The sights and sounds of Reading Festival rarely change and 2012 is no different. The usual scenes of drunkenness, debauchery and pantomime that make Reading such a love or hate festival remain. And yes, it’s still the stomping ground for GCSE pupils, who for some reason get mindlessly drunk before the first act of the day has even kicked off. Oh to be young and care-free again.
But at the end of the day, Reading is all about the music and there was enough on offer on Friday to satisfy music fans of any age. The NME/Radio 1 stage featured a strong opening day line-up, with BBC Sound of 2012 nominees Friends one of the early picks. The Brooklyn five-piece were in a playful mood as ever, with I’m His Girl’s sultry bass as addictive live as it is on record.
Fellow BBC Sound of … nominees followed in the shape of Spector, who delivered a confident set – barring a few technical issues. Frontman Fred Macpherson may be a divisive figure, but he does well to keep the crowd interested between songs and versions of Chevy Thunder and Never Fade Away go down a treat.
One of the highlights of the day was undoubtedly the energetic return of The Hives. The Swedish fivesome have a fearsome reputation for their impressive live sets and they didn’t disappoint. After walking on stage dressed in their now well known attire of black and white suits and top hats, they proceeded to rip through songs both new and old with high intensity mixed with Howlin’ Pele Almqvist’s eccentric leadership.
Launching into Walk Idiot Walk early on, The Hives had the crowd in the palm of their hand and even tracks from their latest LP, Lex Hives, were greeted enthusiastically. But it was old crowd favourites Hate To Say I Told You So and Tick Tick Boom that really showed why the band are so well-loved in the UK.
It was then time to take a trip to the Festival Republic stage for Lucy Rose, followed by the extremely popular Alt-J. Rose was in mesmerising form, displaying songs from her upcoming debut album, Like I Used To. It was clear to see the diminutive singer was overwhelmed by the strength of support, but she still put on a beautiful performance, including the wonderful Middle Of The Bed.
Few moved once Rose finished up her set, as the anticipation grew for one of the most exciting acts of 2012. Clearly the organisers underestimated the popularity of Alt-J as they would have been much better suited to the NME/Radio 1 stage. It was completely rammed in the Festival Republic area, but it didn’t stop Alt-J putting on a performance to justify the hype. Tessellate sounded gorgeous, while a mosh pit assembled for the raucous Fitzpleasure.
Just as Alt-J were coming to a close, Bombay Bicycle Club were taking to the main stage, showing just how far they have come since they released their debut album in 2009. The sound quality was not fantastic, but BBC were still in excellent form, playing songs from all three albums and new song You Carry Me. But it was old favourites Always Like This and What If that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
The Cure were set to close the first day’s music from the main stage, but not before Paramore performed a polished set to a crowd of adoring fans. It was a hits-filled set, with The Only Exception, Misery Business and Monster going down well with their faithful followers. Hayley Williams seemed thankful they still had such strong support after taking a break following their recent troubles.
But it was The Cure who were the main entertainment for the night and it was quite a spectacle at two and a half hours long. The crowd started to thin before the finale, but The Cure didn’t disappoint. Robert Smith was in a quiet mood – not that he’s ever in a talkative one – but the hits were all there and the band sounded great.
Kicking off with instrumental track, Tape, Smith and co proceeded to show the Reading crowd why they are one of the best bands around with hits such as Lovesong, In Between Days and Just Like Heaven. The Walk and Friday I’m in Love went down well at the halfway mark, while an encore comprising of classics such as Lovecats, Let’s Go To Bed and Boys Don’t Cry finished the first day of Reading on the perfect note.