Taking place over the UK’s August bank holiday weekend, the twin Reading and Leeds Festivals may be seen as younger siblings to the longer-running Glastonbury Festival, but they offer no less a rite of passage for fans of rock, grime and hip-hop. As thousands of mosh-pit survivors can attest, the best Reading and Leeds Festival performances have become some of the most talked-about gigs of all time.
Listen to our Summer playlist here, and check out our best Reading and Leeds Festival performances, below.
10: Kendrick Lamar (2018)
Kendrick Lamar was in fine form during his 2018 headline sets at Reading and Leeds Festivals. One of the first new hip-hop artists to top the bill, “Kung-Fu Kenny” stormed the stage, opening his flawless DAMN.-era set with DNA. and closing it with HUMBLE., then dropping Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe as an encore. Over the years, the Reading and Leeds Festivals have increasingly seen hip-hop and grime artists come to the fore, expanding the weekend’s appeal beyond its core rock and metal audience.
9: Foo Fighters (2005)
The same year that Foo Fighters headlined Reading, frontman Dave Grohl officially declared it the greatest festival of all time, stating, “I fucking love Reading so much… I’ve been to so many festivals, but this is the only one I love – the others suck.” Treating fans to a hard-hitting set list including songs such as Times Like These, All My Life and Monkey Wrench, Foo Fighters easily delivered one of the best Reading and Leeds Festival performances of all time. To mark the occasion, Grohl even got behind the drum kit, changing places with the late Taylor Hawkins for Cold Day In The Sun. The last time Grohl played drums at Reading was as part of Nirvana, during his other legendary group’s 1992 performance.
8: Green Day (2004)
Nobody could touch Green Day in 2004. Just weeks before the release of their landmark American Idiot album, and on the verge of ascending from famed punk trio to ultimate stadium-fillers, the Bay Area icons headlined one of the biggest stages in the UK. Opening their set with American Idiot’s title track, Billie Joe Armstrong and co let fans know what to expect from Green Day’s forthcoming album, while the remainder of the performance cycled through many of the best Green Day songs – Basket Case and When I Come Around among them – and even made space for covers of Ramones (Blitzkrieg Bop), Buzzcocks (Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)) and Queen (We Are The Champions).
7: Biffy Clyro (2013)
Bringing Reading and Leeds Festivals to a close is no easy task, yet Biffy Clyro went above and beyond in 2013, delivering the weekend’s clear highlight. There were pyrotechnics aplenty throughout the Scottish trio’s set, with frontman Simon Neil even setting his Stratocaster alight during the group’s performance of The Captain. After an unforgettable 90 minutes, Biffy Clyro ensured that night’s place among the best Reading and Leeds Festival performances by ending with an emotional performance of Mountains.