Live Reviews

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Reading Festival 2023 – Saturday

Saturday at Reading Festival saw a disturbance to the teenagers flooding Richfield Avenue. With their day wristbands on, it was baby boomer day at Reading fest, as The Killers brought their die-hard older fans to Reading. Elsewhere, The 1975 celebrated the upcoming tenth anniversary of their debut in full, SOFT PLAY surprised with a raucous secret set and so much more. This is day two at Reading Festival. 

By way of Ireland, indie rock four-piece Inhaler started Saturday off with vocalist Elijah Hewson’s dulcet tones and the band’s easy listening woozy anthems. Having released a sophomore album since their last appearance at Reading and Leeds, Inhaler have polished up their act and wanted to prove themselves as their own entity.

Cuts And Bruises tracks Just To Keep You Satisfied, Love Will Get You There and Dublin In Ecstasy hones in on the brand of Americana smooth meets infectious indie tunes this band have the capability of producing. However, it’s cuts from their debut album It Won’t Always Be Like This that earn themselves the biggest singalongs. Cheer Up Baby and closer My Honest Face saw Inhaler’s adoring fans ooze pure excitement and euphoria, and they will be the people campaigning to get their band back to Richfield Avenue as soon as possible. 8/10

I’ve been looking forward to this one all year. We cannot express how excited we are to play Reading Festival again” echoes Nothing But Thieves’ Conor Mason moments after the band hit Reading with their slinky 80’s banger Welcome To The DCC. 

Despite being from a more coastal part of the UK, the band hailing from Southend in Sea, Richfield Avenue has always felt like Nothing But Thieves’ spiritual home away from home, the band getting the honour of opening up a newly introduced Main Stage West on Reading’s post COVID return in 2021. Nothing But Thieves are practically honorary Reading Festival veterans at this point. But this time around, the band are more slick, sophisticated and have a whole new array of material that pushed their sonic boundaries even further than before. 

Overcome and Tomorrow Is Closed taken from their hotly new released record Welcome To The DCC being the songs in point. However, if you are mad enough to not like the new soulful wavelength Nothing But Thieves are riding, then perhaps their biggest hitters Impossible and Amsterdam wet your appetite for a Nothing But Thieves with more bite. There is a moment about midway through the band’s set where guitarist Dom Craik turns side of stage and says “Reading is a place where people come and disgrace themselves for the weekend. I’m glad my mother has finally found a place she can call home. Drink all that wine on our rider mother” which earns the biggest gang laughter of the weekend, however disgracing themselves is something Nothing But Thieves did not do during their Main Stage East set. Just Dom’s mother then. 10/10

A new name change, having headlined 2000Trees and dropped a new single and now a surprise slot at Reading Fest, this is the full force of SOFTPLAY’s return to music and the Festival Republic tent could sense the chaos that was about to commence. Energy levels erupted as soon as the Tunbridge Wells duo bounced onto stage, the crowd roaring and the noise bouncing off the tent that enclosed them. 

Pelting the crowd immediately with 2015 album Are You Satisfied? song Sockets this was the moment the grass in the middle of the tent would be visible for five seconds at a time, as continuous monstrous mosh pits never failed to get bodies slamming into each other. As drummer and general mad man Issac Holman chants “fuck the hi-hat” for the appropriate follow up Fuck The Hi-Hat, new song Punks Dead proves the complete opposite as SOFTPLAY’s set at Reading Festival prehaps is the epitome of such a show. “There is a reason there are only two of us on stage. We wanted to start a band and no one wanted to fuck around and join the band” shouts Holman, and fucking around is Soft Play’s forte one that has a very special place in their live shows. 

From vocalist and guitarist Laurie Vincent air kicking in Wake Up London to Issac Holman running full speed quite literally into the crowd for closer The Hunter, whilst they may have a different name it’s the same old punk shit for Soft Play in the best possible way. 10/10

The two Saturday headliners at Reading Festival present two very different frontmen. The Killers’ Brandon Flowers is a Vegas showman through and through, with a flashy pearly white smile and glamorous suave. Whereas our current Main Stage East headliners The 1975’s Matty Healy is scraped up off the streets of Wilmslow, guzzling a bottle of wine with the I don’t care aura that allures fans to perhaps relating to Healy much more than Flowers. 

Celebrating their self-titled debut album in full with some classic 75 tracks thrown in to finish and dedicating their entire headlining set to Lewis Capaldi, who The 1975 replaced weeks prior to the festival, is this the same Deja vu of when they headlined Reading Festival 2022 as a last-minute booking to replace Rage Against The Machine? The simple answer is no. 

With the nostalgia of a juvenile 2013 1975, the monochromatic youthfulness of their first full length being celebrated in all its dazzling synth pop glory “this album still feels relevant now. You are all still so young, you’re enjoying us performing these tracks. That goes to show the internet is working the way it should be” and the slightly controversial, evocative yet household British band they have become, Healy alludes to before swinging into hit Girlswe don’t know if we could write this song in 2023” this was a version of The 1975 that has elements of the past scattered with elements of the present, or even better The 1975 simply at their very very best. 10/10

It’s been fifteen years since Las Vegas synth-indie hitmakers The Killers have come to Richfield Avenue. Back in 2008 the band were in the run up to releasing their sophomore album Sam’s Town, a record that cemented this Vegas band’s place in the higher echelons of the global indie phenomenon’s, slotting their infectious new wave synth sound into the booming British indie scene at the time. 

Perhaps The Killers’ second headlining return to Reading is a home away from home show for a band adored, accepted and beloved as one of Britain’s own adopted exports. And in those long awaited and anticipated fifteen years for The Killers to wow again, not much has changed except a significant step up in sophistication and showmanship to new levels of glamorous indie rock and roll. But with the booming young demographic Reading Festival now attracts, would Festival Republic placing all their chips on the casino betting table pay off and win them the jackpot? They rolled, risked it all and banked a headliner for a second time that pulled a combined crowd of the young campers of Reading Fest who admittedly only knew the entirety of the lyrics to Mr Brightside and Human and screamed at the top of their lungs when the ritual of pulling a kid from the crowd to temporarily replace drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr for Reasons Unknown, teenager Ozzy from just outside Bath putting in a valiant effort even if it did mean Flowers and co visibly struggling to slow the tempo down for Ozzy “We need more cocaine than marijuana Ozzy, pick it up” laughs Flowers at the teen mid song. 

But it was the unity between the younger campers who evidently had the time of their lives to Mr Brightside, setting off flares like it was Glastonbury 2019 and the older die hards of the band who secured a Saturday day ticket to see their band back on Reading soil fifteen years after their first that were there to belt every lyric to every song as loud as they could to lesser known songs to the gen zers such as All These Things That I’ve Done, a song that is older than the sixteen year olds in attendance “All These Things That I’ve Done is 20 years old. The boys back then that wrote that song got swept up in a whirlwind and are men now” remembers Flowers of the boys they used to be. 

Pulling one of the biggest crowds for a headliner this weekend, The Killers by far were the most polished, pristine and that classic legendary band Reading have a tendency to book every year. “Thanks for making our dreams come true Reading. We have been The Killers brought to you by way of fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” signs off Flowers after a swift suit change for the encore and a half electro half original version of Mr Brightside, closing out The Killers show stopping set with a faultless drum Outro from Vannucci and a wave and another glint of that showman smile from Flowers that dazzled the Reading crowd, something The Killers constantly do twenty-two years into their illustrious career. 10/10

Written By: Katie Conway-Flood

Katie Conway-Flood
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