Co-headling a festival can make odd things happen. The quest for something for the special occasion drives bands to take risks; to show their “deep respect” for our “musical culture”.
Or at least, that’s what we think the explanation for Twenty One Pilots covering Oasis is. Granted, the Mancunian icons only ever headlined Reading & Leeds once, back at the turn of the millennium. But that’s not the point. Oasis are a band threaded into the very texture of British festival culture. In ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, TOP have selected a song that’s gained extra reverence and relevance in recent years. As always, they’re making the smart choices.
That’s how Tyler and Josh ended up here. Smart choices and some monster smash hits, often both at the same time. Polished into a finely oiled machine, like The 1975 the night before, they’re a band for whom the top of the Reading bill has long felt an inevitability. While Friday’s bill topper was one for the ages for a multitude of reasons – not least the fact that for any British band Reading & Leeds is one of two headline slots to covert above all others – this is, in so many ways, no less of a big deal for Twenty One Pilots.
After all, they’re a band who belong in the top tiers now. With one of the most engaged, excited fanbases on the planet, they’re capable of drawing connections on a grand scale. Never sticking for too long inside one musical box, they’re more than willing to cross-genre and influence too. They’re all traits in full view tonight.
Constantly shifting throughout their set, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how many big moments Twenty One Pilots have to call upon. Opener ‘Jumpsuit’ rumbles its way into view, its bass joined by a chorus of voices singing back every word. ‘Heathens’, ‘Lane Boy’, ‘Stressed Out’ – each one manages to cut through impressively. From the raised platforms of ‘Car Radio’ to crowd-based drumming, lit cars and backflips, many of the intricacies of TOP’s live set are well established, but they were also designed to be delivered on this grand scale.
Finally graduating to the highest reaches of Reading’s largest platform, Twenty One Pilots feel to have achieved the impossible. There’s still something inherently different about them, sure – they remain a cult band able to play within the mainstream and bend it at their will. But there’s a spark to their performance that suggests that climb isn’t finished yet. As ‘Trees’ pounds out with giant, audience-held drums, that journey feels far from over. A few more smart choices and they’ll be making this a regular occurrence.
Words: Stephen Ackroyd