Arctic Monkeys: An NME History Of Their Reading And Leeds Festival Appearances

Here’s to the power of positive thinking. Last year we asked NME.COM users who you wanted to headline Reading And Leeds 2014, and Arctic Monkeys topped the poll. Now they’ve been announced as taking the festival’s top-spot, alongside Blink-182 and one final, mystery act.

Over the past decade, the band have played the festival a total of three times, blowing away the new bands tent in 2005, then returning a year later to take the slot below Muse on the main stage before headlining for the first time in 2009. We’ve delved into the NME reviews archive to see what we wrote about those performances at the time and we’ve got some performance clips as well, notable mostly for Alex Turner’s ever-evolving hairstyle.

2005: Carling Tent, Reading


“Reading is well-versed in line-up misjudgements (shoving Foo Fighters in a tiny tent in 1995; and er, just booking 50 Cent in 2004), but today it went one further – putting the most talked-about band in the universe on in a corner of the field in broad daylight. ‘Don’t believe the hype, Reading,’ winks Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner. ‘They haven’t hyped us up enough!’ Move over Johnny Borrell and Ricky Wilson, there’s only one man who stands between Turner and the title of rock’n’roll’s greatest frontman – and Liam Gallagher must be shitting it. As ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ touches down, the horizon is a tidal wave of punching arms, with the first of 50 crowdsurfers going over the top. Today the only thing that matters is being here to witness the point when The People forged their own superstar from a scrawny kid from Rotherham.”

2006: Main Stage, Reading


“Back a year after they exploded like an in-flight test tube in the Carling tent, not so much as second act on the as headliners-in-waiting. And, as though emphasizing their dunno-what-the-fuss-is-about humility, theirs is a set utterly bereft of flash, flam or firework fountains during lengthy extended outros. In stark contrast to Muse’s all-flashing, all-smoke-spewing, all-fire-raining slot, Alex and his stocky, blokey-bloke bandmates simply stroll on without even the courtesy of shoving up a backdrop, plug in and play their songs with such fire and fury that they sound like Steel City itself suffering an amphetamine overdose.”

2009: Main Stage, Leeds


“Tonight the Arctic Monkeys are fucking badass. Sure, they play their new songs from ‘Humbug’ – lots of them, plus their Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ cover ‘Red Right Hand’ makes a satanic showing two songs in – and those tunes certainly have more bite than they do on record. But they play everything you want them to play too. This means you get ‘Brianstorm’, ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ and ‘Florescent Adolescent’, while Alex wears sunglasses from the off and looks like the fifth Velvet. All of which cements his band’s position as the best in the world today. And tonight, the best band in the world today turned in a career-best performance.”