Glastonbury: Fire burns bright as husband and wife team light up festival

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The Independent Culture

As far as meeters and greeters go, the gateman at the Glastonbury Festival yesterday was hardly from the Hi-de-Hi school.

"The site is flooded," he announced solemnly at the perimeter fence. "If you've got wellies, put them on now.'' Those who ignored him did so at their peril, such as one male fashion victim in flip-flops who quickly found himself shin deep in a thick brown soup.

The festival organisers had said they were looking forward to the rain, in order to test out their newly fitted drainage system, which clearly failed to live up to expectations.

But, hell, the mud is what Glastonbury is all about, isn't it? And the weather forecasters had given plenty of warning. But soon the mud was nearly a fluid dance floor to splash around in.

The Coral took to the Other Stage just as the early evening sun was shining through the whispy clouds, the perfect Glastonbury time of day. The prevailing mood at the festival this year is even more relaxed than usual, probably because record numbers arrived early, with the site filled to 50 per cent capacity by Wednesday.

Crime figures, dutifully posted outside the Glastonbury press tent, bore this out. By yesterday only 13 thefts had been reported from tents and a mere 12 people attempted to break through the perimeter fence, a far cry from the days when festival-goers were terrorised by rampaging gangs.

The atmosphere was summed up on the Jazz World Stage when Suggs, of Madness, stepped forward to sing "Love Is In the Air''. His efforts were rewarded with the first sunshine of the day.

On the main Pyramid Stage last night, Scotland's The Fratellis drew a huge crowd, attracted by their glowing reputation as one of Britain's fastest-rising young bands and a raft of anthemic hits such as "Flathead", "Chelsea Dagger", "Henrietta" and "Whistle for the Choir" that seemed perfect for Glastonbury.

Their progress has been extraordinary since they played their first gig in O'Henry's bar in Glasgow just over two years ago, and their debut album, Costello Music, reached No 2 in the album charts. Though they will have learnt from playing in front of a vast throng, their performance never quite reached expectations and will be unlikely to take a place in Glastonbury folklore.

For many, the band that really caught light were Montreal's Arcade Fire, a whirlwind of activity on the Other Stage, combining guitar and drums with strings, organ and accordion. They opened with "Black Mirror", a single from their second album, Neon Bible, which reached No 2 in the UK.

Led by the husband and wife team Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, Arcade Fire came onto the stage as a red sunset lit the sky and then, as darkness fell, they were bathed in a scarlet light show, running through hits from their debut album, Funeral - most spectacularly the track "Rebellion (Lies)". That album, with other hits including "Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)" and "Wake Up", won them the admiration of celebrity fans from David Bowie to David Letterman.

But yesterday, on a cool June night at the world's most famous music festival, Arcade Fire gave the impression that the pleasure was all theirs, with Butler coming to the microphone to say: "We are just real happy to be here - thank you all so much for watching.''