Late start due to catastrophic/lulsy/bewildering/unknown events of the previous night and a return to the acoustic tent. Quite a bit better than Jason Mraz, but it’s all a bit advertish, isn’t it? I don’t know whether that’s whether because the music has an inherent quality that makes it sound like it belongs in the Sims building menu, or whether it’s just because it’s been appropriated by so many Ikea adverts or whatever. It doesn’t really matter. It’s quite a bit better than Jason Mraz. Quite a bit.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Other Stage
Somehow turned up to this late despite intending to and arriving in time for it (did anyone else? Was it pushed forward or something?), so missed the first quarter or of the gig. Bummer.
But they put on a good show of what I did see. Karen O is dressed as extravagantly as ever, wearing what appears to be the deranged fusion of an overly enthusiastic pre-school teacher and a Sioux Indian Chief, which of course, is a look only she can pull off. Whilst she stomps around stage to the New Wave strutter of Zero, a massive inflatable eye is released into the crowd and mysteriously disappears…somewhere. And guitarist Nick Zinner yanks a handheld camera that is suspended from the roof of the stage on a piece of elastic, and records the crowd, the other band members, and whatever really…it’s quite a bizarre spectacle.
After storming through the fan-favourites of Zero and Turn Into, the gig hits a slight bump as a couple of slower songs are rolled out, not necessarily weaker songs, Skeletons and Soft Shock are perfectly nice songs, but they lack that festival feel and being new had little sway on the audience like, say, Maps did. I’ll admit to yawning and feeling the eyelids droop a little during the Celtic melodies of Skeletons, more down to the escapades of the night before and being at the end of a very long, very eventful week more than anything, but still, performers should bare such things in mind when they’re playing the last day of a festival, right? Especially a band as riotous and raw as The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Still, the performance ends on a high, brought back to life by a skilled exhibition of the many sides of the band. In a four song flurry we get glittering New Wave pop, grimy, punkish garage rock and bittersweet post-punk. As the distorted reverberations of Date With The Night, a song much better suited for a bleary eyed festival Sunday, I surge forward for another female songsmith who’s going to look strangely under dressed in the wake of Karen O.
Bat for Lashes – Other Stage
Right at the front for this one, thanks to my awful timekeeping, my self-awareness, reserved, English nature and the crushing sense of guilt that I get from barging past people at gigs (probably the hair), it was probably my first time at the very front of any gig. So front and centre that I appeared on television coverage of the set, according to friends watching at home, not me, obviously.
Anyway, despite having some of the best seats in the house, I was disappointed by Bat for Lashes, again. I saw her (nearly) exactly a year ago in support of Radiohead at Victoria Park. The large, outdoor, festival stage didn’t suit her introverted, delicate sound then and it doesn’t suit it now.
A few of her bigger anthems get the crowd bumping along nicely, Glass, Horse and I and Daniel all do a decent job of involving the audience and it’s all very nice on the ears, but at a festival you always need something more than that to make the blisters, sore eyes and below satisfactory hygiene conditions worthwhile.
Essentially, Bat for Lashes is headphone music for night-time listening. The imagery she crafts in her music is all very involving and vivid when you’re sat at home, but in a huge field, it’s alienating, even if you are on the front row. I’m sure she’s great at the Hammersmith Apollo or whatever; I hope I get the chance to find out, but it’s two from two on the disappointment front so far. Merely Ok, rather than great. Which is a shame when you love her music as I do.
Another break, another failed attempt to get into the JazzWorld field. This time it was crowded out by Roots Manuva, someone I’d wanted to see with a little more earnestness than Rolf Harris. Disappointing. Glastonbury organisers: sort it for next year, yeah?
After some more lulsy liaisons around the now infamous Orange Chill’n’Charge tent, I go to the Pyramid stage for the final time.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Pyramid Stage
Once again I found myself in front of the pyramid stage after failing to get elsewhere. I wonder how much of the stage’s audience over the weekend are only there for similar reasons?
Not a huge fan of Nick Cave, really. I’ve always found his lyrical style a little…rambling and overly verbose, but I had to be near the front for Blur who were the band to see, for me at least.
I eeek my way forward in the crowd, my previous good-manner nature is fading away as, quite frankly, I’m going to be on my way home in less than 24 hours and I’m never going to see any of these people again – at least no until next year. My Glastonbury goodwill is fading away.
Perched just behind the anti-crush barrier, I have my first celebrity encounter of the week; as I turn around to judge the number of losers standing behind me, I double-take and realise that none other than (former) Countdown math supremo Carol Vorderman is behind me. Holy shit! Does it get bigger than that?
Carol Vorderman. A Nick Cave fan, or at least a Blur fan wanting to be near the front. Who’d of thought it? I always had her down as the sort of achingly upper-middle classed type who only listens to Vivaldi and The Beatles.
Amazing. Nick Cave finishes his set and I’m still star struck.
Blur – Pyramid Stage
Ok, here we go, the main event. Let me start, as I have done with most of this sham of a ‘review’, with something largely unrelated to the performance. I wasn’t the only one excited at the prospect of Blur, nor was I the only one whose Glastonbury spirit was waning. I wasn’t really around when the band were at the peak of their popularity during the whole Oasis beef, though the video for Coffee and TV was one of my first memories of being enthralled by a music video – behind Thriller, obviously – and the Gorillaz would be amongst the first wave of bands that I would appropriate to forge some sort of identity at secondary school as younger teenagers are wont to do. Being more familiar with the ‘artier’, pre and post-millennial stages of the band, I was a little shocked at the clientele that were being drawn to the Pyramid Stage for this last hurrah. I’m not too much of a snob, but, at least in my part of the crowd, the people were not your typical Glastonbury punters. Infact I hadn’t seen any of these kind people for the past five days. More Daily Sport than Guardian, polo-shirts, casual racism -a little bit, maybe – beer rather than cider and chucking bottles of what I sincerely hoped was water, or, in a worse case scenario, lemonade.
Presumably these were the children of Brit-Pop, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. I just always imagined that the Blur crowd would be a bit more erudite and bourgeois; these were the people that Pulp rallied against in Mis-shapes. This isn’t what I expected. This was more like what I would imagine an Oasis crowd would be like, not a Blur crowd. Not the Blur that went to Goldsmiths, that wrote Caramel and whose members have since moved on from mere pop music to become Labour Party candidates, connoisseur cheese farmers, write operas based on ancient Chinese mythology and wear thick-rimmed spectacles.
Regardless, these big and intimidating people were pushing me to the front. In a way, it was the perfect situation. As I rammed into Nick Cave fans attempting to leave or trampled over others attempting to the front, I could earnestly smile, flash my eyebrows, mumble ‘sorry’ , nod my head and roll my eyes back at the lads on tour that were pushing me through. They weren’t going to protest too much, really.
After riding the crowd surge forward I found myself very near the front and at the centre. Excellent. The moral of this story: Burly, middle-aged, thugs can be used to gain preferential positions at gigs for 90s Britpop bands!
During a pre-kick off crush which I was certain that someone was going to get trampled to death in – a girl did throw up over herself, but that was it – I had my second, and last, celebrity encounter of the week, none other than famous children’s television entertainer Richard McCourt! I wasn’t surprised that he was a Blur fan, really. I could see it in his eyes during all those episodes of Dick’n’Dom In Da Bungalow.
So, the music…as you already know, the gig was amazing, magical, thrilling, the best Glastonbury headliners in years etc etc. I can’t really add much beyond that. It was pretty, pretty, pretty good. Apart from a brief wander into territory too ‘arty’ and too obscure with Popscene and Advert, during which my mind would wander during a lesser gig, but in this instance I merely used to have a breather, it was a perfect setlist. All the hits from all periods of the band’s existence, everything from There’s No Other Way all the way through to Out of Time. The band indulged in all aspects of their career, even Country House got a run out, a song that the band had less than kind feelings towards in their later iterations, much to the crowd’s delight.
The highlight, though? Despite the presence of blockbuster, band and era defining hits like The Universal, Song 2 and a Phil Daniels backed Parklife, and, despite being sandwiched between the heavyweights of Country House and Coffee and TV, the surprise highlight was Tender, which enjoyed a spontaneous extension of the song’s closing refrain from a crowd that was now eating from the palm of Blur’s hand. A song that had never really clicked before tonight and was never a big hit on its release; the band too seemed taken aback and Damon in particular seemed overwhelmed. The sense of occasion was palpable; you could tell there and then that this would be the soundbite, the image that would be used to sum up this year’s Glastonbury.
I guess that’s what makes festivals, or at least, festivals like Glastonbury, so special. They’re spontaneous, slightly anarchic and always exceeding expectations. In retrospect, it made sense that such a bleary eyed, reflective and liberally refrained (Come on, come on, come, come/oh my baby, oh my baby. Oh why? Oh my!…etc) should be the anthem for the closing credits of a memorable festival as darkness descended over Glastonbury for a final time. It was the right song at the right time. Such a well timed execution was a lesson that many of the performers over the weekend would do well to learn and exploit, many tried, but Blur nailed it.
The gig didn’t peter out after that, of course. Blur were spectacular for the second half of the gig too, but it’s well, all a bit of a blur after that (sorry). There was a lot of moshing, a lot of singing at the top of your lungs and then the dream like amble back to your tent, smiling at strangers in the darkness and humming half-remembered melodies to yourself like a drunk (I wasn’t drunk). Therein lays the irony of going to such events; people will always slightly patronise you, harassing you to go, telling you rather vaguely and wankily that you have to be there to truly ‘experience’ the ‘feel’ and ‘spirit’ of the place but, when you do go, the memories will usually be too intense, too vivid to really survive in any salvageable sense once you’re back in the real world. Infact, they’ll probably have completely faded by the time you awake for that depressing Monday morning start where the tents are being packed away, litter is strewn everywhere and the muddy quagmire doesn’t look quite as ‘romantic’ as it did last afternoon.
I couldn’t have written any of these pieces without the help of aide memoirs such as the BBC’s excellent coverage, setlists on other, more efficiently updated, blogs, youtube videos and other media outlets. Anyone who has read all of this (well done on getting this far) will notice that quite a number of my reviews have been a little hare-brained and loose on details, well, that’s because I really can’t remember that much, or at least I can’t communicate it.
All I can really say for certain is that Blur were excellent, flawless. And the Festival was very, very good and you should definitely go there yourself. It really is the only way you can hope to experience the feel and spirit of the place. Television just doesn’t do it justice.
MP3: Blur – Song 2