Disclosure have been clear winners of Reading and Leeds’ co-headline era. In previous decades, there was a solitary name on the top of a line-up poster and that’s that – one top dog and the rest mere challengers on a nightly basis. But as the festival expands and experiments, pairing acts together offers the chance to let newbies have their moment. This is now the dance duo’s second go at topping the bill in a co-headlining capacity, performing on Main Stage West just before Post Malone having previously done it with Foals back in 2016.
It’s become a fruitful move for them – this is a show that now only works under the cover of darkness. You hope that one day, the festival will approach shows like this with a mindset seen at other European festivals, where rave acts almost always close out the evening, guaranteeing a massive finale regardless of billing. The contrast between their banging return and Post Malone’s sludgy set is not their fault, but could bring about a new approach to scheduling.
The brotherly duo have graduated to bonafide festival kings, continuing to take the cues from their heroes The Chemical Brothers, who’ve been able to walk into a headlining set anywhere on the planet for the last two decades. Tonight’s performance is a leaner, faster version of their show, and though there’s a shimmy away from more traditional live instrumentation, the stripped back set-up packs an almighty punch. ‘White Noise’ and ‘F For You’ hit harder than they have in years, while newbies ‘Lavender’ and the Kelis-starring ‘Watch Your Step’ finally come alive in the live arena following the release of their third album, 2020’s ‘ENERGY’.
There’s also no need to wheel out of guest vocalists like Slowthai and Sam Smith etc – their tracked vocals do just fine – but the move to elevate ‘ENERGY’ with a drumming crew from the South London Samba collective, and then a killer brass section on ‘Tondo’ give the set the party atmosphere that their previous live shows had struggled to capture.
The live visuals are some way off The Chem Bros’ mind-melters, but the bar is so very high. In fact, the set’s brightest moment, ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’, connects because they let the song breathe without gimmicks. London Grammar vocalist Hannah Reid’s utterly divine lead vocals do much of the heavy lifting, as she sings of “biding my time” and waiting for the moment of existential bliss to come wake her up out of a funk – Disclosure’s banging return to Reading did exactly that for so many.
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