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Reading Festival 2003

The UK's premier rock + metal festival.


Well, the festival is over for another year. What do we take with us from this year?
For me, the entire festival was worth staging for Metallica's closing performance on Sunday night. In two hours of explosive energy they removed all the creeping doubts from our heads. Do not judge 2003 Metallica from the mediocore 'St Anger', judge them from 60,000 screaming fans watching their triumphant return to form. Fireworks and light shows accompany a definative demonstation of what metal music is.
System of a Down proved themselves capable of rocking alongside the best, with a scorching set that set the stage for Metallica's final night performance, and made up for previous drab sets. Sum 41 struggled with badly balanced vocals and left the crowd wondering what happened to the catchy TV band they know from Kerrang. For those like me who caught it most of the act after traipsing away from the uninspiring Hell Is For Heroes, it was not a promising start to Sunday's finale.
Friday had some great highlights for me. Along with some great music from a jazzy Less Than Jake and enthusastic Bowling For Soup, the enourmously talented Aaron Lewis lead Staind on stage to discover their electric guitars would not work. Controlling his obvious frustration, he sat down with his acoustic guitar and showed Reading festival what pure talent can do when electonics fail, producing an evocutive and inspiring set, pouring his frustration into one of the most memorable sets of the weekend.
Blink 182 were every bit as engaging as their recorded material suggests, bringing punky nu-metal and obscenties to an enthusatic crowd, and providing a fine lead-in to the fantastic Linkin Park. Nu-metal at it's finest, Linkin Park have almost single-handed taken metal music to the high street masses. Modern, classy and loud, they are today's ambassadors for metal music to the world. Their storming set came off flawlessly. And then there was Saturday night. Someone was indulging a little early in the chemical and alcholic excesses of the festival when they put together the line up for this year's Reading. Enough happy critics have blathered on about Blur's "return to form". It was nothing of the sort - and not worthy of a headline slot at Reading. Their classic tracks are still classic, but the new stuff is patchy and came over badly. They limped through their first hour, and I left to watch the mighty Pennywise pack out the Concrete Jungle stage. These two bands could have traded places very successfully - the much smaller and heavier Pennywise produced a blistering set worthy of a main stage place. Why the main stage spent so long with no-one good to watch when Electric Six were forced to play opposite Placebo is something we'll never know. A great atmosphere and more great performances mean that this metal fan will be back next year. As long as Reading keep producing nights like Metallica's sunday, and last year's Foo Fighter's saturday, they can do no wrong to me.


Reading Festival in pictures - BBC News
Some evocative pictures from the festival

"Reading reels from rock of ages" - Review of Reading 2003 - BBC News
BBC Review is a vehicle for the critic to establish his credentials by liking all the unpopular bands.

Carling Reading Festival - Official Reviews and Round-up from CarlingLive.com
The front page links to more reviews - The critic toured the smaller tents looking for unpopular bands.

Pictures from the festival

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