First Night: Glastonbury Festival, Pilton, Somerset

3.00

Old-timer starts off at a leisurely pace as the temperature rises

Forty years is a long time in showbusiness. You might lack the edge once defining you among your peers, have grown by a couple of sizes and always play safe with your material, but you still know how to beguile, charm and captivate a crowd.

By Thursday afternoon, anticipation among thousands of revellers coursing into Glastonbury's 1,000-acre site in Pilton, Somerset, was reflected in the film of sweat on people's faces. England's football win, followed by predictions of a mostly rain-free festival, meant almost two-thirds of the 150,000 expected to attend had arrived by 2pm.

Temperatures reached 25C as men swapped England football strips for bare chests, their flesh soon reddened by the sun. Girls opted for bikini tops and hot-pants and the obligatory Hunter wellies. From the back, crowds appeared as a sea of tie-dyed head-scarves, bowler hats and trilbies flowing into endless channels of temporary shops selling fast-food, expensive beer and thrift-store clothing.

Such commercial nous is a far cry from Glastonbury's counter-cultural origins: beginning in 1970 as a gathering of 1,500 travellers fresh from a visit to Stonehenge paying £1 to see Marc Bolan. This year festival-goers stumped up £150 to marvel at headliners Gorillaz, Muse and Stevie Wonder – not exactly cutting-edge material, although Lou Reed may enliven proceedings on Friday, when he is due to share Gorillaz's stage. Whether that energy persists through Sir Ian McKellen and Kylie Minogue's rumoured appearance with Scissor Sisters the following day remains to be seen.

Musically, proceedings trotted off leisurely on Wednesday evening. The Green Fields saw Australian singer-songwriter Andrew Morris evoking David Gray, weaving into his act narratives inspired by his wedding and the story of a client encountered during his work as a criminal lawyer.

That goes for Josh Thorner, appearing on the Avalon stage on Thursday morning. While Thorner bears an enviable likeness to Samuel Preston from The Ordinary Boys, and the range, power and style of his vocals are to be envied, his lyrics – "I didn't come to start a war"; "I can't control how I feel about you" – would benefit from a more vivid imagination. Thankfully Vashti Anna, with her bluesy catharses of relationships and egos, glided in to inject a spot of class.

By mid-afternoon on Thursday, artists strode more surely. My Luminaries' symphonic alternative rock band attracted 2,000 sweltering punters to the Queen's Head stage before Howls, fronted by Stephen Fretwell, inspired restlessness in an audience eager for sunnier musical climes. Fretwell's set was overshadowed by the bouncing masses watching two hotly-tipped outfits, Two Door Cinema Club and Egyptian Hip Hop.

Then East London fivesome Chapel Club made their only festival appearance, marked by the intense vocals of lead singer Lewis Bowman carrying a set that included singles "Oh Maybe I" and "Surfacing".

The appeal of pop shows there is nothing wrong with sticking to what people know – indeed, Michael Eavis is an expert at it. On Wednesday evening, officials ignited one of Glastonbury's many traditions – a "wicker man" effigy next to Worthy Farm's famed Stone Circle. By this point the menhirs were already covered in a thick layer of carousing teenagers, and to the combined cheers of hundreds, smoke pulsed into the dusk.

At some points this humanoid pyre, with one arm held aloft and the other pointing down, resembled a dancer. At others, it could have passed for a celebrating footballer. Given the groaning of those watching England's match against Slovenia earlier that day, they're probably guilty of wishful thinking. Next up: Snoop Dogg, Dizzee Rascal, Gorillaz.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there