It is now Friday morning and after a frantic night of settling in, the first act of the day is Frank Turner on the Main Stage. After seeing Frank previously twice before, I knew what to expect from his folk/punk sound to his welcoming "just a normal guy" manner. The rain had seriously picked up since the day before (it had actually cleared and was bright and sunny midday), and Frank had a job on his hands keeping his audience happy. It surprisingly came with ease as he and his band launch into "Try This At Home", a fast moving punky number which immediately warmed up the crowd and atmosphere. Including the crowd in the singing of new track "I Still Believe" from his recently released fourth record England Keep My Bones, Turner has a certain cheeky charm which is hard to dislike and even disgruntled members of the crowd found themselves singing along on cue. "Reasons Not To Be An Idiot" and "Photosynthesis" provide great opening and closing numbers, with Frank adding that "yeah its raining, but the rain can fuck off, you've turned up, we're here, lets have some fun". A very uplifting start.
Next up are Dundee's own The View. After disappearing for a couple of years, the four lads returned with "Bread And Circuses" earlier this year. Their live performance, however, revolved mostly around the first and arguably the definitive View record. Opening with "Grace", the mood was set for gritty indie rock, with harmless-looking vocalist Kyle Falconer pausing between songs to swap banter with the crowd, despite the majority of us clueless as to what he was saying due to the thickness of his Scottish accent. "Scag Trendy" saw Kyle and bassist Kieren Webster swapping instrumental duties, while fan favourite "Wasteland" comes as a pleasant surprise, fairly mid-set. The Scots' close their set with second album single "Shock Horror" which led to once last headbang opportunity before their was another opportunity to grab food and drink while the next band were setting up.
Later that day at around 6.35pm, Death From Above 1979 took to the stage at the NME/Radio 1 tent. Originating from Canada, the literal bass and drum duo kicked the night on its head when they entered the stage to roaring applause. This marked one of their first UK performances in around 5 years, when they disappeared from the public eye totally. They did leave us with a classic though, single album "You're A Woman, I'm A Machine" which I recently discovered late last year. The slow ringing of a piano backing track immediately signals the opening number and "Turn It Out" crashes into reality with Jesse Keeler's Rickenbacker squealing under the electronic rock n roll tension it is being put under by its player. Barely pausing for breath, the band go from strength to strength with their album title track, "Pull Out", "Little Girl" and drum n bass artists favourite "Blood On Our Hands". Their set comes to the loudest conclusion possible with the early demo number "Do It!" featuring around 3 minutes of improvised jamming. One band that very nearly made the weekend for me alone.
Then it was a mad rush back to the main stage to catch Elbow's set in full swing. Guy Garvey conducted the audience like a calm and kind schoolmaster, commanding "hands, Leeds" whenever he wanted a clap-along and opened up "Grounds For Divorce" with a call-and-response with the crowd themselves. Covering material from the last two albums, the five men from Bury who were once probably the most unrespected and underrated band in the UK, are now showing everyone how they've come into their own and achieved more than most bands nowadays can dream of. "Neat Little Rows" provided strong chimes and a moment for the crowd to settle their voices before the closing number, the now-famous "One Day Like This" provided the biggest choir-like moment of the whole set with the whole crowd belting out the lyrics, "throw those curtains wide, one day like this a year'd see me right!". Ironic as after Elbow left the stage, the weather changed for the worst and the rain began pelting the site once again.
However, everyone was waiting with baited breath for the nights headliners. Muse have always been one of my favourite bands and definitely my favourite live band of the past ten years, but after seeing them four times previously, each on different tours, I had my doubts about whether they could keep topping their last shows or whether they would finally stumble at this gate- similarly how they had stumbled at the gates of their previous two studio efforts. It gave me a large amount of excitement as the band would be playing their second (and arguably best) studio record in full ‘Origin Of Symmetry’ which was released way back in 2001. A decade ago. Back then Muse were just about getting slated by every kind of music press as "just another Radiohead". The debut album hadn't done so well in the media's eyes but it had sold respectfully and they had earned the award of NME's Best New Band, as voted for by the public. Muse were about to change everyone's minds about them straight from the first minute and a half of that second record, and that similar effect would be cast over the festival's audience tonight.
The lights dim, the backing music begins, the crowd goes wild. Flashes of lightning-like effects across a yellow screen show the band settling into their positions, arranging their instruments. "Whats He Building In There?" a track by Tom Waits (a role model of Matt Bellamy's), provides the backing for this occasion. Previously used as the opening track for shows on the "Origin..." tour- as seen on the bands Hullabaloo DVD- this set me straight in the mind frame of ten years previous, back in that time, when Muse were a band no-one at school knew about. They now seem to have a love them or hate them following, but as the tinkle of the piano filled "New Born" intro sparks into life, I cannot understand how anyone could hate this band. Matt Bellamy, lead singer, guitarist and pianist pauses. He stands up off his piano stool and lets out a burst of feedback before launching into one of the biggest riffs in his itinerary. In album order, "Bliss" rears its rare and poppy head next, as does "Space Dementia" and then "Hyper Music", a number the band hadn't visited since the Absolution tour of 2003. "Plug In Baby" sparks a mass mosh as is considered per usual at a Muse concert nowadays, while "Citizen Erased" uses its loud/quiet dynamics to truly make the audience feel the track in its seven minute entirety. "Screenager" however, may have been a slight mistake due to the quiet nature of the track- it is not considered a crowd pleaser. "Darkshines" also seems to fall on deaf ears, however "Feeling Good" provides us with one of the most popular tracks the band have ever recorded- a cover version, but it near beats the original. Closing the first half with "Megalomania", the dark crashes on the organ signal fire to explode from the front of the stage.
If that wasn't enough, an air raid siren signals "Uprising" causing the entire audience to bounce pogo-style. "Supermassive Black Hole", "Hysteria" and "Time Is Running Out" provide large mosh fests, with the latter being introduced by an instrumental version of "House Of The Rising Sun", with the crowd bellowing along. Things get drum n bassy for "Undisclosed Desires" before being forced further back atmosphere wise for the weakest song of the entire Muse back catalogue, "Resistance". The second set comes to an epic climax of fan and band favourite "Stockholm Syndrome" which sees Bellamy fling his original custom-built guitar used on the "Origin..." tour, into Dom Howards drum set.
The band return for a final farewell with the predictable "Knight Of Cydonia", seemingly a staple show closer. "NO-ONE'S GONNA TAKE ME ALIVE, THE TIME HAS COME TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT, YOU AND I MUST FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS, YOU AND I MUST FIGHT TO SURVIVE" screams the screens surrounding Muse's stage setup which mimics the second record's album cover. As the three boys from Devon crank out their final notes of the evening smoke billows from the stage obscuring them from view. When it clears, they're gone. They may have just wandered backstage, but due to the show this crowd of 10,000 plus people have just witnessed, they probably just caught the next UFO to Reading. Review by Callum Barnes