Glastonbury festival first night review: Superb Arctic Monkeys put on incredible show

The beauty of the Pilton pop festival is that there’s always something to pull you from the main drag

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The Independent Culture

Arctic Monkeys played a superb set to close the Pyramid stage on the first night of Glastonbury 2013.

Alex Turner and Co rose to the occasion and gave the kind of performance that justified their choice as headliners. Playing on a stage bathed in red and white light, strobes dramatically throwing in to the shadow the fans held aloft on their mates' shoulders, they showed the elder statesmen due to tread the same boards on Saturday that the youth can put on an incredible show too. The bounce around madness that greeted 'I bet that you look good on the dancefloor' was the highlight of the festival so far.

Rain on the Thursday threatened to put a dampener on Glastonbury 2013 before the first acts had even taken to the stage. But thankfully a shower-free start greeted the early birds that made their way to the Pyramid stage for the opening set of this year’s festival yesterday.

Dropped in at the last moment to replace Toumani Diabate, who was forced to withdraw with a bout of malaria, Jupiter & Okwess International played a superb set to start the festival proper. Their hypnotic, infective African beats were the perfect wake up call for the post-breakfast crowd who made the pilgrimage across the slick-mud site.

By the fourth track, proceeded by an empassioned speech in French from lead singer Jupiter – which sadly the majority of the crowd (me included) were unable to decipher – the Kinshasha-based band had won over everyone. The female singer duelled with the guitarist, her hips keeping time with his soaringly scales. And all the time the grey clouds which tried to gatecrash the party slowly seemed to make way for blue skies. They were an inspired choice of opening act, and by the time Okwess International finished their set the Pyramid arena was left with a sea of smiling faces.

The beauty of the Pilton pop festival is that with so many stages competing for your attention there’s always something to entice you away from the main drag. The Spirit of 71 stage threw just such a curveball in the shape of Gringo Ska, a tight five piece, from just down the road in Somerset. Their smiley, happy ska replete with soaring flute jamming alongside sax was the perfect lunchtime fodder. A smiling crowd made up of everyone from first-time festival teenagers to be-rucksacked pensioners gave them a glorious and fitting reception.

By the time man of the moment Jake Bugg took to the Pyramid stage the crowd stretched all the way up the hill to the camping grounds. A mass of humanity punctuated by banners and flags; smiley faces, skull and crossbones and various international flags, the massive crowd was probably the biggest Bugg has played. On the one hand it’s great to see a home grown singer/song writer take to the main stage, but personally his ballads seem to fall a little flat in such a large arena. The crowd’s polite applause seems to agree.

Next up was “Radioactive” singer Rita Ora. Sporting a sassy lipstick-red tasseled dress that left little to the imagination. Her brand of slick pop went down well with the mid-afternoon crowd. Ora’s accomplished performance must surely now have cemented her stature as the main British challenger to Rihanna’s R&B crown.

West Holts hosted the genius that is Tom Tom Club. A pathetically small crowd was there for the start of the set but thankfully it filled out as they rolled out the classics. “Genius Of Love” was an early highlight before “Wordy Rappinghood” set the arena alight. Talking Heads classic “Psycho Killer” was the standout track.

Over at the Pyramid stage Dizzee Rascal served up a perfect dollop of urban beats. Who said Glastonbury is all about guitar acts?

It was a perfect start to this year’s festival – fingers crossed the rain holds off for the rest of the weekend.