Glastonbury round-up Part II

Anthony Thornton
Thursday 03 July 1997 23:02

At first sight, people struggling out of their mud-drenched tents had little to excite their imagination beyond The Prodigy and Radiohead; however, there were gems to be found in among the dirt at Glastonbury.

Echo and the Bunnymen formed two decades ago and dissolved in a morass of recriminations and ill-advised Doors covers and along the way just missed being the biggest band in the world. Most people tramped out to the main stage for reasons of nostalgia, only to discover they were as good as ever. Even the inclusion of a Jim Morrison-style indulgent medley/poetry section could not destroy the majesty of "Do It Clean". It was a title wholly inappropriate for the Somme-like conditions; muddy brilliant all the same, though.

The first bit of blue sky was ushered in by Beck at the start of a carefully choreographed display of what sounded rudely ramshackle. Spouting lyrics that could have come from one of the babbling fools wandering around the Glastonbury market place, his seamless collision of a million disparate musical styles served as a entrancing microcosm of the festival.

Supergrass benefited from a lack of horn section, giving them an edgier sound than recent gigs, even if during "Going Out" we are subjected to the sight of two grown men humming a trumpet solo and hoping no one noticed.

The effervescent Super Furry Animals acted as musical Alka Seltzer to a second stage crammed with second-division indie bands suffering from an aching Radiohead hangover. Singer Gruff has a playful Lennonesque handle on lyrics that clatter with the originality and ambition which their peers seem unable to even dream of.

Sunday is traditionally singer/songwriter day. This year, with the inclusion of Sheryl Crow, Van Morrison and Sting they couldn't have sent out a clearer signal to the under-thirties revellers if they'd draped the main stage with a sign bearing the words: "Please Go Home". And thus they achieved what torrential rain and deep mud could not.

Sheryl Crow appeared in an immaculate cowboy outfit with a set that sounded like one of those Seventies rock compilations sold in motorway service stations for pounds 2.99. Perfect driving music. Perfect for driving people into the dance tent.

A newly cropped and be-vested Sting performed an accomplished set from his back catalogue while looking distinctly like Bruce Willis in Die Hard. He then out-weirded even the strangest events in the New Age tent by garnishing the Police pop classic "Roxanne" with a trombone solo so incongruous that the only possible explanation is that a rogue brass player had burst upon the stage.

In two years, Kula Shaker have gone from pubs to mystery headliners and it's easy to see why. They are well-groomed thoroughbreds eager to assume their rightful position in the rock family tree; nestling between George Harrison and Deep Purple. But all this blustering and jumping left us feeling in need of something a little less well-drilled.

This was provided by Ash's aggressively dark set. The uncompromising performance was at odds with the sparkling pop arrangements of their debut album with only the melancholy of "Goldfinger" hinting at the multi-layered songwriting ability of Tim Wheeler. Sadly, their introverted riffing suffered from a lack of roof and a lack of audience as the mud-dwellers scurried home to avoid the rush as Glastonbury drew to a close.

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