Charli XCX’s return to Reading Festival is a triumphant blend of chart bangers, progressive new material and a Spice Girls classic

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For many people, Reading & Leeds was their first festival. Descending on the annual event remains essential post-GCSE results pilgrimage, and generations of people have lifelong (somewhat hazy) memories of drinking warm tinnies whilst watching amazing bands in a field with their mates.

Charli XCX is no different. “Reading was my first ever festival so I fucking love this place. I hope you guys have an amazing time!” she tells the audience during her set on the Main Stage at Reading on Friday afternoon. It’s no doubt a bunch of these kids first festival, too.

Walking on stage to the opening ethereal whirs of ‘Track 10’, Charli owns the stage from the get go. Effortlessly moving onto ‘Blame It On Your Love’ (the reworked version of ‘Track 10’), what follows is breathless greatest-hits set. It’s a stark difference to her ‘Pop 2’ shows (that focused on the artists recent mixtapes and more experimental electronic sound) – for Reading, it’s chart smashes only.

Charli XCX at Reading

Tunes like ‘Boys’ and 2014 Iggy Azalea collaboration ‘Fancy’ earn the most love. New songs like ‘Focus’ and ‘Girls Night Out’ (which showcase XCX’s PC Music-flecked tunes) remains a musical tour de force in her new material. She knows that not everybody may know these tunes (“maybe you don’t know it but I just want you to move with me!” she says before ‘Focus), but she charismatically acts as her own hype-woman throughout, egging the crowd to “put up their middle fingers” and “fuck it up” throughout her lesser known tunes.

At one point she urges the crowd to “get down”, before knowingly adding: “I hope you guys don’t have low battery this is going to look so sick on your Instagram!” Later she plays her Herve Pagez & Diplo and team-up, ‘Spicy’, a reworking of the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’, and the audience (full of youngsters who may not have even been born when the original was released), totally lose their shit.

Flanked by two huge silver cubes, Charli isn’t intimidated by the huge stage, which she occupies alone. Instead she charms, belts out note-perfect vocals and displays some impressive dancing. By the time she finishes her break-neck set with ‘Boom Clap’ ,she’s delighted the fans and won the respect of those who were just hear to appease their mates.

It may have been the return to the site of her first festival, but with her stellar mid-afternoon set Charli XCX ensured her performance will be a lifelong memory for hundreds of festival newcomers.

Charli XCX played:

Track 10
Blame It On Your Love
I Love It
Gone
Cross You Out
Fancy
Focus
Spicy
Boys
Girls Night Out
1999
Boom Clap