Eastern Europe immigrants GOGOL BORDELLO mix Ukranian gypsy culture in a whirlwind of ska and reggae stirred with accordions and fiddles. Their Vaudeville cabaret-punk is worlds away from the mainstream chart-invaders they share a stage with, like The Pogues lead by Borat. Frontman Eugene Hutz invades his audience for added theatrics, and by the high energy spectacle's end we're standing to attention!
THE GOSSIP's Beth Ditto could just as easily be on security duty this weekend - instead the hefty singer is here to lead us through a high-octane rock show. She hitches up her pink dress to reveal black undies and cellulite-ridden legs - she means business and goes one step further than rolling up her sleeves. After the frantic 'Listen Up', they snatch lines from Amy Winehouse's 'Rehab', but the best is saved for their climax. 'Standing In The Way Of Control' rumbles us into a mass singalong before Ditto whips off her dress, parades around in bra and pants, and bends over to moon the crowd... where's the sun gone?
As the perfect summer evening draws in, MAXIMO PARK keep spirits high. Bar queues become crowds, pints are thrown around playfully, and Paul Smith and co work their way through 'Girls Who Like Guitars'. Looking onwards to Kings of Leon and Razorlight, their casual crowd work themselves into a sweat before the mighty 'Graffiti' closes proceedings.
In a mammoth 17-song set, KINGS OF LEON keep the banter brief and let the songs do the talking. As an opening gambit, non-single album fillers do nothing but elicit minor cheers - we give it big licks for mid-set stormers like 'Molly's Chambers', 'The Bucket', 'On Call' and 'Fans'. The whole sunsoaked field drowned in Southern singsong is one of the most impressive sights of the weekend - and they finish on such a note with 'Slow Night, So Long' as the light fades and we ready ourselves for Razorlight.
Wee Johnny, with his tight trousers, top off and tensed six-pack looking for all the world like a rock star who has graced headline slots at the world's most prestigious festivals for decades. RAZORLIGHT probably don't deserve to be topping the bill at Reading after only a couple of decent albums, but they certainly have the balls (with those skinny drainpipes on, we can see them) to strut their stuff on any platform. Johnny Borrell and co. do admittedly have some spine tingling moments, like having a 70,000 backing choir for 'America' and the rock 'n' roll, devil may care cheekiness of 'In The Morning' causing more than a stir as darkness engulfs the southern English field. However, there's just too many valleys between the peaks to make it a performance worth phoning your jealous mates about - perhaps when they are back, again, next year.
The man behind the moustache, Jesse "The Devil" Hughes leads his American garage rockers EAGLES OF DEATH
METAL through a lesson in inciting early afternoon hangover cases. Not-so-freshly rolled out of their tents, drunken fans devour 'Whorehoppin (Shit, Goddamn)' and 'Kiss The Devil' like students eating a free breakfast. Dirty fun rock n roll is the order of the day as Hughes tells Reading that they're great, brilliant, and generally the best bunch of people in the whole world.
"It's wonderful to be here in Phoenix, Arizona playing for you people" jokes THE SHINS singer James Mercer as umbrellas are hoisted for shade. The indie rockers jaunt through a short set of gorgeous anthems that takes in 'Kissing The Lipless', 'Caring Is Creepy' and 'So Says I', but disappointingly no sign of the beautiful 'New Slang'. When your repertoire's this good, tough choices must be made - but for the crowd, staying to revel in this upbeat noise is a no-brainer.
ANGELS AND AIRWAVES talk politics between bottle showers. If you thought Bono was a tit, take a look at
Tom DeLonge - the "dude" who ran naked through California for blink182's 'What's My Age Again?' video is now self-elected commentator on the city's affairs of state. Songs like 'Lifeline' and 'Sirens' sound epic if a little self-knowing amidst the waffling, and 'It Hurts' merits the second biggest cheer of the set - the loudest saved for their exit.
BLOC PARTY leader Kele Okereke smiles as he proclaims "The sun is shining, the beer is flowing. There's nothing to stop us having a good time, right?" 'Song For Clay' and 'Positive Tension' inspire hearty choruses, before the group who formed at a Reading Festival long ago dedicate 'This Modern Love' to "anyone who's in a young band". 'Helicopter' closes a sun-soaked set to which we all raise a cheerful pint.
In the dark of the NME tent, Scotland's fiercest pop-rockers BIFFY CLYRO could scare Franz Ferdinand into retirement and The Fratellis into hiding. Biting and complex guitar-heavy beasts, like opener 'Bodies In Flight', are certainly not for the faint hearted. And if you thought the sea of Saltire flags was a sign of an imminent invasion, you'd be wrong - we're just here to mosh. Cuts like 'Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies', 'Now I'm Everyone' and 'Get Fucked, Stud' certainly help, with even a "Wall of Death" raging at one point. We pause for the gorgeous 'Folding Stars', "They'd better play 'Glitter and Trauma'..." is no sooner uttered than the fan-favourite gets a balls-to-the-wall airing, then there's a finale that will live on in Reading history books. Rock n' roll Simon Neil sets his axe alight, holds the engulfed instruments above his head, then smashes it into the ground. And that's that.
Canadian nine-piece ARCADE FIRE waste no time in riling the crowd into ballistic fervour, rolling out hits like 'Keep The Car Running' and 'Haiti' straight from the off. Win Butler and his merry men (and wife) stroll through a multi-instrument jam of blissful noise, wrapping up as only they can on lush anthems 'Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)', 'Rebellion (Lies)' and 'Wake Up'. Underdogs from the start, they've just dared to question whether the Chili Peppers can keep up.
Tie and waistcoat, check. Funky grooves, check. Slightly demented looking half naked bass player, check.
Ladies and gentlemen RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS have arrived! The American quartet are the biggest prospect of the weekend but that doesn't necessarily make them the most exciting and they do play a part in their own downfall tonight with a lot of filler and very little killer. The 40-something office workers who seem to make up a large part of tonight's crowd savour every moment of the "alternative" experience, but for everyone else who has been to another show in 2007, the flashy lights, poor sound and badly timed dance hops just aren't enough to cut it.
'Can't Stop' and the infectious 'By The Way' really shine in an otherwise average display from every gran's favourite death metal band.
Black may not be the smartest wardrobe choice, but THE USED defy the sun. The American alt-rockers take
us through songs from 'Lies for the Liars' with hits like 'The Bird and the Worm', but the biggest
reaction is saved for 2002's breakthrough single 'The Taste of Ink'.
Love or loathe the pop-rock bastards, there's no denying FALL OUT BOY their place on the bill as we catch
ourselves helplessly singing along. "This Ain't A Scene" and "Sugar We're Going Down" are near-genius blasts of stupid nonsense, infectious like a sugar rush. Covers of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and Huey Lewis and the News' "The Power Of Love" ensure everyone can get in on the sing-your-lungs-out capers.
Pontypridd's sons LOSTPROPHETS have come a long way, and dressed to the nines like Axl Rose in Johnny
Depp's wardrobe the pompous Ian Watkins doesn't look a bit out of place on the massive main stage.
Luckily the boys have the tunes to back up their egos, so 'Last Train Home', 'Burn Burn' and 'Last
Summer' stir chaos as they whip us into "Reading's biggest circle pit". 'Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja' throws
us into complete disorder, arms flailing and kids screaming.
There's no time to fortify the Lock-Up Stage... before anyone is ready, the Imperial March booms out and GALLOWS stride out to tear down the tent around them. 'Abandon Ship' leaves no man uninjured, as we all fight to cry back "MAYDAY! MAYDAY!" with fury. Without so much as a grimace, frontman Frank Carter gets a tattoo live on stage to mark this day - then instantly tears into a relentless 'Sick Of Being Sick'. Finisher 'Orchestra Of Wolves' opens a circle pit and unable to resist, Carter dives in head-first to crowd surf. By song's end he's climbed 15 foot of rigging and thrown himself back in to swarms of rabid fans below. Gallows make their exit, and it feels like the most painful five minutes of your life have just passed you by.
When Trent Reznor's NINE INCH NAILS agreed to underheadline Reading Festival, they obviously planned in
secret to gatecrash the party. With an amazing, massive lights show that could seriously confuse passing aircraft and classic setlist choices that no fan could grumble about - 'Sin', 'March of the Pigs', 'Only', 'Wish', it's all here - NIN make Razorlight look like daft wee boys, Chili Peppers like old hasbeens and seriously question Pumpkins' right to be above them. 'Head Like A Hole' leaves us messy and drained as Trent makes his exit - when he reappears on a darkened stage for a solo rendition of 'Hurt', 70,000 music fans melt into a puddle. They make chills run down your spine as only headli... err, underheadliners can.
And so it is, with the casual saunter of an odd looking baldy bloke, the mighty SMASHING PUMPKINS are
finally back after a seven year break. A band which punctured the 90s grunge movement with masterpieces like 'Disarm', 'Zero', 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings', 'Cherub Rock' and '1979' are before us, fronted by Billy Corgan.
Not many bands would even dare take the stage after Trent Reznor has just performed a blinding version of
one of the greatest tracks ever penned in 'Hurt', but luckily the Pumpkins have not just an arsenal of classics but a library. Strange then that they should choose an eight-minute instrumental to baffle everyone and declare their
return. And questionable is probably the best description of a set which takes even the most devoted fans from
orgasmic highs (see aforementioned tracks) to completely monotony of new dirge. Billy - not ever in danger of making new pals - only speaks to call English women sluts and announce that he'll be playing new material, and we prefer the insults. But when the acoustic guitar comes out for '1979', all is forgiven, he could even start hurling abuse at our mums and for three-minutes we wouldn't care.
An unpredictable but satisfying end to another Carling weekend.
Gav & Gee.