Reading Festival Review – Sunday with Tonight Alive, Good Charlotte and a Wombats Party

A day of traditional British summer - cloudy, breezy, a bit of sun then torrential rain.  You look at what seems to be a thick curtain of clouds and think it has set in for the day, then 10 minutes later the sun is out.

The headline slot was shared between Fall Out Boy and Biffy Clyro, with Biffy on last at Reading and vice versa at Leeds.  I don’t think that did Biffy any favours last night. Fall Out Boy featured female acrobats / dancers waving flames around and doing a trapeze act 30 feet above the stage, plus plenty of old favourites in terms of the songs. Biffy had a spectacular light show, fireworks at the close and very good sound quality but at 11pm, half an hour before the end of their set, I could wander up to really quite close to the stage through the thinning crowds.

Many of the missing fans were either at The 1975 or (like us) watching the triumphant return of Good Charlotte, who seemed genuinely delighted to be back at Reading after 13 years away. It was a reminder of how many very strong pop/punk songs they wrote back then, and actually the one new song sounded pretty good too – a new album is just out.

The Wombats seemed not just delighted but totally stunned by the size of their crowd in the packed NME tent a little earlier. Having been written off as a novelty indie band almost a few years ago, they have revived, as a new audience appreciate that they have written some great songs, perfect for a festival, and actually know how to play a lively, engaging set. Getting 15,000 fans singing along clearly moved the guys personally and it was a surprising highlight of the day.

Other highlights from less established bands; Tonight Alive are not exactly new, but the Aussie rock band look ready to move into the big league with their big songs, positioned at the heavier end of the pop/punk /metal genre.  The Paramore comparisons are inevitable but lead singer Jenna McDougall can live with the comparison. Dressed head to toe in black (she might have risked being thrown off beaches in certain countries), she can really sing, is charismatic, engaged the audience well and must have inspired a few girls watching to think “I want to be in a rock band”. Let’s hope so.

Other new (to us) bands worth a mention were blues-rockers Black Foxxes, Tibet, Basement (a touch of REM in there maybe?), Spring King, Will Joseph (another in the line of talented young UK singer songwriters trying to emulate Sheeran, Ezra, etc), the Magic Gang (big teen following already), and Hardwicke Circus – I missed them but my family described them as brilliant on the BBC Introducing stage. The DMAs were another Aussie band to make a good impact, along with the wonderfully eccentric BØRNS.

Of the more established bands, Deaf Havana were reliably impressive, the Vaccines handled the Main Stage well, and Half Moon Run were a perfect mid-afternoon chill-out - but not too soporific – in the big tent.

There’s another whole world at Reading of course that we tend to ignore – it is really three or four festivals in one. We ventured into the Radio 1 Extra tent for a few minutes of Raleigh Ritchie, a talented young British singer-songwriter and actor; he’s in Game of Thrones apparently. His style is an accessible blend of R&B, soul, and pop, and we’d never heard of him, but that large tent was packed, as it seemed to be most of the day.

Rapper and producer ASAP Rocky got a big crowd on the main stage too – Reading is now one of (perhaps the) best UK festival for that “urban” genre encompassing grime, modern R&B, rap etc.  It’s also a great dance music event; and one of our friends spent some time listening to poetry! At Reading? Has the world gone mad? That was in the tent that hosts a great stand-up comedy line-up as well. Then of course there’s a bit of a “rock” event going on too.

So all credit to the organisers for moving with the times and broadening their appeal; they’ve managed to do that without losing the essential appeal of Reading, which is the music, and have kept it buoyant and exciting. It doesn’t have the hippy accoutrements of Glastonbury, but it remains simply the best popular music festival in the world in terms of the variety, quantity and quality of performers on offer.

Roll on August 25th 2017!

(The picture shows the Festival Republic Stage at 11.35 last night just after the final act).

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