Foals prove they’re a definitive festival headliner at Reading 2023

Not just a band beloved, but a band with the arsenal to back it up.

Words: Jamie Muir.
Photos: Patrick Gunning.

If you had to point to any band as the definition of festival headliners, Foals would be up high on the list. Over the course of countless years, an unrelenting touring schedule puts them in the conversation as one of the hardest-working bands going. They’ve earned more stripes than a Zebra convention.

No festival may be more intertwined with their story than Reading. Landmark moments as a band (and, in turn, British guitar music) have flowed through them, and now, with the fluorescent tones of their latest album, their return is a beating heart for the weekend. Topping the bill for the first time since 2016, it finds them even more formidable and all-encompassing than ever before. Stitched into the very fibres of what Reading & Leeds is, Foals headline tonight with a primal and ferocious intensity that commands their place as one of the best live acts on the planet.

Taking to the stage with technicolour displays, they lay their intentions out from the very start. ‘Wake Me Up, along with a variety of cuts from latest album ‘Life Is Yours’ such as ‘2AM’ and ‘2001’, are the perfect ingredient for summer headline nights – and they act as a fuse for a firework display of effortless hits.

‘Mountain At My Gates’, ‘Olympic Airways’ and ‘My Number’ is the sort of opening salvo most bands would dream to have to close a set, never mind serve as an appetising starter for the full feast to come. The sheer scale and prowess Foals possess is one that commands attention: the widescreen club-drop of ‘In Degrees’ landing as a perfect capsule for a crowd whose weekend jumping between genres is only just beginning, whilst the spellbinding ‘Milk & Black Spiders’ twist and turns Reading at their will.

The magic of Foals can be boiled down to the push and pull. The crushing widescreen emotion of ‘Spanish Sahara’ is jaw-dropping, only matched in sheer power by the pounding run of ‘Exits’, a ridiculous ‘Inhaler’ and the searing ‘Black Bull’. It never relents, and by the time a volcanic ‘What Went Down’ and ‘Two Steps, Twice’ let rip – Reading is torn into a whole other dimension.

Tonight is a reminder of just what Foals represent. Not just a band beloved, but a band with the arsenal to back it up – it’s the riotous rock show that defines what a festival headliner should be.