The morning of day two of a festival can always be a little precarious, with hangovers to nurse and sleep to catch up on. But for those who manage to leave the campsite before lunchtime, they’re in for a treat with Noname.
Melding together slam poetry-style lyricism and jazz-flecked instrumentals, the Chicago rapper performs an early festival opening set on one of the smaller stages to a small but enthusiastic crowd, running through tracks from her 2016 album ‘Telephone’.
She’s a charismatic performer and seems almost entirely comfortable on stage, stalling only once for a moment when trying to start a song in a new way and messing it up, offering a “sorry, I got a little bit high before the set…” with a nonchalant shrug by way of explanation.
With her neon hair and larger-than-life onstage persona, Alma may be playing an early set but it seems she intent on bringing the club to the early afternoon. An voice plays over the speakers before the Finnish popstar arrives on stage, warning the crowd to expect her in “3…2…1…” and once she does, she’s immediately met with an almost deafening roar of cheers. She’s yet to release a full album but her tracks sound huge on stage - ‘Chasing Highs’ and ‘Dye My Hair’ being particular power-pop highlights - and, joined on stage by her sister Anna for most of her set, her energy barely lets up.
The Magic Gang then pop up for a gorgeous little secret set on the BBC Introducing stage, bringing out lesser-played deep cuts for an early-afternoon loosener.
The anticipation in the lead up to Brockhampton’s set today is so much that the festival end up letting them loose on the huge Radio 1 stage fifteen minutes early, and to the most frenzied crowd of the weekend. Kevin Abstract orchestrates the six-piece through a set that feels like a real Reading ‘moment’, anticipation at fever pitch for a band whose journey is only just beginning. When they appear on the main stage with N*E*R*D later in the day, it’s clear that’s where they’re destined to end up.
Sigrid follows them on the Radio 1 stage, an artist who also has an incredible amount of momentum behind her. Her easily palatable and brilliantly catchy pop songs - delivered with bundles of personality - are perfect for festivals, and closer ‘Strangers’ immediately becomes one of the anthems of the festival.
Over on the Festival Republic stage meanwhile, Pale Waves are having their own moment. The tent’s the busiest it’s been all weekend to see the quartet smash through songs from upcoming debut ‘My Mind Makes Noises’. Heather Baron-Gracie’s clearly relishing the band’s quick rise, becoming a brilliant, attention-grabbing frontwoman who’s leading the band to simply massive things. Today’s set will be one of the days to look back upon as a truly formative step.
Dua Lipa takes to the main stage next and blasts through a set of her palatable pop hits. Joined on stage by two backing dancers and a live band, her show is a well-planned, choreographed pop show that takes little risk, running through a back catalogue of songs such as ‘IDGAF’ and ‘Be The One’ with an energetic intensity. But when she closes with ‘New Rules’ and it’s not met by quite as big as a reaction as you might expect, it seems there might be a little way to go until she can truly win over a festival crowd.
12 years ago on the same main stage at Reading, Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie was bottled off stage during the band’s afternoon set. A lot has changed in 12 years though, and tonight - while he briefly references the incident and thanks fans for allowing him back - he attacks his co-headline set with defiance and joy.
Brendon now possesses an arsenal of pop belters that sparkle and shine, feeling completely at home on cavernous festival main stages. ‘Say Amen (Saturday Night)’ is a joyous, carefree powerhouse, and with Panic! largely becoming a solo project these days, Brendon has grabbed the role of frontman with both hands, proving himself a true eccentric with the power to wrap festival main stage crowds around his little finger. Tonight he does exactly that, and puts in potentially the performance of the festival.
Kendrick Lamar, meanwhile, falls a little flat. The ‘DAMN.’ tour has been on the road for a year now, and it’s impeccably rehearsed and choreographed. On good nights, that makes the whole thing flow gorgeously, with the perfect amount of up and down. Tonight, though, a largely unresponsive crowd leave more of an impression of the rapper being on autopilot. He’s still one of the best rappers we have, and flows wonderfully through cuts from ‘DAMN.’ and beyond, but there’s little tonight to elevate it above ‘just another show’, and after Panic! At The Disco before him, it’s even more apparent.