For a while there, we felt like Post Malone might not make it to Reading & Leeds 2021. Fellow US headliners Queens Of The Stone Age pulled out a while back due to the pandemic wreaking havoc on the best-laid plans, and fellow Yanks like Machine Gun Kelly and Doja Cat also disappeared from the line-up due to COVID travel complications. It seemed likely that Mr ‘Rona would also stop Austin Richard Post from boarding that plane.
But as he makes abundantly clear tonight, nothing was going to stop him. Standing out as the only US headliner, and one of the very few left on the bill, he represents in a true all-American, all-guns-blazing style. With fireworks lighting up the sky every other minute and Posty chugging from a red cup, tonight has all the spirit of the 4th of July. But will there be substance to match the spectacle?
The show starts with a black curtain dropping to reveal Posty elevated on a tower of scaffolding decked with big lights and pyro – a real step-up in production from his previous stage design: nothing. His last set in 2019 was, in fact, a triumphant night, the rapper proving any naysayers wrong in pulling off a Reading headline show with no gimmicks, bells, whistles or tricks – just songs and swagger. This time, it feels a bit like an all-too-soon big budget Hollywood remake.
“How the fuck we feeling tonight baby?” he beams to what seems to be the biggest crowd drawn all weekend. He’s set on giving the masses the Saturday night they’ve been waiting for in a while by dropping his biggest bangers ‘Better Now’ and ‘Circles’ quite early on, but the momentum flags a little from there – not that it’s without variety. His emo sensibilities shine through on ‘Goodbyes’, a little of that Reading rock legend returns when Ozzy Osbourne’s face appears on-screen with the stage alight for their goth-y collab ‘Take You Want’ (complete with Posty showing off his screamo chops) and there’s a moment of tenderness when he brings out the acoustic guitar for ‘Stay’ (with a teaser of ‘Seven Nation Army’ for good measure).
“It’s been a weird time where we having played any fucking shows but I wanna say a huge congratulations to everyone here,” he tells Reading, clearly touched in one of his many tributes to the audience for staying strong through these hard times. “This song is about persevering,” he says to introduce ‘Congratulations’, “People fucking kick ass, man”.
They do. The crowd are with him, but his return doesn’t seem quite so momentous this time around – maybe that’s due to his previous outing being so close in memory, or Posty releasing very little music since. Still, tonight seems more about being back together and enjoying some freedom. “I hope everyone has a great night and celebrates life,” he smiles before leaving the stage. “I love you more than words can ever fucking say.”
Check back at NME all weekend for more reviews, news, interviews, photos and more from Reading & Leeds 2021.