Glastonbury Festival, Worthy Farm, Somerset

Blur’s tearful, triumphant return makes this good festival a great one

When Damon Albarn starts to grin five songs into their great Glastonbury comeback, Blur start to look like a band again. And when he breaks down weeping near the end, you know how much it meant. "Beetlebum" is the song where Albarn's errant guitarist and childhood friend Graham Coxon fizzes up his effects pedals, bassist Alex James starts to spin, fag dangling, and you remember Blur were the 1990s' great psychedelic band.

When they begin with debut single "She's So High", by contrast, Albarn is glassy-eyed and pumped-up, and singing with the deep doom of Joy Division's Ian Curtis. "Tracy Jacks" is all throaty aggression, and you wonder if he'll really be able to sing at all. After "Beetlebum" clears his mind, though, he finds himself singing "Out of Time", about the awful 2003 split with Coxon, who is now playing it.

And during "Trim Trabb" it is Coxon, writhing on his back, who hilariously sheds his large inhibitions. When the vast crowd keep singing "Tender" after Blur have finished their own epic version, the band look at each other with happy wonder. Phil Daniels reappears for "Parklife", of course, with Albarn sprinting giddily as its defiantly lazy chorus is roared out again.

It is just before "This Is A Low", the best of Albarn's often deeply personal songs, that he sits on the stage and weeps, utterly overcome by all the times that have just been unstopped. Getting up to sing it is almost heroic.

Sunday builds slowly to this crescendo, with the day's traditional, jokily received old-timers, led by orange-skinned, irrelevant Tom Jones. But a crowd still largely alert despite briefly drinking the festival dry of cider give more attention to Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O. Her psychedelic pixie dress and piercing screams don't concern her archetypal New York guitarist Nick Zimmer, whose vampiric pallor looks set to turn to ash in the sun. Amadou and Mariam meanwhile let Mali blues guitar snake out in gently winding shapes, and Madness, an English band almost as great as Blur, roll out their own warm, bonding pop.

Bruce Springsteen's marathon UK festival debut is the pre-Blur story. He walks on with superhuman confidence recalling Barack Obama's eerie ease. He has expensive cowboy boots for the Glastonbury mud, and changes guitars like F1 pit-stops. For an hour and fifteen minutes he ignores any idea of a "festival set", nervily playing no hits.

This lets you notice how camp "Outlaw Pete" is, and his ironic testifying style, where once he preached with halting honesty. "We want to build a house, here on this field!" is also an unfortunate metaphor which may have Michael Eavis reaching for his shotgun. But then he breaks the hit floodgates with "Because the Night", as the dark falls on a relieved crowd.

Bush protest "Lonesome Day" has the platitudes of an observer, not the personally desperate edge of 1978's gasped "Promised Land". But "The Rising"'s fireman whose horizon folds under the Twin Towers is powerfully followed by "Born to Run"'s wide-open future. By "Glory Days", everyone around me is spontaneously dancing to rock'n'roll, which is what it was for when Bruce Springsteen was young. But the E Street Band sound stiff compared to Blur.

Dizzee Rascal is a weekend hits, proving how trumped up last year's Jay-Z controversy was. "Sirens"' inner-city estate pursuit is incongruously exciting in a field where the question "Where's all the G's [gangsters]?" causes shifting feet. Dizzee lets DJ Semtex play "Thriller" through as his Jackson tribute. There's no gap in the relentless fun this worldly Bow pop star gives.

Nearby, you can for once say the same for Pete Doherty. He can't quite run the pro-pop band he's been handed by his label, but he has a ragged charm that can't be corralled. Florence and the Machine is visibly moved at the acceptance of a crowd spilling well outside the John Peel tent, and Emmy the Great, with folky variety recalling Sufjan Stevens, is equally striking.

But is Blur, and Damon Albarn's tearful wrestling with his own Glastonbury moment, that makes this year's festival great.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn