The 40th anniversary of Glastonbury was always going to be something special as over that time the festival has steadily grown into the epitome of British musical culture. For the first time in years, the sun shone brightly throughout the whole weekend and there was rarely a pair of wellies in sight!
The gates were opened on Wednesday and Thursday night saw the beginning of the bands. Being one of the only stages open, the audience for The Queen’s head was pretty big. The first band I saw was CHAPEL CLUB who fully engaged with the audience, unlike when they are playing to smaller crowds. The set was impressive and warmed the crowd up for THE CHEEK’s energetic and very impressive slot. The audience enjoyed songs such as ‘Just One Night’ and an electric cover of La Roux’s ‘In For The Kill.’
THE COURTEENERS kicked off my Friday, playing The Other Stage to a large audience. Opening on old favourite ‘Cavorting’, Fray’s set list did not disappoint, including the most energetic songs from both albums. ‘You Over Did It Doll’, ‘Bide Your Time’ and ‘What Took You So Long’ ensured that the audience’s attention did not drop for a second. The Pyramid stage presented some legendary figures this year, including the charismatic SNOOP DOGG. The rapper, effortlessly one of the coolest men in music, led the crowd in singing classics such as ‘Beautiful’, ‘Gangsta Luv’ and ‘Who Am I?’ Snoop then introduced TINIE TEMPAH onto the stage collaborating for the UK rapper’s ‘Pass Out.’
SNOOP DOGGS’s presence was felt again as he joined headliners GORILLAZ later on. Damon Albarn’s side project was filled with more special guests who recorded on all three of the albums. Without introduction LOU REED, SHAUN RIDER, KANO and MOS DEF were amongst the guests. The obvious enthusiasm of the performers, including ex-clash guitar heroes MICK JONES and PAUL SIMINON transformed the set into something quite special. However the main emphasis of the set was on new album ‘Plastic Beach’ which wasn’t what the majority of the audience wanted to hear as many were only able to join in with the more well known tracks such as ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ‘Dare.’
Special guests and surprise appearances were a big theme this year. One guest was THOM YORKE who was accompanied by RADIOHEAD guitarist JOHNNY GREENSAW on The Park stage. Yorke’s arrival was greeted thankfully by fans although his subtle and slow songs created a more melancholy atmosphere which could be translated as dull for the less ‘die hard’ fans.
To see Thom meant I missed FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE ’s set, making my discovery of SOPHIE HUNGER on Saturday morning even more exciting. Sophie claimed “I must be the most unknown person here” but her Florence-esque voice and slightly darker edge displays the talent of an upcoming star. The haunting ‘Leave Me With The Monkeys’ best demonstrated Sophie’s delicate vocals and beautiful lyricism.
Rumours of a SPECIALS reunion were rife at Glastonbury as Jerry Dammers, Neville Staple and a band Terry Hall often plays with all graced the festival. Although this never ensued, NEVILLE STAPLE treated the audience to the ska bands greatest hits. Possibly the nicest man in music, Staple exclaimed he was promoting his new material, but after one song he succumbed to the chants of “Rudeboy!” from the excitable crowd and proceeded the play almost every song that was shouted to him including ‘A Message To You, Rudy’, ‘Do The Dog’ and ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright.’ Staple then called on the DUB PISTOLS for an atmospheric rendition of ‘Gangsters.’
I can’t claim to be a big fan of THE NATIONAL and I wasn’t excited to be going to see them on Saturday afternoon; however the Brooklyn based band exceeded my expectations and effortlessly glided through their set which included the highlight ‘Fake Empire.’ Catching the end of MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS at the packed John Peel stage, I saw a performance that was passionate and energetic, as Marina Diamandis stormed through her number 5 album ‘The Family Jewels’ with tracks ‘I Am Not A Robot’ and ‘Are You Satisfied?.’ Marina’s vocals were consistently flawless which was demonstrated with a slowed down version of 3OH!3’s ‘Starstruck.’ Following this would be a hard job for many of bands, but of course FOALS were going to top the performance with ease. A mixture of ‘Antidotes’ hits including ‘Cassius’ and ‘Balloons’ with the critically acclaimed new album ‘Total Life Forever’ meant there was a perfect mixture of classics and newer tracks. Throughout the set, Yannis climbed the railings, jumped on amps and had to be wrestled out of the crowd by five of six security guards. That’s dedication.
The more relaxed sound of THE XX followed calming down the audience before the headliners. Although a good band with a couple of brilliant songs, they appeared a little monotonous as tracks seemed to blend into each other. The very chilled out vibe of the set was suddenly snapped as the audience wildly greeted FLORENCE WELCH who accompanied the band for their remix of ‘You’ve Got The Love.’
Arriving at the Pyramid stage shortly before the headliners arrived; the size of the audience displayed the huge expectation for MUSE. And they did not disappoint. The set began steadily with more slow songs; however the band built up to a fantastic climax playing ‘Black Holes and Revelations’, ‘Starlight’ and ‘Time is Running Out’ electrifying the huge audience. Returning to the stage for an encore with unexpected guest THE EDGE was one of the best kept secrets of the festival, unlike KYLIE’s cameo with SCISSOR SISTERS and BIFFY CLYRO’s advertised ‘secret’ show. The U2 guitarist created a magical rendition of the U2 classic ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ with Bellamy taking over vocals. MUSE closed day two with ‘Knights of Cydonia’ and a mass crowd sing along.
Sunday saw PALOMA FAITH take to the Pyramid stage in a white jump-suit and a very large balloon. The quirky singer displayed a huge talent for live performance as she brought her album ‘Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?’ to life. Faith urged her audience to watch headliner STEVIE WONDER later on and paid tribute to the legend breaking out in her own very impressive rendition of ‘Superstition’ halfway through ‘Stone Cold Sober.’
The highlight of my whole weekend was RAY DAVIES’ immense performance. The singer played at the very first Glastonbury in 1970 with THE KINKS, which demonstrates his song writing genius as all his songs are still so relevant and touching today. Davies got the crowd dancing through anthems ‘Victoria’, ‘Lola’ and ‘You Really Got Me.’ Solo material was also heard including ‘The Woking Man’s Cafe’ but unlike so many other bands playing newer songs the audience’s fixed gaze on the inspirational man did not once waver. RAY DAVIES closed his set with a beautiful rendition of ‘Waterloo Sunset’ followed by bittersweet classic ‘Days’ in tribute to Kinks bassist Pete Quaife who sadly passed away this week.
A quick change of stage then led me to the American duo WE ARE SCIENTISTS. Unfortunately I only saw half of the performance, which had managed to lift the spirits of a heartbroken audience following the news of England’s World Cup loss, so their talent speaks for itself. The pair bantered with the crowd through their set, closing their set wisely ignoring ‘Goal England’ for the brilliant ‘After Hours.’ The Brooklyn built up the audience for following act MGMT, who, despite drawing a crowd expecting something electric, left them disappointed. There was a sense that the duo were holding back, as their set lacked energy, excitement and created no atmosphere. Things livened up slightly for ‘Kids’ and ‘Time to Pretend’ but many of the audience drifted away disappointed.
Disappointment did not remain at the festival long, as STEVIE WONDER gave a phenomenal close to weekend. The soul legend played hit after hit from his impressive back catalogue and had the audience screaming back his lyrics at every song. At one point in the set Wonder swallowed helium and proceeded to give a comical performance of ‘Fingertips.’ The night, and in fact Glastonbury 2010, came to a close with a spine tingling rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ sang to Michael Eavis who joined him on stage.
It’s easy to see why so many people who go to Glastonbury once end up returning every year afterwards. The festival is unique; it offers something for everyone and there is a huge sense of individual freedom. Glastonbury 2011 tickets are likely to be on sale around October but you can register for sales now.