Review: The Maccabees

6 out of 10: Reading, Sunday, 4.05pm. Are they genuinely loved by this overflowing crowd, or are they just the only alternative to Funeral for a Friend and the Cancer Bats?

Stage: NME/Radio 1 stage, Reading

Time: Sunday, 4.05pm

Dress code: Crowd-wise, we're looking at a lot of cut-off denim, neon tights and a layer of filth. Band-wise, it's less try-hard: generic T-shirts are more their thing.

In summary: The Maccabees are the kind of band whose reception at a festival such as this I just could not predict. Having seen the quirky, arty five-piece several times in London, I know they have a pretty substantial following but always wondered how far and to which corners of the country it really reached. So it is with a degree of astonishment that I register how far the crowd extends back from the confines of the NME/Radio 1 tent into the surrounding field. Whether this is because they compete with Funeral For a Friend and the Cancer Bats and therefore leave an indie fan with little choice or because they genuinely are loved by this many people isn't immediately clear; the crowd are half jumpers and half stationary.

The set feels short, but they play all the "hits", or at least the songs which fans will know from their MySpace demo days such as Latchmere and About Your Dress. They save First Love for last and the crowd screams back the chorus "First love, last love, only love. It's only. Love". And then with a sudden, angular halt, it's all over.

Highlight: Steve Lamacq introducing the band by telling the crowd he'd "come out of retirement" for just this occasion. Retirement? When was that exactly?

Better than: Seeing the band performing in their native environment.

Worse than: Hearing their song X-Ray played as part of the between-set tracklist on the main stage just minutes later.

Talking point: The ring of steel thrown up around the burgeoning crowd outside the tent, outside of which festival staff were reluctant to let you hover for reasons not made clear. Tut-tutting and eye-rolling a plenty among harassed fans trying to view the band.

What they'll be up to this time next year: While their set was characteristically well-executed and the crowd was large, it's still hard to imagine them as headliners.

Mark out of ten: 6


Rosie Swash

The GuardianTramp

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