Sigrid at Reading Festival 2021: an arena-ready pop masterclass

August 28: Norwegian dynamo readies herself for an arena tour with a bold, heavier return to the stage

Sigrid’s Saturday afternoon set on the Main Stage East all started in tears. Seconds before stage time at Reading Festival, the large screens broadcast the Norwegian star standing backstage, having a moment of composure. It’s a clearly orchestrated set-up, but still packs an emotional punch. Her bandmates leave her to take their positions and she waits alone, tears forming in her eyes. The crowd waiting out front cheer and the droplets fall even harder. This return to British soil – where she’s been particularly beloved – clearly means everything to her.

This is Sigrid’s set of a lifetime: a full-on pop-rock masterclass to a sunny mid-afternoon crowd at the festival where things really started to happen for her. It doesn’t get any better does it? It was at this festival three years ago in the Radio 1 Tent where she recognised the reach that ‘Strangers’, a genuine hit single, had with the die-hards and casuals alike. Now, with a debut album under her belt and a second forthcoming, she shimmies her way to the Main Stage for the tongue-in-cheek ‘Don’t Feel Like Crying’. It’s the place she’s been dreaming of returning for much of the last year. Next year, she heads out on her first arena tour, right here in the UK and Ireland.

Sigrid at Reading Festival
Credit: Emma Viola Lilja

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That conviction is supported by the killer live set-up she’s been toying with for years, which is in a sweet spot right now with the band really helping to show off her rock chops. That’s why her band are hammering their instruments during the three new songs she plays this afternoon – ‘Mirror’, ‘Burning Bridges’ and ‘It Gets Dark’ – the four-piece taking sweet melodies and leaning into that weightier songwriting. The turnout for these massive shows on her debut album informed the work for album two, and she was particularly inspired by love of Muse and Coldplay for the new numbers.

But the most intriguing moment is ‘Home To You’, the polar opposite of that intensity. It’s a solo piano ballad that initially feels out of place in the set – it feels indulgent and clumsy to play something so slow during a set moving with such purpose. But she wins the crowd over with a “trust me, I know what I’m doing” look to the crowd, showing them that ‘this is something I need to do’. Her risk proves triumphant.

‘Home To You’ was written a song about her hometown Ålesund in Norway, a small fishing port with a modest population that she always pined for when she left home for touring: “I see the world so different now/’Cause there’s a place by the sea and that’s my town”. Now, it reads more as a return to where a true performer like Sigrid thinks she truly belongs: on the stage, back here, with all your beautiful faces. Welcome home, Sigrid. It’s brilliant to have you back.

Check back at NME all weekend for more reviews, news, interviews, photos and more from Reading & Leeds 2021.

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