If Foals and Disclosure’s co-headlining arrangement seems like bet-hedging on the part of the Reading & Leeds organisers – neither ready to subvert the tried-and-tested guitar-band norm, nor to fully embrace the idea of a dance act as outright headliners – then the Lawrence brothers’ Leeds set makes a compelling case for why they deserve to go it alone next time. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ worst-band-in-the-world status notwithstanding, this had the potential to be the most polarising of the weekend’s headline sets; in the end, it may just be the most crowd-pleasing.
Disclosure make a big deal of the fact that they don’t simply turn up with a light show and a USB stick, and while it’s a very different kind of performance from, say, Biffy Clyro’s the night before, it’s still a performance – the duo do a lot more than just press play. What’s more, over the course of two albums, they’ve amassed more bona fide anthems than Foals have over the course of their entire career, and if there was any lingering angst over Disclosure headlining one of the rockiest of Britain’s big rock festivals, it dissipates as soon as ‘White Noise’ starts pulsing out of the PA.
From that song, to ‘F For You’, to their Sam Smith collaboration ‘Omen’, the first half of this set is frontloaded with big tunes presumably designed to win over the doubters, and they succeed: the rain may be chucking down, but the atmosphere is absolutely electric. Unfortunately, the second half is patchier; ‘Bang That’ doesn’t quite connect, and ‘When a Fire Starts to Burn’ is so needlessly drawn-out that by the time it properly kicks into gear, it feels as though it’s overstayed its welcome. The sole guest vocalist tonight is American singer-songwriter Brendan Reilly, whose ‘Moving Mountains’ is unfortunately one of the band’s drearier songs, lacking the edge and manic energy of ‘You & Me’ or ‘Boss’.
Yet it’s still early days for Disclosure, and while this set isn’t an unqualified success, it succeeds well enough on its own terms. They certainly don’t look or sound out of place on this stage, and by the time ‘Latch’ brings things to a close, there will be few who head back to their tent grumbling about the good old days, when only rock bands could headline Reading & Leeds. Expect the Lawrence brothers to be back here sooner rather than later.