Another year is through and, as ever, Reading & Leeds Festival gave us an array of memorable moments. There were big headline sets from the likes of Kasabian and Muse, not to mention some surprise appearances from Queens Of The Stone Age, Drake and Brian Johnson, but here are the five Reading sets that lasted in the minds of the Music Week team …
If there was any doubt as to the anticipation surrounding Eminem’s comeback – only his second live headline show since May 2016 – one need only have surveyed his crowd. Sardine-packed as far as the eye could see, the sheer volume of people huddled together to see Detroit’s finest spoke volumes. Presumably there were people watching acts on other stages, but it didn't feel like it.
The good news was that when the real slim shady did finally stand up, he didn’t disappoint. Such is Eminem’s notoriety and body of work, he occupies an enviable position as a festival headliner. From the moment he opened with the diss-tastic throwback of Square Dance from The Eminem Show, the crowd was under his complete control.
What was clear was that the man onstage was not only back, he was fired up. Alongside expressing his, er, let’s call it distaste for Donald Trump, he thrilled with an intoxicating blend of hits, guest verses (including B.o.B.’s Airplanes Part II and Drake’s Forever) album cuts (Criminal, Kill You, Evil Deeds, Soldier) and a stellar run through Bad Meets Evil’s Fast Lane with his partner in rhyme Royce Da 5'9.
The hits did the damage you would expect, with the verbal barrage of Rap God serving up a feat of endurance to marvel at even when presented in truncated form. Elsewhere, The Way I Am received the venomous delivery it deserved and Stan served as a reminder of why it is one of hip-hop’s greatest storytelling moments. Even without When I’m Gone, Guilty Conscience and Cleanin’ Out My Closet, it was a set that paid testament to the enormity of his catalogue. Best of all was the inclusion of the Slim Shady LP single that precipitated his fame. Just Don’t Give A Fuck – rather like Eminem himself - sounds as essential in 2017 as in 1999.
Indie rock found itself in a curious place at this year’s Reading Festival. Once the soundtrack to the weekend, of the newer names on the bill, only Blossoms drew a crowd and played a set that suggested they might potentially be future headliners. But one man defied the passing of time and trends. Liam Gallagher arrived with the same swagger as he did when Oasis made their one, curiously belated Reading appearance in 2000, and the audience duly turned up in similar numbers. He stopped short of playing the same songs too, but while Oasis standards such as Slide Away, Morning Glory and D’You Know What I Mean? kept momentum from flagging, his new solo material is vital enough to put him back in the game in his own right. Maybe he’ll even inspire a few other guitar bands to join him.
Hip-hop has an uneven history at Reading: Public Enemy smashed it as far back as 1992, but 50 Cent was famously bottled off in 2004. This year, however, a lot of rock and indie rock acts struggled while rap, grime, urban and dance acts pulled huge crowds. So Giggs was going down a storm even before Drake joined him on stage; Stefflon Don lived up to all the hype with a short but irresistible 1Xtra Stage appearance and Stormzy and Skepta both joined Lethal Bizzle for his NME/Radio 1 stage appearance. Meanwhile, last week’s Music Week cover star J Hus had such a monstrous crowd at his 1Xtra Stage set that they were several hundred deep outside the tent. Being a long way away didn’t stop the party though, as Friendly and Did You See caused waves of euphoria to ripple out through the crowd as far as the eye could see. He exited to the sound of breaking glass; fitting, really, as Reading’s glass ceiling just got shattered.
Until earlier this month, Marmozets – one of the UK’s most incendiary rising bands – had been firmly off road. In part this was down to them recording a follow-up to their 2014 debut The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets, but also due to frenetic frontwoman Becca Macintyre being out of action after requiring knee surgery. They should take comfort in the fact that their fans’ love has not cooled. Not only were old standards like Captivate You and the dizzying math rock of Why Do You Hate Me? greeted with huge responses, their new single Play – its infectious ‘I don’t dance cos I want to, I dance cos I have to’ chorus in particular – got the same frenzied welcome. Taken alongside their recent intimate tour, it seems Marmozets are primed to make a big return.
After a few years of seemingly operating on auto-pilot (especially at festivals), nu-metal godfathers Korn have kicked things up a gear as a live act of late. Ever since they blew Slipknot off their own stage at Wembley in 2015, they have sounded tighter and better than ever. Appearing before the major lasers of Major Lazer, the nu-metal godfathers made easy work of their mainstage performance. Even when factoring in the At The Drive-In earlier in the day on Saturday, they were the loudest proposition on the stage. Part of this was due to so many of their songs being nu-metal anthems that have never really left music TV channels (why yes, you do know the words to Freak On A Leash). Another part of it is the quality of the sound – capturing the burning heft of their music perfectly. Mostly, however, it’s just a case of a band in brilliant form frontloading their set with genre-defining hits and playing them with an undeniable authority.