Reading Festival Review – day two with Eminem, Imagine Dragons, Savages and Childhood

Day Two in the Big Brother House.. I’m sorry, at the Reading festival. It did seem at times yesterday that we were being experimented on from a weather point of view – let’s stop the rain so they all leave whichever tent they’re in then.. kerpow! Torrential downpour for ten minutes! It was that sort of afternoon, but the evening dried up well before Eminem took the stage – 15 minutes late but with a great stage set with a huge backing screen projected with various films and still images. A bigger crowd than for Green Day as well.

I’ll be honest – we didn’t stay for the whole set. But what we saw, he was on good form physically, loads of energy, and Dido came on to do “Stan”, a clever and brilliant song.  Whether you like him or not, he’s a significant figure in modern music and good to see him looking healthy and passionate. However, there’s now a controversy about whether he was miming – I must admit, even from a good way back, that did occur to me, the rapping was just too perfect if you know what I mean.

On yesterday’s theme of the kids liking tuneful but bland indie-pop, today’s “I didn’t know they were that popular” award goes to Imagine Dragons, who packed the big NME Radio 1 tent and got a huge crowd singing every word of Radioactive. But there’ s a bit more to them live than on record – the lead singer even crowd surfed and there was enough energy to suggest they might become that rare animal – a big-selling AND credible band.

Jake Bugg is another who has come a huge way since drawing a midsized crowd last year in the smallest tent – now a packed huge NME tent for him too. It’s hard to work out exactly what he’s got, but it works and he looked very confident in front of the huge crowd – with a backing band this year. Tame Impala were too loud and a bit too psychedelic, Palma Violets good without hitting the heights, whilst the other highlight on the NME Stage was Theme Park. They really should be bigger – an excellent lead singer, strong tunes, and a dance –indie feel like a slightly more pop Two Door Cinema Club. It went down very well too for an early set.

Like Imagine Dragons, The 1975 were billed way below their current public profile after two hit singles this year. You couldn’t get near the Festival Republic tent for their set, although we did see their 3 song taster on the “Introducing” stage earlier. They were playing to around 80 of us at the West End Centre Aldershot a few months back. Perhaps 10,000 trying to hear them yesterday!

Swim Deep were the other band to pack the smaller tent, with their dance-indie going down well although it struck me as being pleasant and competent rather than inspiring or ground-breaking. they did cover "Girls just want to have fun" though.

Other bands on that stage struggled to draw big crowds, but we enjoyed To Kill a King, Drenge were powerful but not particularly engaging, and Savages were very angry. Seriously, they were great, playing the difficult time just before Eminem and looked and sounded every inch a major band with their punk / Siouxsie / Patti Smith influenced dark and dramatic indie.

What else was noteworthy? I only saw three songs of the Foals set, which started slowly and didn’t get quite the crowd expected – be careful about making them a headliner too soon, Mr Benn. (They clashed with Imagine Dragons). The Blackout, Welsh metal-punk crazy people  deserve a medal for their efforts to create crowd mayhem at 2pm on a wet afternoon, quite successfully. Their vocalists have a career as a stand up comedy act once the music is done – very engaging.

Jagwar Ma were 3 parts genius to one part tedium on the Dance stage, much like their album. And I even saw a few minutes on the 1Extra Stage. “It’s Giggs” said the helpful young lady I stood next too. “He’s a Rapper” . (Yes, think I got that). “Look what the cat dragged in”.  (That seemed a rather harsh comment on my outfit, I thought). “That was his big hit”. Ah, I get you now... and that helpfulness is actually a good example of the great atmosphere you get at Reading, most of the time anyway. Anyway, the new stage seemed to be a big draw for the younger generation...!

Finally, Catfish and the Bottlemen (very good young band, lousy name) and Childhood were impressive on the Introducing stage – hope we hear more from both of them.

And so, onwards to day three...

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