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Reading Festival 2009: Friday

Following last year's impressive bill - headed up by Metallica and a reunited Rage Against The Machine - how could this year possibly hope to compare?

29 Aug 2009, Reading Festival // By Phill May // Rating: 4/5
Billy Talent

Following last year's impressive bill - headed up by Metallica and a reunited Rage Against The Machine - how could this year possibly hope to compare? With Kings Of Leon and Arctic Monkeys? Don't think so. But headliners do not a festival make, and we were in for a surprising treat when Reading Festival 2009 kicked Rocklouder's ass in the best possible way.

With Friday's weather utterly unable to make up its mind, rain means even more punters are present for Dananananaykroyd's (3) lesson in musical fun. But while the Scots kick things off, The Ghost Of A Thousand, (4) go off like a bomb - albeit a very positive one. The first of a host of bands on a (near faultless) Lock-up Tent line-up to play ferocious music but spout positivity and unity, theirs is a set of intense power and the perfect warm up for legging it to the main stage. Alexisonfire (3) play their first of two sets today, picking a choice set list, 'Boiled Frogs' is never going to be unwelcome, but in the afternoon sun they don't seem to fit.

No such problems for New Found Glory (3), who are so summery they scare away a brief downpour before inciting pandemonium for 'My Friends Over You'. The showers return to make Funeral for A Friend (3) feel at home, the heavens opening the moment they take to the stage. That's the least of their problems, however, as a mid-set power failure lasts over five minutes. Luckily, they now have a wealth of hits to pick from, and in 'Wrench' and 'No Honour Among Thieves' from their upcoming best of album, more than prove that the future for this band will be bright and noisy. Making the best of a situation that could have halted their career, never mind just momentum, Deftones (3) take to the stage without Chi Cheng (still in a coma following a horrific car accident last year) to play an all-too-brief set including the mesmerising 'Change (In The House Of Flies)', to the ferocious 'Elite' and the crowd-pleasing 'My Own Summer'. The shows their appreciation by chanting Chino Moreno's name at any opportunity, something that has the frontman almost blushing between songs.

Rocklouder then has to high-tail it to the Festival Republic stage to catch most of a frantic set from Fight Like Apes (4), including excellent romps through 'Jake Summers' and an always awesome 'Battleships', then we head back to the main stage for Placebo Time (4), which might be like Chico time, only much better. Brian Molko leads an impressive set that draws heavily from latest release, Battle For The Sun, and is all the better for it. Some complain at the absence of hits like 'Nancy Boy', but now they have songs as good as latest single 'The Never Ending Why' they no longer need it.

As if we weren't knackered enough after this, we have to hurtle back to the Lock-Up tent in time to catch Alexisonfire's (5) second set, and what a set it is! Despite promising mostly different material than earlier, a repeated 'Boiled Frogs' and a never disappointing 'We Are The Sound' send everyone duly batshit, making it one of the sets of the weekend.

It takes a lot to follow such a set, but luckily Anti-Flag (4) are more than up to the challenge. We were worried about a few songs and a whole lot of soap-boxing, but the veteran punks let their songs stoke the fires - with the likes of 'You've Got To Die For The Government' and 'The Economy Is Suffering' prompting such huge sing-alongs that Justin Sane and Chris#2 are barely audible - and they get major props for their punk-rock orchestra; which sees members of the crowd playing instruments from a snare to what looks like a cheese grater. As capable of playing to crowds ten times smaller or larger, Canadian heroes Billy Talent (4) make a professional and passionate set look effortless. They play down the huge chants of "f**k the Kings Of Leon" from the crowd, while clearly chuffed at their fans' devotion. They reward us by inciting good-natured carnage via an outstanding set list where first hit 'Try Honesty's excellence actually has nothing on 'Fallen Leaves' and storming closer 'Red Flag'. That's pretty much it for Friday, but in an exhausted daze we stumble across to the NME / Radio 1 tent to catch the end of Faith No More's encore - the audience's response almost as rabid as the lunatic onstage swallowing a microphone and laughing maniacally. Yeah, Mike Patton's still bonkers. And we're exhausted, so head for the tent to recharge.