With a very fancy stage show and an A-list guest star (Ed Sheeran, for a snarling ‘Bad Habits’), Bring Me The Horizon are stepping up to headline Reading Festival in fine form. Yup, after threatening to make the leap for close to a decade, the once-scrappy MySpace Emos finally take their place amongst the legends and heroes of the festival’s long-standing rock history. But it’s not to appease the old-school moshers.
Tonight is a very big deal. Not only for the Sheffield mob, who’ve been writing arena-sized metal bangers for yonks now, but rock in general. Guitar music is going through a resurgence, and this show is proof that the genre can be successful. If you think vocalist Oli Sykes is going to be in his best, BBC-friendly behaviour, though, think again.
An introductory video sees an AI encouraging mosh pits, it takes him less than two songs to demand the crowd “push it the fuck back”, and before the punishing breakdown of ‘Dear Diary’, he tells them they can “shove it up their arses”. Moments before “big tune” ‘Kingslayer’, he exclaims that “even if you haven’t dropped a Gary (a moment’s pause while we allow some readers to check urban dictionary), you’ll be gurning your tits off for this one.” The hyperpoppy-hardcore track does go, as well.
Bring Me The Horizon know they’re a larger-than-life group and their neon stage show leans into that bold, colourful world. Musically as well, tonight is more than heavy metal. Sure, ‘Shadow Moses’ and ‘Mantra’ are exactly what we’ve come to expect from Bring Me, but ‘Strangers’ is a huge, brooding emo anthem “written with this show in mind” while the glitching ‘Die 4 U’ is a polished, alt-pop banger. Elsewhere a stripped down ‘Follow You’ provides possibly the quietest moment in a headline set since Paramore blew the power back in 2014.
For all their chaotic carnival antics, there are plenty of moments of genuine sincerity from Sykes though. “You guys have saved my life so many times, you don’t even know,” he declares. Minutes later, he’s down on the barrier, hugging fans and sharing the microphone for a soaring ‘Drown’. It’s spine-tingling stuff.
Through ‘Bad Habits’ (not a single bottle is thrown at Sheeran), a Yungblud-less ‘Obey’ and the closing ‘Throne’, Bring Me The Horizon prove exactly why they’re the most exciting, most progressive heavy band to come out of Britain in a long, long while. Their ethos the same as the number one rule at their show: “If you stand still, you’re a knobhead”.