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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

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

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape