Glastonbury 2003, Worthy Farm, Somerset

Relaxed Cerys puts trauma behind her to serenade loyal fans
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The Independent Culture

"I'm going where the chilly winds don't blow,'' began Cerys Matthews as her throaty message cut through the stifling heat of Glastonbury's Acoustic Tent yesterday.

Matthews had been at the festival before, during her five years as lead singer of the Welsh band Catatonia, but this was a different performer.

She went to Nashville, Tennessee, to record her well-received new album Cockahoop and reinvented herself as a country and western singer.

The Glastonbury crowd welcomed her warmly and, though the Acoustic Tent may have been suitable in musical terms, it had nowhere near the capacity to cope with the demand.

Matthews, who is pregnant, was dressed simply in a black T-shirt for her last performance in Britain before returning to America. With backing from a five-strong American band, it wasn't a wholly acoustic set, but the sound was suitably raw, aided by a vocal performance that was sensitive and brassy.

Matthews moved easily from traditional Welsh songs learnt at her grandmother's knee to the country sound of West Virginia. And the singer, whose experiences with Catatonia were often as traumatic as they were triumphant, appears to have benefited from going to America.

Welsh flags were in evidence and nobody seemed to mind Matthews' transatlantic twang. "Listen to my American accent,'' she said: "Ain't it good!'' The revitalised singer appeared happy and at ease, seemingly full of energy - a far cry from the disenchanted figure who quit Catatonia in 2001.

Not everyone was wholly convinced of the merits of Matthews' transformation. "Country and western, Cerys. Eh?'' sniffed one festivalgoer to her friends as she joined a minority of the audience who left the performance early, possibly because of the unforgiving temperature inside the tent as much as over the radical change in the singer's musical style.

Matthews was preceded on stage by Roddy Frame, who found fame as the frontman for the 1980s band Aztec Camera.

With the late afternoon sun beating down on Worthy Farm, casualties of three days of revelries littered the grassy floor of the Acoustic Tent. But Frame's gentle lullabies eased them into an even deeper slumber.

Those lucky enough still to have their senses about them were treated to something special. Though he appears to have defied the ageing process, Frame has been in the business for at least 20 years and is an accomplished and confident musician.

Clearly relaxed in the surroundings, the 60-year-old he offered a combination of songs from the Aztec Camera back catalogue and solo material, providing a lyrical mix of gritty reality and dreamy sentimentalism. His set seemed to encapsulate what was described yesterday by Michael Eavis, who organised the festival, as the best Glastonbury.

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