: Blink 182. Yes, the ones that sang about acting like kids back in 1999 on ‘What’s My Age Again?’. They’re no longer kids – they weren’t really then – but boy, time hasn’t been good to their sound. The pop punk thing sounds extremely dated ten years on and, as anyone who saw Offsrping at Download in 2008 can attest, it’s best left back in the 90s. Some bands should split and call it quits rather than digging up the old hits – it’s just embarrassing.
There is plenty of quality to be excited about as well though, just look at Weezer, Cypress Hill, LCD Soundsytem and Mumford And Sons, the rest is just a little, as I said, 2009. Where's Eminem? Muse? Kasabian?
But as we know, Reading and Leeds are often festival filters for the best emerging indie, rock and alternative groups around and there are still two stages of bands to be filled. So I’m not going to rip up my ticket just yet…