Glastonbury sees Gorillaz evolve into higher beings

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The Independent Culture

The members of virtual band Gorillaz – D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle – are conflicted beings. Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn's imagined narrative for the four piece – as seen in their music videos – shows them torn between their hedonistic urges and seeking spiritual meaning.

Gorillaz's latest album, Plastic Beach, takes the band to an isolated island in search of higher truth. The isle is a magical oasis, far away from home, glossy at first but with something sinister beneath the surface.

Albarn's headline appearance with Gorillaz at Glastonbury last night demolished the wall between the band's real and virtual worlds once and for all. Albarn's now obvious visibility in Gorillaz's live show is the next phase in the group's evolution; or at least Albarn's musical ambition now overshadows his characters.

That doesn't mean he can't put on a spectacle: his concept is still very much obvious alongside the music, paying tribute to its global appeal. From 10pm the former Blur front-man reprised the set which he so successfully showcased at the "Californian Glastonbury", Coachella, earlier this year. Very much a multi-media experience, projections, animations and pre-recorded videos featuring Snoop Dogg came and went. In the foreground two former members of The Clash, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones – still rocking the nautical look – moved like punk-ish spectres, while the star quotient was raised further when Lou Reed made an appearance later in the set. Given the ecstatic reception hits like "Stylo" and "On Melancholy Hill" received at Worthy Farm, the only place – at least critically – Albarn can go from here is the stratosphere.

Friday marked more than one musical journey. Rolf Harris wobbled on to the boards of the Pyramid Stage at 11am, enjoying the festival's first capacity crowd.

Acid house, peace and local county ensigns held aloft in the crowd heralded his arrival, while a delightfully incongruous hip-hop-inspired introduction made way for "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", along with an accordion, comic asides from the 80-year-old and several blasts of didgeridoo. Harris even tried beat-boxing with his emcee, BB Manic; the results, predictably, were captivating.

On the John Peel Stage, Detroit Social Club snarled out a tribute to Kasabian: guitar kerrangs and stadium-anthems-in-the-making abounded in tracks like "Sunshine People".

The tent covering this stage heated up throughout the day; it was no wonder that the festival saw 1,185 people require medical assistance during the day. Even the infectious, devilishly cool East-meets-West dance-pop of Miike Snow couldn't inject a chilled wind. Punters had to jostle for space to see the Swedes take off the white masks they wore while walking on stage, before they concluded with the four-on-the-floor ferality of their biggest hit, "Animal".

Afterwards, revellers made their way to the Pyramid Stage for the lead-up to the big show. Here, the Southern drawl of Willie Nelson rang out "Always on My Mind", while Vampire Weekend vaunted the singles from their January album, Contra, shortly before an admirably energetic Dizzee Rascal waded through the heat – performing "Dance Wiv Me" and "You Got The Dirtee Love" with Florence Welch. Simultaneously, Thom Yorke was making a surprise appearance at The Park Stage.

The jury is still out over which dimension Albarn will end up in next year – if the satisfied burr emanating from the audience last night is anything to go by, it doesn't really matter.