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Main Stage: top ten bands

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Daniel Fahey, Alex Fahey, Ali Kerry, Dean Samways | 01 September 2009

If you’d have told any hardcore Radiohead fan two years ago that one day their favourite band would be playing a festival like Reading they’d have thought you were crazy and ask you to humour them again by telling your the story of how Muse and Coldplay sound like the Oxford prog-rockers.

Well, this year, Thom Yorke surprised everyone when it was announced they would headline the August bank holiday festival, and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Astounding everyone by opening with ‘Creep’, which somehow made the old material glue better with the new, more abstract songs, they then went on to crash through highlights ‘Reckoner’, ‘Just’, ‘Idioteque’.

There was a sense of urgency about the gig like the band had to readjust the crowd’s senses after a weekend of substandard music. Unfortunately it would seem that not everyone would appreciate it attending more out of curiosity than fandom. Euphoric, as a word, doesn’t quite convey the feeling felt by those who truly got tuned in to the spectacle. DS.

Arctic Monkeys

Maybe a doomed set from the outset, not only were Arctic Monkeys punting a new mid-tempo LP, which they featured heavily during the set, they were also proceeding a highly energetic industrial dance group who are more at home headlining themselves.

Alex Turner
could have done more in way of inspiring the crowd, especially when he stepped away from his guitar to look like an awkward teenager with his hands in his pockets, but instead he remained silent in between many songs which themselves were poorly received thanks to sound problems. Chants of “Turn it up, turn it up,” rang through the crowds as early as the third song, ‘Crying Lightening’.

Older tracks ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ and ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ were highlights of the set and those that did stay in the ever-thinning crowd seemed genuinely relieved that they finally got a sing-a-long.

The set lost energy even further, “we’re going to take it down Reading,” Turner explained for ‘Cornerstone’ and it wilted again from there, “we’re going to take it down even further,” for a swooning rendition of ‘Only Ones Who Know’.

An encore of ‘Secret Door’ and ‘505’, which this year has replaced ‘A Certain Romance’ as the final track, made sure that the set ended on a whimper, “thanks Reading, you’ve been...exceptional,” Turner concluded. AF

The View
“They’re the biggest tits I’ve seen at a festival,” declared bassist Keiren Webster before ‘5 Rebeccas’, who’d either spotted some eye-catching knockers or been watching Crystal Castles in the Radio 1/NME Stage. It’s also a phrase that could be applied to the band themselves at either Snowbombing or Hop Farm.

At Reading however, the group were on sterling form, with hundreds of fans stampeding towards the main stage. The well-worn ‘Same Jeans’ proved a particular highlight, with dust kicking up from a circle pit, but there were on the shoulder moments for ‘Superstar Tradesman’ and ‘Shock Horror’ which curtailed the set back-to-back. DF

Mariachi el Bronx

LA hardcore band The Bronx opened the Main Stage with their slightly unusual side project of a mariachi band. Not as unusual as it may seem, as the influence of this tradition Mexican folk music has a heavy presence in southern California.

Despite taking the stage in full traditional dress (covering most of their tattoos), it’s soon clear this is no comedy act. With songs like 'Cell Mates' and 'My Brother The Gun' from their new album, their fantastic song writing and authentic delivery made them a most refreshing start to the day.

Those who arrived early expecting a joke from this punk outfit are pleasantly surprised and the crowd gave back the full respect the band deserve. "This is amazing" could be overheard from several crowd conversations and one punter called a friend to say "Dude, get over to the Main Stage now, these guys are incredible." A truly extraordinary highlight of this weekend. AK.

The Prodigy
Reading bared its teeth by bringing two exclusive headliners to the site, but with The Prodigy second on the bill perhaps in hindsight it was a bad move. The Essex dance group have the experience, songs and energy to headline such a festival and their enormous crowd reflected that.

Blighted by sound issues, the group still persisted to become of the best acts of the weekend. Keith Flint asked the crowd, “Reading, are you on fire?” before slamming into ‘World’s on Fire’. The group were as acrobatic as ever, grappling cameras, jumping all around the stage and entering the pit, much to the delight of the crowd.

Heavy beats energised the crowd who had been dulled by Maximo Park’s earlier efforts with ‘Breathe’ demonstrating how to get 50,000 people dancing. The newer material boded well alongside the older tunes with ‘Omen’ the best example, and even a mid-set lull was rejuvenated, “are you still here?” mused Flint before the crowd eruptted to ‘Firestarter’.

 ‘Take Me To The Hospital’ slotted in seamlessly and was a highlight for many of the young revellers, but it was the anthem ‘Out Of Space’ - which was sung back so loud it drowned out the PA - that really made sure the crowd were raving. AF

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

American sexy electro punks Yeah Yeah Yeahs kicked off what had been the three most anticipated consecutive bands of the festival on Sunday night at the Main Stage. It’s difficult to point a finger what makes YYY’s so alluring. Their uniqueness is surely a big factor and then there’s Karen O herself. Today she made sure everyone was aware of how much of a temptress she was.

After completing songs, new and old, dirty and hard, and more loving and soft, she would occasionally stuff the phallus microphone into her month or run it up and down her thighs from the lead. Combine this with the sexy groans and moans of the back catalogue and you’re left with a crowd wondering what to do with themselves.

Highlight’s of the set including ‘Pin’ and ‘Heads Will Roll’ before going into a an acoustic version of a “love song,” that O dedicated to a ton of people but ultimately the Reading crowd. ‘Skeletons’ swooned but ‘Zero’ and ‘Date With The Night’ rocked several pairs of pants off. DS.

The Rakes
Londoners, The Rakes are still such a great festival band and they prove that once again here. The highly entertaining garage rockers were fantastic to watch and so genius at whipping up the festival frenzy that you need to remind yourself it's only two o'clock in the afternoon.

Singer Alan Donohoe dedicated crowd favourite, '22 Grand Job', "…to all the old Rakes fans. Not as in the 30-plus fans, as in the fans who've followed us for some time," and the huge crowd they pulled confirms there are quite a few.

One of the many highlights was 'The World Was A Mess But His Hair Was Perfect' which Donohoe added, "…is our longest song ever, clocking in at 3 minutes and 54 seconds." The song title itself sums up the irreverent fun of The Rakes. Long may they remain on the summer festival circuit. AK.

Bloc Party
How time freaking flies. A newly ripped Kele Okereke told the crowd how he was reminded earlier in the day that ten years ago this weekend, at Reading 1999, he had asked Bloc Party’s guitarist Russell Lissack to form a band. Since then, three albums and countless tours later they find themselves playing before Radiohead at Reading Festival 2009.

Past experience shows that Bloc Party can be a little ropey live. Something either to do with the sound or the tightness of the band, but under tonight’s darkening skies they remained pretty much flawless.

‘Banquet’, ‘Two More Years’ and ‘Hunting For Witches’ all stood out as the band lavished their disco pop rock onto the crowd before Kele demanded a drink from the side of the stage. After a wait he declared: “We’ve got two months off after tonight so I’m going to get fucked up!” Rock ‘n’ roll! DS.

Eagles Of Death Metal

Jesse "The Devil" Hughes, leader of the Palm Dessert, California hard rock band Eagles Of Death Metal oozes sex, drugs and rock n roll from every pore. He knows it, and the adoring crowd knew it even more as they chanted "Eagles! Eagles!" after every song.

Hughes seems generally overwhelmed, but this adulation is well deserved. Eagles powered through a 14-song set, including 'Secret Plans', 'I Got A Feelin (Just Nineteen)', 'English Girls' and 'Wannabe In LA'. Watching in the wings were some of Hughes' famous fans, and collaborators, including Dave Grohl and Josh Homme.

Grohl was sat at the side of the stage with his three-year-old daughter, Violet Maye, on his lap as Hughes saunters over to personally dedicate 'The Boy's Bad News' to the Foo Fighter (which sadly, caused the young Miss Grohl to cover her face with her hands, in obvious disagreement). Eagles Of Death Metal well and truly brought proper hard rock back to this, the Reading Festival, it's spiritual home. AK.

Kings Of Leon

Kings Of Leon were a massive disappointment, mostly thanks to Caleb Followill deciding, in his wisdom, that the fans had had enough of the band half way through their set.

Despite initial reviews of the gig this made the crowd very uneasy and a great sense of alienation swept through the mob for a band that were originally one of the most anticipated of the weekend.

The temperature and sound did not help. All these ingredients made for a recipe of stodgy disgruntlement all round. In theory the gig should have been a highlight with the band taking a full tour of their record material to date from ‘Molly Chambers’ and ‘Red Morning Light’ to ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Sex on Fire’.

Despite the Followill’s brother’s seemingly misinterpretation of the reception they received in Reading, their headline slot would be the biggest sing-a-long of the weekend. DS.

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SimonNott wrote on Friday 4 September :

Did you not see The Living End on Sunday? Amazing show.

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