The Sheffield band made their thrilling debut headline appearance at R&L last month, having first played the dual event way back in 2008.
Talking to NME as part of their recent Big Read cover interview, BMTH’s Oli Sykes and Jordan Fish took us on a chronological journey through all of their Reading & Leeds visits to date.
Recalling the ’08 edition of the festival, Sykes told NME: “First time we played Reading, it was probably the worst gig ever. Slipknot had pulled out for some reason, and we got asked if we wanted to go on the main stage… not to replace them but just to fill the gap.
“We kind of knew it was a death sentence but we were like, “Well, we’ve gotta do it’. Just before we went on I think they announced that Avenged Sevenfold had just pulled out as well, which sent the crowd into a frenzy of boos.”
The frontman continued: “But then they were like, ‘Here’s Bring Me The Horizon’. And I haven’t ever seen anyone get as bottled as us. I’ve never seen a show like it – it was scary.”
Sykes went on to remember witnessing a sea of “digital cameras, sawdust, bottles” and other items that the crowd were throwing in their direction. “Literally, it was insane,” he added. “It was just constant through the whole show.”
Despite the pelting, Sykes said that the set was a “character building” experience for the group.
Bring Me returned to R&L in 2009 to play on the Festival Republic Stage. “We were a very divisive band at that time,” Sykes told NME. “By that time it wasn’t as scary – I think we were probably a bit traumatised from it, but I don’t remember anything truly traumatising.”
In 2011, Bring Me The Horizon made it back to the Reading & Leeds main stages following the release of their third album, 2010’s ‘There Is A Hell…’. “We felt like we were being celebrated in the UK metal scene a little more,” Sykes recalled. “And that one was a sick one, for sure.”
Keyboardist Jordan Fish – who is from Reading – first played R&L with BMTH in 2013, and remembered the band being “well-oiled at that point”. Sykes said they’d gained confidence and “stopped shitting ourselves” by then.
Bring Me The Horizon on the cover of NME
Things stepped up in 2015, with Bring Me securing the sub-headlining slot beneath bill-toppers Metallica. “That was the first time we were like, ‘How do we make this a fully-immersive experience?’,” Sykes told NME.
BMTH made their live comeback with secret sets at Reading & Leeds 2018 off the back of their single ‘Mantra’.
Ahead of their headline show at R&L 2022, Sykes told NME: “We’re trying to make a Universal Studios-style experience in the form of a rock set: we’re so scared that people might be bored for one second that our show is full of constant flashing lights!
“It’s almost too much. I don’t know why I’ve been so nervous for it.”
Fish said: “We’ve been talking about [the Reading & Leeds headline sets] for so long – that’s what makes it nerve-racking. Every show we’ve played has been [us] refining our set for today. It’s been on our mind, and this is a big show for us.”
Oliver Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon. Credit: Andy Ford
In a glowing five-star review, NME hailed Bring Me The Horizon for “put[ting] on a blockbuster show” with their Reading 2022 performance.
It read: “[Sykes] hugs and wipes the tears of those lining the front row, before pausing to breathe in the adrenaline of the thousands before him. ‘We fucking made it!’, he screams, thumping his chest in acknowledgement of an almost unbelievably hard-earned victory.”
Elsewhere in their NME Big Read interview, Bring Me The Horizon discussed bumping into Arctic Monkeys backstage, and how Alex Turner and co’s “fucking cool” live set compares to their own.
BMTH are due to embark on a US headline tour later this month (find tickets here). A run of rescheduled European gigs will take place in February 2023 – see the full schedule for those dates here.