Reading Festival 2011 review

'Great bands, great performances, set in front of a rather youthful crowd'

Reading Festival 2011 review

Photographer: Al De PerezAli Ryland on 28 August 2011

Do you remember the first time? A fair few fans at Reading Festival 2011 clearly don’t remember any time as the festival pulls one of its youngest crowds yet. Pulp (10/10) expose this, and their age, by jokingly wondering, "if anyone was born in 1994" (the date of their first Reading appearance) to less cheers than would be expected. Even after the revelation that a large number of Pulp’s fanbase tonight are young enough to be Cocker’s bastard children, the suave Sheffieldian singer begins a rather sexually explicit set involving plenty of provocative hip-wiggles and a raunchy air-f**king display during ‘This Is Hardcore’. Not content with shimmying his skinny legs in his own set, Jarvis joins The Strokes (6/10) to spice up their rather so-so performance by appearing to lip-lock with Julian Casablancas before covering ‘All That I Needed’ by The Cars.

Pulp are not the only headliner with a penchant for the sexy. My Chemical Romance’s (8/10) Gerard Way is out to flaunt his now slim frame in skin tight leather and dashing hooker boots that grab our attention more than newfangled pop songs such as ‘Sing’- especially when the cameras seem to be firmly set on his seemingly bulge-less crotch. Arriving just in time to stop Way’s camp performance channelling the spirit of Freddie Mercury, Brian May brings it down to PG and yet up to eleven as he performs ‘We Will Rock You’ and stays on for ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’; surprisingly satisfying.

It’s a shame then when The Offspring (6/10) seemingly lose their sex drive as they tiredly perform without a boner joke in sight; luckily, Friendly Fires (9/10) HAVE taken notes from the Friday and Saturday headliners as Ed MacFarlane pulls some seductive shapes to their own brand of 80’s pop with a new age feel. They even go so far as to bring on scantily clad luau dancers for a boogie to ‘Hawaiian Air’ - a big crowd pleaser.

Outside of all the flirtatious fun, there is a last minute cancellation from Saturday night NME headliners Jane’s Addiction due to the singer’s sore throat, leaving the angry crowd to wander over to The Strokes or strut their stuff at the Silent Arena - the ActionAid tent being a thing of dreams for those not there insanely early.

Frank Turner’s secret set on the lock up made him ‘feel at home’ as the slightly tipsy folk-punk singer brought on Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan for traditional song 'The World Turned Upside Down' and covered Queen’s 'Somebody To Love'. Frank didn't just do the hits as he did on earlier the main stage (7/10) but did older classics like 'Nashville Tennessee' and 'The Real Damage' although obviously quite drunk by this point as he was shouting/caterwauling during the Bragg song and forgetting words.

Over on the less revered NME/Radio One Tent, Mike Skinner is making his swan song appearence with The Streets (9/10), crafting a greatest hits set before gathering a supergroup with members of 30 Seconds To Mars, 2manydj's and Elbow for a version of 'Fit But You Know it' and Joan Jett's 'I Love Rock N Roll'. 

The final say of the weekend has to go to the jewel in the Reading crown, Devon's rock pioneers Muse (10/10) who mix prog and pop with guitar licks and bass kicks for a majestic and sublime headline set on a scale rarely surpassed. Celebrating the anniversary year of their seminal 2001 album 'Origin Of Symmetry', everything about the performance is grandoise. Performing the album in full it's clear the hardcore Muse contingent is here in force and bodies are soon surfing their way across the crowd as the band hardly stop to let fans catch their breathe. 'Supermassive Black Hole' and 'Feeling Good' are the usual high octane highlights you expect from Muse, the only surprise comes as they leave, as they dispatch a sky full of fireworks in their wake.

The highs and lows remain the same as always, great bands, great performances, set in front of a rather youthful crowd, clutching GCSE pass grades those of which the nineties children could only dream of. 2011 will go down as a good year for good performances, even if you don’t agree with lineup (and if not, what’s wrong with you?!)

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