Chili Peppers, Offspring, Blur Play Peaceful Reading/Leeds Festival

Expanded version of UK rock fest also features Charlatans, Chemical Brothers, Catatonia.

LEEDS, England — Tens of thousands of people came here over

the weekend for a festival that had its roots in the 1960s. The event

lasted three days, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were onstage when it

ended Monday night.

But there ended the similarities with Woodstock '99, which culminated

a month earlier in Rome, N.Y., with a Chili Peppers set followed by a

riot. Organizers and police said the Reading/Leeds Festival —

with an all-star lineup of bands, led by Offspring, Blur and the

Charlatans, playing from Friday to Sunday in Reading and from Saturday

to Monday in Leeds — was unusually mellow.

"The police were saying it was the lowest crime rate at a festival,

ever," concert spokesperson Mike Watson said. "And the same applied

for the Reading site — lowest-ever crime rate there, too."

Not that fans sat still for three days. On Monday an extra line of

security guards was brought in to help pull people out of the growing

mosh pit, while the Offspring stirred up the crowd with such songs as

"The Kids Aren't Alright" (RealAudio excerpt).

The festival grew out of the Reading Jazz and Blues Festival of the

1960s, but this year marked the 10th anniversary of the modern Reading

Festival, the premier outdoor music event in the UK. This summer the

event expanded to become the Reading/Leeds Festival, with bands

playing first at the Reading site, then decamping to play the same

bill a day later at Temple Newsam Park in Leeds.

The Saturday lineup in Leeds included the first festival appearance in

three years by regrouped rockers Elastica, whose second album is due

early next year, and who released a UK-only EP earlier this month.

They drew a large crowd to the Radio 1 Evening Session stage at the

same time veteran Brit-poppers the Charlatans were debuting new

material on the main stage.

The Charlatans, whose set included the single "Forever," are scheduled

to release a new album, Us and Us Only, in October. "[Singer]

Tim Burgess looked incredibly confident, considering they've been away

for such a long time," Watson said.

DJ duo the Chemical Brothers were well received Saturday during a

performance that combined a light show with tracks from

Surrender (1999). They threw in some earlier hits too,

including "Block Rockin' Beats."

The Leeds main stage buzzed with stars from both the indie- and

mainstream-rock worlds Sunday. American lo-fi rockers Pavement warmed

up the crowd with an afternoon set, despite problems with the band's

sampler.

"We don't play real instruments anymore," singer/guitarist Stephen

Malkmus joked. "Let's sing campfire songs while we're waiting." When

the sampler was fixed, the band elicited deafening cheers with "Spit

on a Stranger" (RealAudio excerpt),

from their recent album Terror Twilight.

Hip-hop rockers the Fun Lovin' Criminals took to the stage as dusk was

gathering. Somewhat inexplicably, singer Huey Long told a joke

("There's this lobster, right, and he walks into a bar ...") that folk

singer/songwriter Beth Orton had told the same crowd earlier in the day.

The audience seemed hyped as the band launched into the singles

"Scooby Snacks" and "The Fun Lovin' Criminal."

Drummer Mack (who, like the rest of the Fun Lovin' Criminals, goes only

by his first name) was less enthusiastic: "Tonight was cool, but I

think we played better at Reading yesterday. I don't know why. Nothing

to do with the site itself. It was just the way it happened."

Welsh pop-rockers Catatonia began their set after the rain started

that night. Singer Cerys Matthews, who wore an impractical short,

sparkly dress and high heels, gave the lobster joke a third telling.

Catatonia's music, fortunately, was original, whether old

("I Am the Mob") or new ("Dead From the Waist Down").

Sunday's headliners Blur also played a set that spanned their career.

Despite the Brit-pop band's mellower recent material (such as "Coffee & T.V."

and "Tender" from the 1999 album 13), singer Damon Albarn

seemed equally at home with the high-energy rock of "Advert," from

Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993).

"Damon looks really good up there ... especially when he does the

earlier stuff," fan Jo Clarke, 19, of the Midlands said.

But Clarke criticized Orton for "trying to be a rocker, swearing as

much as she could between songs, you know."

Monday boasted a lineup of heavy rock acts. The Offspring played

during the day, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined the main stage

with a set of recent hits, including "Scar Tissue" and the title track

(RealAudio excerpt)

from their recent Californication album. While the Chili Peppers

were playing, pop-rockers Mansun were on the second stage.

"Monday wasn't so relaxed as the rest of the weekend," Amy Drucker, 21,

of Manchester said, "because the bands were more serious in a way —

more rocky. But by the time the Chili Peppers came on, I was so

knackered I was hardly listening to the music. It's certainly been an

all-action weekend."