Glastonbury not so middle-aged as teens throng sun-baked festival
Monday 28 June 2010
"Michael Stipe once said you shouldn't wear sunglasses on stage because it demonstrates disrespect for your audience," said Matt Berninger, lead singer of Brooklyn-based rockers The National. "But the sun is shining into my eyes and is burning my corneas." If anything defined this year's Glastonbury, it was the heat. Dry, uncompromising, and painfully affecting. The same, of course, could be said for Berninger's music.
After four days of constant walking, scorching and an inadvisably-low intake of fluids, the festival drifted into a haze. The temperatures forced punters to jostle for rare patches of shade, seek treatment for heat stroke, and enjoy music when they could.
Like the English football team, whose schizophrenic performances bookended the festival, the music had trouble performing when it needed to. Gorillaz, after a promising start, could not keep up a crowd buoyed by Dizzee Rascal's infectious energy. Followed as it was by exalted music-makers Bobby Womack and Lou Reed, it was all a little sophisticated. While some watched Gorillaz agog, most others battled flat-lining attention spans.
Similarly Muse. Lead singer Matt Bellamy has never hidden his love of Fortean Times-inspired trivia teleported in from the cosmos. The band's increasingly concept-rich conceits make them less appropriate headliners than they once were. Their music, homogenised by Bellamy's incessant noodling, lacks the stand-out tracks that propelled them into the stratosphere here six years ago. It was left to Stevie Wonder to bring things back from the brink, closing the festival with singalongs, saucy badinage and neverending hits, beginning with Michael Jackson tribute 'Break of Dawn' andhis own classic 'If you really love me'.
Much of the rest was triumphant, and fun, and slid speedily across the musical bases: huge amounts to see, but notables like Florence, the XX and Grizzly Bear gracing the more indie-oriented stages; Rob da Bank, Chase and Status and Fatboy Slim occupied the dance-slanted nooks. Femi Kuti and Dr John loomed over West Holts, formerly the Jazz/World stage, a musical mile from what people "really, really want": Kylie, Julian Casablancas, the Pet Shop Boys. Such breadth appeased any "tribes" represented.
Recent nay-saying that the festival neglects the young is insane. Teens were the most visible age-bracket on site. Boys wore Breton stripes, short shorts and head-scarves for the heat; short dresses for girls, the braver opting for jumpsuits and bikinis.
Away from the main stages, The Park, an addition overseen by Michael Eavis's daughter Emily, brought calm sophistication in the form of teacakes and a Helter-Skelter watch-tower with exquisite views. Those craving a harder edge skipped to Shangri-La come night fall, where mini-arenas inspired by Blade Runner pumped out drum and bass until dawn. Those still on their feet hiked to Worthy Farm's hills, where people freely distributed incoherent murmurs and chemical catalysis.
Then, another sunrise, another rapid increase in temperature. Such heat comes rarely; memories of it will take longer to evaporate.
Scissor Sister Ana Matronic introduced her as "a lucky member of the audience" who had been invited on to the Pyramid Stage. Five years after pulling out of the festival when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Kylie bounced on to the biggest roar of the weekend. She didn't hog the limelight but ultimately eclipsed the New Yorkers.
A defining moment of the festival: the U2 guitarist (his band knocked off the bill because of Bono's spine operation) joined Muse on Saturday night for a rendition of "Where the Streets Have No Name", which seized the crowd. Thrilling. As for Muse, when your highlight is a 23-year-old cover...
The "special guest" rumour slot turned out to be half of Radiohead – Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood. They played Yorke's solo work, Radiohead classics like "Karma Police" and closed with a version of "Street Spirit" as the sun set.
Glastonbury's investment in rap seems to be paying off after the criticism that accompanied Jay-Z's billing two years ago. Snoop Dogg upped the gangster rating with tracks like "Bitch Please" and questions to the audience such as "Who likes smoking weed?"
Belted through a back catalogue ("Underneath Your Clothes", "She Wolf", "Whenever, Wherever") to the ecstasy of her many female followers. Their boyfriends, reluctantly dragged along, perked up when the Colombian began moving her hips. Was wearing more clothes than most in the crowd.
He's 77, he has shoulder-length hair, a Stetson and shades, and a mellow voice that pushed out 30 sings in an hour, among them "Whiskey River", "Crazy" and "Good Hearted Woman". He and the crowd fought back tears as he crooned "Always On My Mind".
A man went down on one knee at the front during folk artist Laura Marling's set, at the end of "Blackberry Stone" ("I whisper that I love this man..."). Marling told the crowd: "I don't know if you saw, but someone just proposed and got a good answer."
The diary of Victoria Iremonger, 30, from Boston, Lincs. Wed: get to Glasto, waters break, doctors refuse to let baby be born in field. Thurs: Reuben born at Yeovil Hospital. Fri: Back to the festival, with Reuben.
Careful what you wish for. The customary deluge and mudbaths never appeared; instead, there was patchy, sunburnt flesh. Like a Hieronymus Bosch painting, but with expensive bottled water. Medics treated almost 3,000 for sunstroke.
During gorillaz's Friday-night set a bawdy audience member climbed on top of a wooden trellis and stripped, baring first his bottom and then his frontal jewels. The audience reacted unkindly, pelting him with bottles.
Culture Club: What did you think of this year's Glastonbury? The annual music festival which featured Gorillaz, Dizzee Rascal, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder and Muse. Please post your reviews below in 50 words or more.
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