Thursday, 1 July 2010

Glastonbury - my 'shocking ' review

The Glastonbury Festival of 2010 turned out to be a rather shocking event.

The first shock was that not only was there not a millimetre of rain (causing misery only to the many waterproof-sellers on site) but the heat was on from start to finish. Indeed, at times it was so hot that I am sure that on Saturday afternoon in particular that if the punters had been offered the choice of a miracle Beatles reunion or a ‘tad more shade’ many would have seriously opted for the latter.

The other big shock of course occurred on Sunday afternoon and had nothing to do with music. It was England’s abysmal capitulation to the Germans in the World Cup, a match watched by more than 50,000 of us concert-goers in a weekend where even in the Pilton fields you couldn’t truly escape the footie. We had already been warmed up (aha) by Dizzee Rascal’s Shout and the Lightning Seeds Three Lions on the previous days and everyone was in good spirits sensing England’s glory. Once again (of course) we were left high and dry but what makes Glastonbury so special is that once the final whistle had blown people just sighed, dressed themselves down and then went to hear the music again. No fights, no riots, no chaos.

England may have disappointed on the fields of South Africa but England was at its best in the fields of Pilton that afternoon.

So the sun and the football may have shocked us all but the one thing that stays the same is that the music at this most incredible of events never lets you down.Once again I was delighted to immerse myself in a sea of wonderful sounds and wonderful moments and this year I made sure I saw many acts that were well out of my comfort zone.

Of course when it comes down to it, it is always the headline acts on the biggest stage that define a festival and it is those sets that are remembered in the months, years and yes decades to come. And on this special occasion, to quote Meatloaf, ‘two out of three ain’t bad’.

First the (very) positive. Stevie Wonder charmed and delighted the audience with his warmth and warming Sunday night performance. This is a man who oozes charisma and has more tunes in his locker than England’s footballers have excuses and his performance will be remembered for its quality and professionalism. Long before he got to his expected Glastonbury Happy Birthday finale he had already ‘won’ the audience totally and the smile on his face mirrored tens of thousands in the audience. We often use the word ‘legend’ too glibly in music but this is a man that definitely deserves that title.

Saturday night’s headliners, Muse, are probably too young to be classed as legends but there is a good argument to say that their performance at Glastonbury could have legendary status. They were simply outstanding from start to finish and the power, passion and purpose they displayed was truly thrilling. Tunes such a Time is Running Out, Plug in Baby, Knights of Cydonia and Uprising were all dazzlingly good and when The Edge appraised for an impromptu version of Where The Streets Have No Name it as like the final glistening cherry on the top of an extraordinarily bountiful cake. It was THE great set of one great weekend.

As for the third headliners, The Gorillaz, well, the truth is despite deserving great credit for playing at short notice following U2’s withdrawal – and also managing to persuade stars of the calibre of Lou Reed to join them on stage – it just never quite clicked. They started promisingly enough but then went on to prove that it IS possible to be too eclectic and too diverse. The wide variety of their material meant it struggled to get any momentum and at times the audience seemed baffled. Yes, it was a brave and honest performance but – and it seems remarkable to say this considering it featured two members of the Clash and Blur’s front man – it was often a tad dull. For Gorillaz, read Gorillazzzzzz. Sorry.

Beyond the headline acts I saw many bands that excited and enthralled me. The National, America’s great Indie hope, produced a stunning set as did Manchester’s finest The Courteneers and my own fave raves The Stranglers but beyond my normal sphere, I absolutely loved Dizzee Rascal’s show, found my toe tapping throughout The Scissor Sisters (was that really Kylie up there?) and couldn’t resist the large slice of Snoop Dogg that was served up.

One thing that did make me smile about both the Rascal and the Dogg was their continued plea to the crowd of ‘make some noise’. Err, isn’t that their job?

So, that is just a bit of a snapshot of how I saw things but the great thing about Glastonbury is with 180,000 people there you will find 180,000 different experiences. And all will be equally valid. It is a festival like no other – an ell-embracing, feel good event where not even the need for Factor 100 sun cream or Matthew Upson can ruin your weekend.

So Glastonbury I salute thee again. And here is to the next 40 years.

Make some noise!

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