Friday, 1 July 2011

Handing out my 'Glasto's

Long after the mud stains have disappeared from the clothes, tents and bodies of nearly 200,000 Glastonbury revellers, it is the quality of the music that will give people the best barometer of how good this year's fun in the (sometimes) sun really was.

There is no doubt that those bizarre weather conditions will still be fresh in the mind of the many people back in their homes and offices this week after their trek to Pilton, but at the end of the day it's the music that counts.

So, how good was it?

To answer that, I hereby present the Bath Chronicle 'Glastos' – my awards for the good, the bad and I suppose the muddy of the whole weekend …

Best performance: It has to be the queen of r 'n' b, Beyonce. The beauty of Glastonbury is that you go and see acts you would never dream of buying tickets for but something compelled me to watch Beyonce even though she's a million miles away from my own musical taste.
And I'm so glad I did.
She looked and sounded stunning and her stage show, her superb all-female band and just the general feel and quality of her performance put her in a difference league to everything else over the weekend.
And, despite the fact that she's been showered with awards and played many, many high profile concerts/events, there was a real sincerity about the way she talked about how happy she was to be there. She made you believe in her and her music. It was some show.

Best song: Fix You by Coldplay. This was an incredibly moving and beautifully staged moment at the end of Coldplay's stylish set where they had dared to play new, first-time material alongside the obvious crowd pleasers. Fix You is an amazingly emotional song and Chris Martin rung every note of passion out of it in a towering performance of the song. The delicious Viva La Vida wasn't far behind either. People were still collectively singing that an hour after Coldplay had left the arena which says it all.

The great but maybe not so great as expected award: U2. I'd secretly believed that U2 would absolutely take the festival by storm and my expectations for them were probably, therefore, unrealistically high.
They certainly turned in a strong and powerful set and it was wonderful to hear a classic old track like Out Of Control in among the hits but maybe because the rain was driving down throughout their performance and the mud was rising to the top of the wellies, the audience just didn't react in quite the ecstatic way I was expecting. And I think U2 sensed that.
It was a great show, don't get me wrong, but I had privately thought U2 would simply rip the place apart and no-one would be talking about any other set. It didn't quite work out that way sadly.

Unexpected treat: I would give this to a band called Two Door Cinema Club. They may have one of the silliest names in music but like many people I was totally wowed by their performance early on Friday morning on The Pyramid Stage. They were simply excellent.

Worst kept secret: Every year two special 'secret' guests appear on The Park Stage which is something of a hike from the main Pyramid arena. It is, therefore, rather a gamble about whether it's worth it. This year the 'secret' performance was announced on NME and everywhere else a few hours before and because it was Radiohead, thousands of people (like me) decided to walk through a sea of mud to see them.
I say 'see them' but the truth is the vast majority of us didn't get to do so because so many people wanted to see the, ahem, secret' show. Not only did I not see them but I couldn't hear them either when I eventually got there because the sound was so terrible. Not fun.

Worst rumour: All day on Sunday people were saying that Beyonce would be joined on stage by everyone from Jay-Z and Kanye West to Destiny's Child and President Obama. In the end none of it was true – the only one to appear somewhat pointlessly was Tricky. Distinctly under-whelming.
The 'has he really played that many gigs?' award: BB King. According to the literature, BB – who played a lovely, luxurious Friday afternoon set, has played 15,000 gigs in his career. He may be older than God but I still think that might be something of an exaggeration because even if he had played a concert every single day for the past 40 years, it still wouldn't be enough. Of course if you have seen all 15,000, then I'd be delighted to hear from you….

Nicest tribute: The normally excellent Gaslight Anthem, who were somewhat hampered by a poor sound on Saturday lunchtime, still deserve major credit for coming on stage to the sax solo from the Springsteen song Jungleland. This was the finest recorded moment by Clarence Clemons who sadly lost his life last week. Poignant.

Best Mel Brooks lookalike award: Paul Simon. After a somewhat mixed set – his African-inspired tunes were certainly better than some of his other rather too laid-back solo work – the thing I will remember most about seeing Mr Simon is how much he now looks like the man behind Blazing Saddles. Are they perhaps related?

Best Fight: The beauty of Glastonbury is even with that many people in the crowd, signs of aggression are as rare as unicorns. And yet who needs crowd trouble when you have Plan B? They finished their punchy set with a punchy finale as they staged a mock fight which was a bit livelier than it might have been. Arrest those men, GreenPolice!

Most irritatingly overused name award: Alan. People always lose each other at Glastonbury and you can often hear people shouting for their friends.
Every time someone did this at the weekend it was hijacked by everyone else shouting for Alan, which after initially being very funny, after the 50th time, made you want to smack the first Alan you met.

So, there you have it, my first 'Glastos' to celebrate a great Glasto. It was an event I thoroughly enjoyed not least because, for once, I think all three headliners deserved their elevated slots. After this tickets for the next Glastonbury (2013) will be as eagerly sought after as Alan.
Sam Holliday

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