Top 11 Reading and Leeds Festival Performances

There are plenty of Reading performances pre-2000 worth checking out – you could definitely do worse than to start with The Smashing Pumpkins set from 1992. Or the Nirvana set from the same year. Yeah, you might have heard about that one… Anyway, this list concerns itself with what came next and the pick of the performances since Reading stopped just being Reading and became Reading and Leeds instead…

1. 30 Seconds To Mars, 2011

Whether he’s on the stage or in the crowd, no one knows how to deliver a moment like Jared Leto. He proved the point approximately 8,500 times in this set alone.

2. Pearl Jam, 2006

When Nirvana took 1992’s Reading Festival by storm, not many would have predicted that it would be 14 years before Pearl Jam did the same. Eddie Vedder’s emotional response to the crowd’s enthusiasm made for one of the festival’s most touching moments.

3. Brand New, 2007

The fact that there’s no professional quality footage of this set only goes to emphasise how far below the radar Brand New have always existed. The most intense set ever delivered at Reading/Leeds? Quite possibly.

4. Enter Shikari, 2007

There’s nothing quite like the electricity that surges through a crowd when faced with a band in the process of smashing their way through to the next level. It’s quite fitting that such an environmentally conscious band should be able to create so much of their own energy.

5. Hundred Reasons, 2003

The band that ushered the emo movement into the UK hit a spectacular high at Leeds Festival in 2003. It all reached an unbeatable climax with a career-defining performance of If I Could. The ‘I would stay for ages’ refrain had never sounded more pertinent.

6. Feeder, 2002

Just over half a year on from drummer Jon Lee’s sad and untimely death, Feeder made their return to the scene with a set that was both moving and majestic. Clearly this was a show that meant a huge amount to the band – but also to the fans and if there was one moment in Leeds that really demonstrated their sense of unity it was the rousing sing-a-long to Green Day’s Basket Case just moments before Feeder hit the stage.

7. Bring Me The Horizon, 2015

Okay, so this wasn’t a perfect musical performance, but how heart-warming was it to see BMTH up near the top of the bill? You could feel every person present willing the band to triumph, and that kind of joint focus creates an atmosphere worth writing home about. BMTH to headline in 2018? Here’s hoping.

8. Biffy Clyro, 2013

It was like seeing the tiniest, quietest boy in Year 7 become head boy in Year 13. It was a victory, not just for Biffy Clyro themselves, but for every British band with a big heart and an even bigger dream.

9. Deftones, 2000

Limp Bizkit may have been the band plastered all over the following week’s magazine covers, but it was Deftones who showed the more soulful side to America’s burgeoning heavy rock scene. They delivered a set of mind-melting proportions and a perfect cover of Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So.

10. Cage The Elephant, 2011

It poured and it poured and it poured, then Cage The Elephant came on and it felt like a perfect summer’s day. Such is the power of insanely good music delivered insanely.


11. Guns N’ Roses, 2002

Axl Rose and cronies were due on at 9pm. By 9.30 there was no sign. 10pm? Still nothing. Except a field full of people filling the night air with the sound of boos. 10.30 came and went. Then, suddenly, from the side of the stage, there was the sound of that voice wailing: “Do you know where you are?” You can imagine the rest. Awesome.