Review: The Gossip

7 out of 10: Reading, Friday, 3.40pm. Yes, Beth Ditto performed in her knickers. No, that's not the only reason this was a set to remember.

Stage: Main stage, Reading

Time: Friday, 3.40pm

Dress code: Pants

In summary: The most striking thing about watching Beth Ditto stride across the main stage is not the fact that she's chosen to do so in little more than a pair of knickers, but just how easy it is to forget, amid the ongoing media attention she receives, just how fantastic a rock star Ditto really is. Implicit within the column inches devoted to the Gossip's sweaty championing of the underdog is that Ditto is part-frontwoman, part-freak, a spokeswoman for the outsider to the point that her talent has been forgotten. And because today's headlining slots will be dominated by trendy boy bands (Kings of Leon, followed by Razorlight), there is something spine-tinglingly brilliant about the fact that Ditto has decided to perform showing off her obese, cellulite-ridden thighs and leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. Not that stripping off on stage is unusual for the 15-stone singer, it's just that this is the main stage of a major festival and the bravery of a lesser star would have caved on such an occasion. Her near-naked gesture remains as much a celebratory statement as a big "fuck you" to anyone who dares to be repulsed and, despite appearances, her undress isn't so much "look at me" but "listen to me"; she is an absolute powerhouse of a performer whose bluesy vocals recall a young Janis Joplin. There are few bands more deserving of the attention of Reading's main-stage audience than this Arkansas trio.

Better than: The predictability of Johnny Borrell taking his top off during Razorlight's headlining slot later tonight.

Worse than: The fact that the sun has come out, but only slightly.

Highlight: Kicking off Listen Up! with the first verse of Talking Heads' Psycho Killer. Inspired.

Talking point: Despite the brilliant performance, it's likely to be the pants.

Mark out of ten: 7

What they'll be up to this time next year: Given the irrepressible ascent of Ditto, perhaps a duet with Madonna at whichever spectacular earth-saving/princess-remembering event the stars are lining up for.


Rosie Swash

The GuardianTramp

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