Reading Festival 2012 review

'It remains the music lovers' festival'

Photographer:Peter Corkhill

Anja Kimberley, Kai Jones, Chris Swindells, Chris Eustace - 27 August 2012

A rite of passage, a spewing sea of hormonal ecstasy and the flag-raising of the rock and roll dream to the top of the mast. Reading Festival has been here to see us through it all.
 
There’s no stopping the festival, no slowing it down. 2012 provides more ‘moments’ and talking points in the chapters of the musical history books than any Reading Festival before it. One poor kid in a Green Day shirt watching Los Campesinos will contest to that much. On the other side of the site Green Day (10/10) are playing a ‘secret’ set to early risers in the NME/Radio One tent. “Thanks to Green Day for supporting us,” says Gareth Campesinos. The kid looks up and around, a momentous realisation of confusion, then horror, then despair spread over his face.
 
The scene of a flood of adolescents, running, in the early morning sun, towards the sound of Billie Joe Armstrong tuning up might symbolise Reading Festival. Their career-spanning set has encapsulated that punk spirit, a spirit that will seemingly never burn out.
 
At The Drive-In (8/10) rekindled their old spirit, keeping old fires burning with familiar hits ‘One Armed Scissor’ and opener ‘Arcarsenal’ proving stand-outs. Fellow punks Gallows (7/10) made history by returning without Frank Carter, who returned with Pure Love (6/10).
 
Elsewhere You Me At Six (8.5/10) played the crowd like mischievous puppet masters, delighting in the attention at their disposal. They succeeded in getting the crowd to strip an item of clothing each with upbeat rewards of 'Reckless' and 'Bite My Tongue'.
 
It might have been the first festival show for Mongol Horde (9/10) but bringing Million Dead founders back to the turf where they had one of their final rounds back in 2005 was inspired. Like the ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’ cover they treated the Lock Up tent to, it’s pure tongue-in-cheek hardcore but Frank Turner seemed as content in the shell of the punk figurehead as he does as the folk troubadour in front of the Olympic Opening Ceremony celebration.
 
Reading Festival will forever belong to the headliners and The Cure (9/10) returned after 33 years to preside over Friday night’s biggest slot. It was two and a half hours of sublime, brooding and dare we say it, gothic genius. ‘Love Song’ is as endearing, loved, dark-eyed and huggable as Robert Smith’s own face. Smith cast a haunting figure in his tangled jet back hair and fidgeting gaze but he hit the target with the songs that count and kept everyone’s focus.
 
Topping Saturday's bill, Kasabian (9/10) dished out a dose of more British brilliance with their curiously dark and dramatic set, showcasing both old favourites and recent treats from successful album 'Velociraptor!'. Capitalising on the opportunity to make the most of his Reading fantasies Meighan had the crowd scatting, moshing and singing to deafening levels through 'LSF' and 'Fire' before an emotional band hug and departure from the stage.
 
Guitar bands didn’t have free reign though. Azealia Banks (8/10) challenged for the top spot with her dirty hip hop tunes and ‘212’ on repeat. Likewise Santigold (9/10) gave a set that defied explanation, with a visual spectacular of hip hop robot dancing and outlandish costumes. Covering a lot of ground, 'Say Ah-ha' and 'Big Mouth' provided sing-along opportunity, which many of the crowd were brought on stage to share.

Jaguar Skills (7/10) threw a mean 'celebration' that made thousands get up close and personal in the sticky summer heat. Combining tracks that you would be unlikely to find within the same household, Skills was able to unite genres and ages.
 
The final word and unifying gestures were left to Dave Grohl, and his motley crew, Foo Fighters.

If genius and geniality ever went together it was with Foo Fighters (10/10) and their frontman Dave Grohl. Twenty years since Nirvana made wheelchair history here, it’s fitting Dave should return, dedicating ‘These Days’ to Kurt and Krist, and playing master of ceremonies over the only one closing ceremony everyone can agree was unforgettable this year.
 
They matched The Cure for set time, they beat everyone for the hit factor and blew speakers and heads to bits with moments from their self-titled debut through to 2011’s ‘Wasting Light’. They treated fans to rarities like ‘Winnebago’, harking back to their 1995 Reading Festival debut where it opened, proving Foo Fighters can still surprise as much as they can roll with the hits.
 
This isn’t just a festival to me – this is the most important gig of my life” said Dave at one point. You might scoff if certain other frontmen came out with that, but from the mouth of a man so steeped in the history of the event, you could believe every word.
 
With set finale ‘Everlong’ the fireworks were released, and surely not for the final time, at Reading Festival. It has produced more memories, more unmissable moments and more surprises through the years than we care to remember. It remains the music lovers' festival.


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