The first review: Reading Festival 2010
How the rock and roll weekender played out
Daniel Fahey on 29 August 2010
Overall – 9/10
Nostalgia plays a big part in Reading Festival’s pedigree. Part of the appeal is the organisers’ constant ability to get the biggest bands to these shores, regardless of their touring schedule or current formation. This time Guns N’ Roses show that it doesn’t always work but it writes headlines, as The Libertines and Blink 182 prove that time (and money) is a great healer. On paper, 2010 doesn’t read as a vintage year but as it comes to life, the festival runs as one of the best in recent memory. As a rite of rock passage, Reading 2010 initiates the next generation of fans and provides more than enough decadence and excitement to keep veterans and first timers coming for another 15 years. When Reading is this good, it is unbeatable and the promoters already have a task on their hands to make 2011 just as unstoppable.
Getting there and back – 8/10
The journey is as easy as ever: National Express provide direct coaches from a number of cities, trains from Paddington only take 25 minutes and then there is plenty of car parking available as well. If you have the displeasure of leaving the motor in the White car park, though, you’re in for a bit of a walk. It’s around a half an hour plod to get to the arena and just a little shorter if you wait for a boat to take you along, so decide early if you really need to pack a ten man tent for just you and your mate.
The site – 9/10
Attracting more revellers than ever, the main arena has been expanded with the NME/Radio 1 Stage tent rotating 45 degrees to give extra room for fans and to curtail the bottlenecks that used to appear by the Lock Up Stage. After three years of the main stage sound being as loud as a cardboard cone around a pair of iPhone headphones, organisers seem to have finally worked out that they need to turn it up a bit, with the Lock Stage speakers as gut-wrenchingly piercing as ever. There are plenty of food stalls around too and although queues for the bars as bands finish are frustratingly long at the time, they’re not that bad.
Atmosphere – 9/10
With the next slew of festival graduates mixing with the stalwarts of old, the atmosphere is energetic, hectic and very sweaty. Fans circle pit and mosh at the main stage, but it’s in the tents where the ocean of youngsters really sing and mosh their heart out. It’s not uncommon to see ticket-holders sticking under canvas to dance along to the music in between bands. The experienced elders can be found sitting and drinking just back from the main stage, conserving their energy somewhat before moving in and moshing as the sun falls.
Music – 8/10
The current roster of indie and rock stand strong against the best yesteryear. Guns N’ Roses’ late showing on Friday is laughable as organisers finally silence Axl Rose by cutting their overrunning show, LCD Soundsystem barely provide their own swansong on Friday and leave it to Mumford and Sons to give the best showing of the day. Yeasayer run out of steam, Marina And The Diamonds fail to keep a crowd, while Two Door Cinema Club simply can’t fit any more in. NOFX return to the UK to add a little of humour to the opening day, Delphic finally get response they deserve a year too late and Biffy Clyro edge further towards selling out as Simon Neil goes blonde for the occasion.
Thankfully, Arcade Fire don’t go all anarchic for their first Reading Festival headline show, instead the Canadians are competent professionals in an anthemic crowd-pleasing performance. Talking of professionals, The Libertines shake off the ramshackle graces of old with Doherty and Barat falling in love all over again. The front row swooned in appreciation, forcing the band to walk offstage during ‘Time For Heroes’. The NME stage headliners, Pendulum draw a hoard far beyond the tent’s capacity for a Saturday night rave up, while earlier in the day Enter Shikari outdo the bill-toppers in audience size with a lesson in playing the crowd by comparing them favourably over Leeds. NOFX return for a secret show with Frank Turner mucking in as Dizzee Rascal makes things look easy on the main stage, dropping Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ to much aplomb. Blogger’s delight Yuck give grunge its Reading return as Rolo Tomassi produce the biggest wall of death this side of Zippo’s Circus.
Blink 182 make a very welcome return to Reading, injecting humour and singalongs to a Sunday night party, ramping it up much more than Guns N' Roses and Arcade Fire do on Friday and Saturday. They get booed for jesting about the England and USA world cup match, but it’s all taken in good jest as they wow with old favourites ‘What’s My Age Again’ and ‘Girl At The Rock Show’. Foals give indie kids plenty to smile about in a packed NME/Radio 1 Tent with We Are Scientists auctioning off their set list an hour later. The debut of Magnetic Man isn’t for the fainthearted but it is outshone by a gleaming Sub Focus sweatbox as the Lock Up Tent gives way to dance music fever. Earlier in the day Weezer give it their all with a showing more cabaret than music gig and its much more the better for it.
Limp Bizkit get a headliner-sized crowd ‘Rollin’’ on the main stage, while Kele goes back to his roots in the NME tent by playing a medley of Bloc Party tracks. The find of the weekend though is Foxy Shazam who make Spinal Tap look even less funny than South Park.