What happened when Bring Me The Horizon headlined Reading Festival

Bring Me The Horizon laid waste to Reading for their first-ever headline performance – this is how it happened...

What happened when Bring Me The Horizon headlined Reading Festival
Luke Morton
James Bridle and Isha Shah

It finally happened. Bring Me The Horizon headlined Reading Festival and did so in spectacular fashion. In a day boasting the likes of Poppy, a secret Pendulum set and Ho99o9 headlining one of the tents, for fans of the heavier side of life it was all about one band. A band of Sheffield lads who have faced a mixed barrage of criticism and celebration throughout their career from fans and press alike, but tonight they proved any doubter wrong, confirming they belong on the biggest stages the UK has to offer.

Ahead of their set, choice rock club bangers blasted out of the West Stage PA, from I'm Not Okay (I Promise) to I Write Sins Not Tragedies, riling up the hardcore who have followed Bring Me since the bloody days of Suicide Season. Before long, the gigantic titantron surrounding the stage glitched into life, as a dystopian anime-ish figure introduced Reading to the BMTH live experience and that pitting was mandatory – a point that a sharptoothed Oli Sykes was only too keen to reiterate.

Although Enter Shikari utilised the power of supersized screens earlier in the day (specifically counting down the years in-tune with the warming stripes), BMTH's LED monolith was mesmerising – from the illustrated anatomical hearts (aptly for heavy-hitting opener Can You Feel My Heart?) to hypnotic hazard symbols for Parasite Eve to a giant YUNGBLUD appearing inside a television for a riotous Obey. As much as a headline set is about good music, every facet of the Steel City crew's visual presence had been pored over to the nth degree, with a technological narrative flowing throughout onscreen and dancers flanking the band onstage.

That said, it was a monstrous setlist. With zero attention paid to anything pre-Sempiternal, BMTH's headline set firmly planted a flag for the future of the band, with five cuts from the Post Human: Survival Horror EP alongside recent singles DiE4u and sTraNgeRs. Interestingly, there was only one song from amo in the form of MANTRA but four from 2015's That's The Spirit, including the life-affirming set-closer Throne (complete with dancers waving Ukraine flags). And it's that album's turbo-ballad Drown that truly enraptured Reading. Throughout the set, Oli thanked the crowd for their continued support and for saving his life, but this track saw him ditch the stage and spend the majority of the song taking selfies with the front row, hugging crowdsurfers and giving fans something to remember.

But if that wasn't enough, the next track solidified BMTH's headline set as one to talk about for years to come, as they casually invited The Biggest Artist On The Planet Ed Sheeran onstage to fire through their Bad Habits collab, previously aired at the BRIT Awards earlier this year. When you've got indie kingpins Arctic Monkeys (who, funnily enough, Oli went to school with) closing the night, you have to do something big and it doesn't get much bigger than this.

In effect, introducing someone who's probably too famous to headline Reading like it's no big deal is the essence of Bring Me The Horizon. Surprises appear at every opportunity and rulebooks only exist to prop up shelves. Tonight was a culmination of everything they've been working towards and it's perhaps fitting they didn't opt for a greatest hits nostalgia fest, instead running full tilt into the future. For years the heavy music scene has been trying to keep up with Oli and co., but this felt like a victory lap.

You just have to imagine that the almost-hometown show in Leeds is going to go even harder...

Bring Me The Horizon Reading Festival setlist

  1. Can You Feel My Heart?
  2. Happy Song
  3. Teardrops
  5. Dear Diary
  6. Parasite Eve
  7. sTraNgeRs
  8. Shadow Moses
  9. Kingslayer
  10. DiE4u
  11. Drown
  12. Bad Habits (with Ed Sheeran)
  13. Obey
  14. Follow You (acoustic)
  15. Throne

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