Glastonbury: Music, mud, MC Tinie – and Ken's cameo
U2 didn't quite live up to the hype, but Coldplay and urban music stars make up for it
Sunday 26 June 2011
"Glastonbury set to be scorching!" "Glastonbury set for muddy mayhem!" If weather predictions for this year's jamboree pinged across the meteorological spectrum, the general mood forecast was equally uncertain. After all, how could it match last year's sweltering and halcyon 40th anniversary? Factor in the grumbles over an unadventurous headliner bill, not to mention Michael Eavis's bizarrely humourless attack on cherished critter crew the Wombles, and anticipatory buzz was decidedly muted.
But enough of that. The mud, of course, did hit the fan(s), as sofa-bound watchers will have gleefully noted. However, come yesterday afternoon, the sun had got its hat on; revellers had got their shirts off and I had acquired a green hand print on my right cheek. And though the cumulative effect of the week's downpours means zombie-like lurching around the swampy site, no one has been deterred from having an uplifting time. Indeed, from piggybacking lads to kids in wheelbarrows and the usual stilt walkers, many have found crafty ways to avoid the earth beneath their feet (even as this less crafty type has only just about avoided breaking his ankle).
Thankfully, the musical performances have occupied more assured ground – not least Tinie Tempah, who warmed up the Pyramid Stage last night for the rock double header of Elbow and Coldplay.
Crowning a year in which he has become the toast of the Brits, the MC appeared on stage in a Spider-Man jacket: handy for those who might have thought him wanting in confidence.
Coldplay were watched by a better known rapper, however. Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé, looked on at what was their third headliner appearance,. "I hope everyone has a great time. I hope we fulfil some expectations" Chris Martin declared early on, with somewhat mechanical politeness. They didn't have to worry though: such is their enviable hit artillery, they're able to deploy signature song Yellow second in the setlist in the knowledge that there are plenty more where that came from.
Consider, also, the Glastonbury "moment" afforded blossoming dubstep diva Katy B in an absurdly overspilling East Dance tent on Friday evening and urban music has never felt more at home in the countryside.
Tempah also provided a gee-up after a day of woozier pleasures. At lunchtime yesterday, new hippies on the block Tame Impala were so sleepy-eyed that one of their guitarists still appeared to be wearing his polka-dot pajama bottoms. Nevertheless, the Australian band entranced with their swirling, meandering psychedelic rock-scapes, before things took a more ominous turn with the slow-release tension of their expert version of Massive Attack's menacing comedown standard "Angel".
Later on, Radio 2 favourite Rumer's easy listening pop floated on a breeze. "See, I can rock," she chuckled after one mildly less easy number; in truth, she doesn't need to, possessing as she does exquisite silken vocals and luxuriantly melodic songs that more than held their own against covers of Carole King and Gil Scott-Heron.
Best, though, was "slow motion dance" producer Nicolas Jaar. Ebbing and flowing with house beats, jazzy instrumentation and soaring soul samples, his set played out like one long phantasmagoria. The only dilemma was whether to dance, sway or, in the case of one punter, waggle a photo of Coronation Street's Ken.
Still, jubilation was in the air after a so-so Friday, for this reviewer at least. Despite the tidal waves of Bono-bashing in the lead-up to U2's festival debut, their set was controversially uncontroversial. And, for all their songs' evident bellowability, there were notable longueurs, including a counterintuitive encore featuring lesser-known tracks. Beforehand, Morrissey had been on assiduously aloof form – which might have been forgivable, had the music done the talking. As it was, his bountiful back catalogue was not best served by curiously clenched vocals and a plodding pace, not least on the Smiths classic "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out".
Other gripes? I've missed the kind of unadulterated pop highs so jubilantly proffered last year by Shakira, Scissor Sisters and Pet Shop Boys. That should be rectified by Ms Beyoncé, who brings proceedings to a close tonight, with rumours of a Destiny's Child stage reunion on the cards.
Though let's hope she can reveal some spontaneity beneath the superwoman façade: a singalong rendition of Wellybootylicious, perhaps?
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