Muse played the gig of the year so far at Reading Festival last night, with crystal clear sound that belted out to the far back of the site.
Getting to hear the likes of 'Plug In Baby', 'Hysteria', and 'Supermassive Black Hole' - that are so ingrained into the sonic fabric of Britain - was as memorable as live shows at British festivals get; tens of thousands passionately sang in unison.
One thing that also made for such an outstanding set was recognising their individuality. Muse played instruments that they've custom designed themselves, and put on a stage show for the ages. It was equipped with huge lasers, art-directed performance visuals, and fireworks. It made for an immersive experience and showed how dedicated the band are to being the best in the world.
It was a particularly heavy set. Their masterful riff-oriented material propelled things along, with only a couple of slower, melancholic intros taking away from their brazen sound that hints at their Refused / Primus influences.
Ultimately, no other headliner of the weekend came close to Muse - and the level they're at has attracted the respect of Brian Johnson - “the best rock vocalist the country has ever seen” - according to Matt Bellamy when he introduced him to the festival.
Johnson using Muse as a backing band for 'Back In Black' - the first song of Muse's encore - served as moment everyone there will cherish for the rest of their lives. "I can't even tell you how that felt," said Bellamy after hugging him bye. Quite so. We were glowing, paralysed in disbelief and thankful for Reading's coolest ever party trick. Could it be a hint that Ac/Dc will headline next year? Probably.
Preceding the Devon-born heroes was Liam Gallagher. He drew the second biggest crowd of the weekend; second only to Eminem. They opened with 'The Swamp Song' - the instrumental used when Oasis played Maine Road - which created a ruckus in the Britpop hungry crowd.
Lead Gallagher was in typically confident, swaggerish mood: "Any Oasis fans out there? Get this one down your throats." Hardly time to be delicate, there was a show to play.
The live set was predominantly about distorted guitars, and wailing solos, and Gallagher's manly voice; with gospel singers and brass section adding texture that didn't distract from the fact they're a straight up rock 'n' roll band, with a sound as well-crafted for the main stage as The Rolling Stones.
The highlight was hearing Beady Eye cover 'Soul Love'. The song hasn't been getting in the set so far, but worked a treat and suited his backing band's playing style. They closed with a stripped back cello-laden version of 'Wonderwall', a reminder of this tune will probably be blasting out of battery powered stereos long after the apocalypse.
This new chapter in Liam's career is one he looks certain to saunter forwards with. They feel like a complete unit with great band chemistry built up after the last few months on tour.
A band from a similar neck of the woods are Blossoms. Heavily influenced by Oasis' songwriting style, Tom Ogden has become one of the most loved frontmen in the country and he is held in the high regard Coral fans gave James Skelly when he first started out. Suitably, he was on just before Gallagher, playing to a crowd as big as Kasabian drew.
Of all their material, new cut 'Deep Grass' was especially tasty. Its extended instrumental outro allowed long blonde-haired Miles Kellock a chance to explore the different sound effects in his digital synthesiser, and lead guitarist Josh Dewhurt an opportunity to show his fine technique. It was their Screamadelica moment.
It was of course 'Charlemagne' and 'Cut Me and I'll Bleed' that got the biggest applause, though as they are such a strong singles band.
As great as it was to see such a big crowd and soak up the hazey impact of Blossoms, there’s no way they were as good as Ash. Perhaps being around since the mid-90s helps as does having bassist Mark Hamilton; he is a British Kris Novselic. Singer Tim Wheeler, meanwhile, still sounds as good and looks fresh faced as he did back in the day - at least from the distance we're standing.
And although it's alight cliché to compliment bands for sounding larger than the sum of their part (note: Royal Blood), Ash do sound so well rounded and 'huge' for a three piece. They remain one of the UK's all-time greats and they played the songs that brought them success in the charts: it was a set of solid gold classics - 'Shining Night', 'Girls From Mars’ and 'Burn Baby Burn' chimed especially well.
Ash are a reminder of the level of songwriting new bands should be striving to achieve, and although they've a knack for poppy choruses, they're also an intensely heavy band in places, making them as appealing to metal/ grunge heads as well as pop fans.
Despite it being the best day of the festival for guitar music its future ability to host more rappers was proven. Seeing Drake join Giggs on stage was an astounding feeling. It left us glowing in happiness in realising that Reading Festival is a festival with great surprises at every turn. And 24-year-old fast-rising Californian rapper Vince Staples was busy winning over reviewer Olly Telling. He gives his two penny worth:
Tell me, O muse, why at this year’s Reading Festival American rappers have seemed so in touch with the melange of our nation’s great guitar bands, whilst many of the British acts playing bigger stages have appeared so comparatively short-sighted in choosing their musical inspirations. Both Danny Brown and California rapper Vince Staples are outspoken fans of Joy Division, and not only this but during his set on Sunday evening Vince Staples performed the standout track from this year’s Gorillaz album, Ascension.
His endorsement from Damon Albarn and his brilliant 2017 album Big Fish Theory were doubtless two reasons why the rising MC filled out the Radio 1Xtra Stage, even though his set crossed over with Liam Gallagher’s. Unlike most other rappers at the festival, Staples took to the stage without a DJ, live band or a hype man, and was only backed up by a non-stop energy and a set list replete with killer tracks from an LP already set to be amongst the best of this year. One of the best gigs of the weekend? Definitely.