Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Top 5>>Reading Headliners

There have been many headliners during Reading's chequered 40 year history, with some more memorable than others. Here are the top 5.

5. The White Stripes (2004) Reading Saturday/Leeds Friday
Surely the biggest band (so far) of the 21st Century, the blues rock duo were a massive coup for the festival, given Meg's disapproval of playing festivals. A year on from the release of the defining album "Elephant", which had propelled the duo to headline status, from their 5th from top position they held the two years previous. They treated the crowd to old songs, new songs and covers including, 'Jolene' and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Maps', showcasing what geniuses they were and truly ahead of their time.

4. Arcade Fire (2010) Reading Saturday/Leeds Friday
One of Reading's more controversial headliners, many had argued that the Montreal octopulet were not big enough to headline the festival, with many questioning who they were. However, they simply blew that notion away, with a stunning performance to clear away the mess that Guns N' Roses (sorry Axl N' Friends) left behind the previous night. Their third critically acclaimed album "The Suburbs" had just been released and Arcade Fire showed once again what a different beasts they are, when it comes to live performances. It turned out to be a truly inspired booking and helped them on their way to becoming the global superstars they now are.

3. Nirvana (1992) Reading Sunday
Probably the headline performance that defined Reading Festival and one of the most talked about in the festivals history. From Kurt Cobain being wheeled on stage by music journalist Everett True in a wheelchair, to the trio launching every hit to a packed crowd, this was a special set. It also happened to be the grunge legends final UK show. Presumably one of those 'I was there' moments.

2. Smashing Pumpkins (1995) Reading Friday
Maybe a shock to see the Pumpkins above Nirvana, but ignoring all the media hype for a second, few could argue otherwise. Playing a couple of months before the release of their classic album, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness", the Chicago 90s alternative heroes gave a flawless performance of classic hits from their first three albums. One of only two occasions where the Reading crowd were treated to the original line up (1992 was the other), this was a true representation of what the Smashing Pumpkins (forget 2007 for a second) and the 90s were all about. Who could forget Billy Corgan's haunting rendition of 'Disarm', with just the crowd for company?

1. Pearl Jam (2006) Reading Sunday/Leeds Saturday
Not their fellow grunge band from Seattle Nirvana, but arguably Pearl Jam produced the best headline set in Reading's history. It's of course controversial; mainly as Nirvana's set is generally considered the best, it was good, but it wasn't Pearl Jam in 2006, that's for sure. Their first festival appearance, since the Roskilde disaster in 2000; where several people where crushed to death in the crowd, Eddie Vedder and co had decided against playing festivals again, but thankfully they came around. The emotion was still there on Eddie's face throughout, thanking the crowd for "being safe" and having double barriers up to prevent crushing. However unlike 2000, the music did the talking for Pearl Jam that night, especially Mike McCready's soaring guitar solos, the highlight of which being "Alive" during the encore. The packed out crowd, full of euphoria and emotion, were roaring their throats dry all night, culminating in a truly stunning end to the festival.

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