2016’s Reading and Leeds Festivals are just around the corner, and have arguably the headliners of the summer. The festivals are topped by joint headliners Foals and Disclosure, as well as Fall Out Boy and Biffy Clyro, whose new album ‘Elipsis’ is out July 8. Red Hot Chili Peppers also make their return after headlining in 2007. It got us thinking – what are the best headliner trios the festivals have ever put on? Here’s our top 10.
10. 1995 (just Reading): Smashing Pumpkins, Bjork, Neil Young
In terms of diversity, it doesn’t get much better than Reading’s 1995 bill-toppers Smashing Pumpkins, Bjork and Neil Young. The Pumpkins’ headline set came just two months before their legendary album ‘Melon Collie & The Infinite Sadness’ was released. Leeds didn’t join in the fun with their own festival until 1999.
You can watch snippets of Smashing Pumpkins’ set, and an interview, here:
9. 1999: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blur, The Charlatans
The first year of Reading AND Leeds was a cracker, with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blur and The Charlatans bringing the party. Judging from the video below, Blur’s set provided one of the most intense crowds in the festivals’ history.
Here’s Blur performing ‘Song 2’ at the Reading leg:
8. 1997: Suede, Manic Street Preachers, Metallica
The one-two of Suede and Manic Street Preachers at Reading 1997 fitted perfectly, and then the organisers threw a massive curveball getting Metallica to finish off the Sunday. Brilliant. It was the first time Metallica had headlined the festival, and they went on to do so again in 2003, ’08 and 2015.
Here’s the band’s full set from ’97:
7. 1998: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Beastie Boys, Garbage
1998 was the last year of Reading without a Leeds by its side. Jimmy Page & Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin were joined by Beastie Boys and Garbage to top a huge bill for the last August bank holiday weekend with just a Reading festival.
You can watch the Beastie Boys’ encore from Reading that year below. ‘Intergalactic’ and ‘Sabotage’:
6. 2000: Oasis, Pulp, Stereophonics
The best of the ’90s was celebrated in the first year of the new millenium with Oasis, Pulp and Stereophonics headlining the second ever Leeds Festival, as well as Reading, of course.
Here’s ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. Just listen to that crowd..
5. 2006: Franz Ferdinand, Muse, Pearl Jam
Indie, stadium rock, grunge – Reading and Leeds ’06 catered for everyone. The 1/2 of Muse following a young Arctic Monkeys on the Saturday night was a particular delight.
You can see a whole hour of Muse’s set that night here:
4. 1992: Nirvana, The Wonder Stuff, Public Enemy
Reading 1992 is really famous for only one act, but Nirvana were joined that year by headliners The Wonder Stuff and Public Enemy, making for an extremely strong bill to look back on.
You can watch Nirvana’s full set below, and the performance was also released on CD and DVD last year for the 20th anniversary of the show:
3. 2005: Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden, Pixies
2005 was big. Really big. You can’t get much bigger than Iron Maiden and Foo Fighters, after all, and the not-at-all small matter of Pixies to back them up as a third headliner. Foo Fighters returned in 2012 on the 20 year anniversary of Nirvana’s legendary Reading performance to headline.
Here’s half an hour of their 2005 set, starting with ‘All My Life’
2. 2008: Rage Against The Machine, The Killers, Metallica
2008 at R&L was all about Rage Against The Machine on the Friday night of Reading 2008, but their counterparts The Killers and Metallica are hardly minnows, and made it a trio of headliners to remember.
Rage… didn’t allow their visceral set to be broadcast, so here’s half an hour of The Killers:
1. 2009: Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead
Any indie fans who weren’t at Reading or Leeds 2009: why not? I certainly was, equipped with some faintly disappointing GCSE results and all the enthusiasm in the world for my first festival. It was, and is, an indie dream. This was the ultimate Reading and Leeds bill, topped by Kings Of Leon, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead. Unfortunately, Kings of Leon’s Reading set ended sourly, with guitars thrown in crowds and strops a-plenty, but Arctic Monkeys made up for it the following night, ending the week that ‘Humbug’ was released with a composed headline performance. The weekend was then finished off by an expectedly stunning Radiohead set started with a surprising but fantastic rendition of ‘Creep’.
Here’s their whole set. Let’s hope Reading get them back again soon: