Bring Me The Horizon live at Reading Festival 2022: a triumphant, hard-won victory lap

Reading Festival, August 27: In a show of metal theatrics and super-sized spectacle, the Sheffield five-piece prove their place at the top of festival bills

“Reading, shove this up your fucking arse!”, shouts Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes, wickedly stretching his stage presence – a particularly strident and livewire gym instructor – to the limits of believability. As ‘Dear Diary’ springs into action in a blaze of pyro and booming sound effects, lunging riffs wail through the noise of the audience like a giant kettle boiling, and he whips the crowd before him into walls of death and circle pits, bellowing encouragement and daring them to reach new levels of carnage.

It’s in the brutal enthusiasm with which chaos ensues that makes watching the Sheffield group blitz through their first-ever Reading headline slot feel like you’ve landed at the centre of an apocalypse-like scene. 14 years after their first appearance at Little John’s Farm – where they got bottled off stage by the metalcore old guard, before returning to the festival five times in the convening years – they put on a blockbuster show, replete with hazmat suits, flares, and dancers that perform brilliantly with the frenetic speed of pilled-up ravers.

bring me the horizon reading 2022
Credit: Andy Ford for NME

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When the band bound onto stage this evening, however, there are no signs of their tumultuous backstory with this festival. They arrive with the collective bravado of a healthy underdog, and Sykes’ screams speak of a pent-up catharsis finally unleashed. The music sounds epic without ever seeming overwrought: ‘Shadow Moses’ swells with metallic bombast and dazzling, taut guitar work from Lee Malia, but it’s Sykes’ electrifying screaming vocals that see it over the peak – expelling five minutes of heavy tension.

The doomy textures of ‘Happy Song’ are accompanied by lurid visuals of acid house smiley faces, while ‘Parasite Eve’ – with its astronomical breakdown – sees a gaggle of zombies run across the gargantuan-scale screens, adding to the effect that much of this feels like a psychic hangover from Halloween. And when Ed Sheeran appears for a surprise rendition of his fiery ‘Bad Habits’ remix with the band, it feels like an almost unnecessary adjunct to a set that has already offered so much – and they perform it with too much palpable joy to get snobby about.

Credit: Andy Ford for NME

All this gives shape, texture and soul to a show that’s as slick and OTT as it is human. Beneath the pomp, Sykes doesn’t play at being unbreakable: he sings an acoustic ‘Follow You’ through tears like he knows broken too well, and unashamedly commands for the sentimental electro-pop ballad ‘Die4U’ to turn into a arms-around-shoulders singalong à la “a condensed Bon Jovi concert.”

bring me the horizon reading festival 2022
Credit: Andy Ford for NME

The emotional temperature is sent rocketing when Sykes steps into the crowd for ‘Drown’, and generates a feedback loop between the band and their fans that feels genuinely triumphant. He hugs and wipes the tears of those lining the front row, before pausing to breathe in the adrenaline of the thousands before him. “We fucking made it!”, he screams, thumping his chest in acknowledgement of an almost unbelievably hard-earned victory.

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Bring Me The Horizon played:

‘Can You Feel My Heart’

‘Happy Song’

‘Teardrops’

‘MANTRA’

‘Dear Diary’

‘Parasite Eve’

‘Strangers’

‘Shadow Moses’

‘Kingslayer’

‘DiE4u’

‘Bad Habits (Remix)’ with Ed Sheeran

‘Obey’

‘Follow You’

‘Throne’

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