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The speculation and curiosity surrounding Mongol Horde is finally addressed this afternoon in the lock up stage. As folk-punk-hardcore omnipresent semi-God for atheists Frank Turner bursts onto stage shirtless (it is a hardcore project after all) with his backing band, the crowd goes wild. To answer all those curious: yes, they sound like Million Dead. It was an inevitable comparison and one that actually fits quite nicely, as their completely unknown songs do bear more than a resemblance to Frank’s legendary hardcore band. With songs about television shows (‘Tonight Matthew,’ anyone?) and a knowing sense of fun, Mongol Horde excite the massive crowd. Finishing with a Nirvana cover, Mongol Horde make us yearn for an album, a tour, even just another show.
Up on the main stage, Bruce Springsteen imitators The Gaslight Anthem get their stab at the big time and fall a little flat. It’s not that the trademark urgency isn’t missing in tracks like ‘The 59 Sound’ and ‘Great Expectations’ but they do appear a little lacklustre on the massive stage. New single ‘45’ sounds tight and energetic but lacking a little ferocity that the band would find in a smaller venue. It is also strange that the band is still relying heavily on their '59 Sound' era songs. They have had two albums since then and despite 'The 59 Sound' still being a classic album and ‘The Backseat’ still works as a closer, but it would have been more satisfying to see some progression from this band that are desperately in need of some.
Next up on the main stage today are All Time Low. With a gold selling single to their name now, these guys are definitely a big deal. This is why it is disheartening to see them stoop to cheap sex jokes and creepy propositions to the mainly young teen audience. Genuinely enjoyable pop-punk hits like ‘Weightless,’ ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’ and a rare outing for ‘Jasey Rae’ are tainted by their childish and slightly perverted actions. Asking your fan base for a hand job is desperate at the best of times, but when your fan base is mainly sixteen year old girls it reeks of something more sinister. I think it’s high time these men in their mid-twenties do a bit of growing up before becoming more than a joke.
The new Wade MacNeil fronted Gallows are no laughing matter, on the other hand. Since Frank Carter’s departure last year, there has been much speculation about how the band would continue to pull off their trademark incendiary live performances. It is hard not to admit that there is something missing tonight as the band do lack that extra punch given to them by Carter, however they make a fair stab at recreating past Reading triumphs. Although there is some new music on display from the “Wade era,” all the favourites are still present and correct with ‘In the Belly of A Shark’ placed toward the end of the set for maximum crowd response. All in all, a solid performance from a band that definitely still have something to give.
By now there must be enough written about Foo Fighters’ incredible live performances. It seems they never play a bad set, and tonight is no different. Maybe it is the endearing personality of iconic front man Dave Grohl, or just the fact that everybody knows at least one Foo Fighters song, but it seems like there isn’t a person in the arena tonight not having a good time. Maybe the set list has something to do with it too. Opening with storming new track ‘White Limo,’ Dave Grohl and Co then casually saunter through ‘All My Life,’ ‘The Pretender,’ ‘My Hero’ and ‘Learn To Fly’ like they weren’t some of the band’s biggest hits. Even album tracks like ‘I’ll Stick Around’ are recognisable crow-pleasers, whilst Taylor Hawkins fronted ‘Cold Day In The Sun’ is also well-received. Just when you think the band are running out of steam, they knock out ‘Breakout,’ ‘Monkey Wrench’ and ‘Best Of You’ before encoring with (wait for it) ‘Times Like These,’ ‘For All The Cows’ and goose bump inducing ‘Everlong.’ As well as the hits being present and correct, there is a very touching moment mid-set where Grohl reminisces out loud to the crowd about when Nirvana played the festival. It is a truly heart-stopping moment, as the crowd is rapt on Grohl’s every word. Finishing with a barrage of fireworks, one thing is for certain; Foo Fighters will not be giving up their “best live band in the world” title any time soon.
Words by Tom White (@whiteywitters)