Review of Reading Festival 2023: From Billie Eilish to Rina Sawayama, the sassy Barbies soar above the uninteresting Kens

Review of Reading Festival 2023: From Billie Eilish to Rina Sawayama, the sassy Barbies soar above the uninteresting Kens

Here’s a concise overview of the recent events at the Reading Festival:

Billie Eilish made history by becoming the youngest artist ever to headline Reading Festival. The 21-year-old singer-songwriter from LA performed in front of around 100,000 attendees, concluding a mixed edition of the annual Thames Valley festival. Reading Festival, which was previously known for its focus on heavy rock and loud guitars, has evolved over the past decade to become more youthful, diverse, and pop-friendly. However, it still grapples with gender imbalance issues, as Eilish is only one of a handful of female artists to headline in over 60 years.

The festival lineup this year showcased a rich selection of rap, grime, and drill artists, mainly from London. Notable performances included Loyle Carner, who incorporated soulful pop-rap with motivational messages about overcoming trauma and rejecting toxic masculinity. West London rapper Central Cee also delivered an intense and engaging set, despite some tonal mismatch with the festival’s overall atmosphere.

Replacing Lewis Capaldi, The 1975 performed their self-titled 2013 debut album in full. Their performance lacked uniqueness and character, coming across as formulaic. The band’s frontman, Matt Healy, refrained from controversial remarks this time but made a smirk-inducing comment about his history of making racist jokes. Rina Sawayama, signed to the same label as The 1975, didn’t acknowledge Healy during her set but delivered a powerful and charismatic performance that exuded punk, queer, and feminist energy.

The main-stage headliners presented a mix of performances. Sam Fender showcased genial stage presence, but his anthems lacked emotional depth. The Killers delivered a polished, hit-filled set despite minor sound problems. Billie Eilish demonstrated how vulnerability and minimalist arrangements can create an impactful arena-rock experience. Accompanied by her brother Finneas and a two-man band, Eilish took the audience through an emotional journey, concluding an uneven yet historic Reading Festival.

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