Rumours have been rife all weekend about whether the presence of Green Day and the set they would play today. Would it be a ‘Dookie’ album show? Well, no. However, it is a high-energy collection of greatest hits instead. Even if you are not Green Day’s biggest fan, you can no doubt hum one of their songs and if you could hum it, they played it. From ‘American Idiot’ to ‘Basket Case,’ ‘Longview’ to ‘Holiday,’ it is hit after hit in a sweat-soaked, hour-long performance. Billie Joe Armstrong is the consummate front man; he is swaggering, leading the crowd in epic sing-along moments and saying “Wheeyy-ohhh” more times than Freddie Mercury at Live Aid. This is the kings looking to reclaim their throne and don’t be surprised if they come for the headline slot next year.
Over on the main stage whilst all this is going on, Los Campesinos! look a little lonely. They play the opening of their set to very few fans, with most still being captivated by a certain secret guest. However those who are there are treated to a Los Campesinos! greatest hits set. Not quite the universal punk-rock standards of Green Day, but enjoyable nonetheless. Opening with ‘By Your Hand,’ the first track of fourth album ‘Hello Sadness’, Los Camp play with passion and sincerity. There are no gimmicks to their live show, just earnestness, as they bluster through fan favourites ‘Death to Los Campesinos!’ and ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed.’ The recognisable ‘You! Me! Dancing’ (well at least to those who are fans of premier league football and a certain American beer) gets the best crowd response of the afternoon and gets the slowly swelling crowd dancing. Closing with ‘Baby, I’ve Got The Death Rattle,’ a euphoric celebration of morose relationships tops off this celebratory tragic performance. Top stuff.
There is a sense of anticipation building in the NME tent for the arrival of Frank Carter’s new band, Pure Love. The ex-Gallows front-man has undergone a gentlemanly transformation. No longer a punk urchin, he is now fully suited and booted (albeit still covered in tattoos) and the shrill yelps have been replaced with a smooth, suave vocal. The likes of ‘Handsome Devils Club’ fit the new aesthetic well, but there is a sense that Frank is still Frank at heart as he urges the crowd to go “fuck in tents” whilst introducing a song he dedicates to his fiancé. Overall, the performance is reserved yet intriguing and teases the forthcoming album even more.
The rise and rise of Enter Shikari continues on the main stage today. This year it seems, is the year that moshing and human pyramids have gone mainstream, as the space in front of the main stage is transformed into a health and safety hazard for the duration of their set. With a wealth of “hits” to draw from now, Shikari stick with a reliable set drawing heavily on new album ‘A Flash Flood Of Colour’ as is to be expected. This performance wholly cements Enter Shikari as a massive festival draw and is hugely entertaining too.
Is that At The Drive In? But I thought they weren’t on until later? Oh no, it’s just everyone’s favourite ATDI copycats Billy Talent. The Canadians are back and more shouty than ever, but no less of a blistering live force. Standards like ‘Try Honesty,’ ‘Fallen Leaves’ and ‘Red Flag’ are all present and correct and this set is entertaining enough, but it’s hard not to see this as a bit of a warm-up to the main event later. I forgot Billy Talent even existed until seeing them here on the bill, and so their “catchy and memorable” hits were fun enough to relive but then almost forgotten again immediately afterwards. Which is a shame, because for the duration of their set today, I thought they were the best band in the world.
Okay then. At The Drive In. They are the defining band of many punk and hardcore fan’s childhoods. They have spawned numerous imitators (aside from Billy Talent) but none better than the original. They are back, they are playing Reading Festival and… they have a kettle and a mug with the face of Jesus on stage? This bizarre behaviour sets alarm bells ringing immediately, and these fears are not really put to rest throughout their epic set. Before the backlash begins, I will state that I loved the set. They played ‘Lopsided,’ my favourite song, ‘Napoleon Solo’ and ‘Metronome Arthritis’ and although the set was heavily skewed towards the seminal ‘Relationship Of Command’, it was still really, really fun to see a band that I thought I would never see live. They finish, of course, with ‘One Armed Scissor’ and this is the only moment the crowd really engage with them. There was no engagement in the opposite direction either as the band distanced themselves from the crowd during the whole set. Yes, the music was great but the atmosphere was bit flat and awkward, like the moment you see an ex-girlfriend to exchange belongings. Maybe they were hyped up too much and maybe my expectations were too high for a band that have reformed mostly for the monetary gain, but I feel tonight At The Drive In only half-delivered on the expectation lumped on their shoulders.
Words by Tom White (@whiteywitters)