So, as one of the millions of people who has never been to Glastonbury but truly loves it and lets it take over their TV for the entire weekend, I figured – what with there not being a festival next year and not knowing when I may get a chance to actually review it live, why not attempt to still review it from the TV perspective. Yeah, you don’t get the full live atmosphere, but you do get to criticise the music and analyse the set-list’s based solely on what the band does on stage (and let’s face it, it sure beats being caked in mud!).
All content is based on the BBC highlights – catch them here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/festivals/glastonbury/2011/
Friday – What highlights to catch from the Friday?
The King of the blues filled out the legend slot on Friday. BB King is 85 years old and he is still going strong – yes he can’t stand up and play, and movement of any kind is restricted, but his voice still sounds just as good as it did 20 years ago. His playing was understandably not his best but he still managed to play a good set. There’s no genre of music that can so easily appeal to everyone of every generation as the Blues, it was perfect for a Friday afternoon. Finishing the set with the classic ‘Thrill is Gone’ and the brilliantly cute performance of ‘Guess who?’ BB showed that age doesn’t matter, as the crowd appeared to love it. I’m glad the BBC showed the full set, as BB King is truly a legend whose performances are to be cherished, not as the most amazing entertainment, but as a showcase of true musicianship.
Another legend, this time a reggae legend from Jamaica. A lot of people give U2 a lot of stick for their political ramblings, but Jimmy Cliff whose entire set was centred around similarly politically charged remarks such as ‘let’s not make Afghanistan another Vietnam’ are more warmly accepted by the crowd. Cliff has always been heavily involved with politics throughout his career; he has covered Bob Dylan’s ‘Vietnam’ and also recorded a version of the South African apartheid protest song ‘Sun City’. Nevertheless, politics aside, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is someone who has plenty of hits up his sleeve from the classic fanfare of ‘You can get it if you really want’ to the bongo-filled finale of The Melodian’s ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ Cliff certainly commanded the crowd. And despite all the rain (and mud) and even though people couldn’t ‘See Clearly Now’ because the rain hadn’t gone, Cliff still pulled off an energetically passionate performance.
Two Door Cinema Club
Billed on the same day as U2 – unlike whom these Irish boys avoid all controversy as they easily fulfil the perfect vibe for Glastonbury. Their music is Indie-pop with brilliant quirky riffs and punchy choruses. They certainly played a perfect set of hits from their amazing 2010 album Tourist History and they definitely create the ideal vibe, it’s no wonder that the Beeb used ‘I can Tell’ as their official Glasto soundtrack.
Dubbed as ‘the greatest band in the world’, U2’s 20 year wait to perform at the Glastonbury stage was finally fulfilled, and up until the very moment before they graced the stage doubts were still running high – with rumours of the Arts Uncut protest being the final threat to the band’s long awaited Glastonbury appearance. Nevertheless, against all the odds stacked against them, they made it and with a set-list filled with hits, they appeared to conquer their critics. Their set was accompanied by stage lighting and background images created by Damien Hirst and in usual U2 fashion, politics, edgy images and subliminal messaging techniques were also incorporated, but surprisingly Bono did keep his ramblings to himself with only a few politically philosophical comments jotted in, most notably during ‘Jerusalem’. In fact, with great heavy up-tempo numbers back-to-back, including ‘Get on your boots’ and ‘Vertigo’ they certainly revved things up and it seemed they had completely won over the crowd. As a band, it is hard to deny U2 their acclaim, with The Edge’s definitive reverberating guitar and Bono’s incredible voice, the performance felt flawless. It was only in the post-set interview where Bono kept harping on about Glastonbury being a pilgrimage that made you remember why tonnes of people still find him annoying. Nevertheless, if we’re looking at the music side of things then you can’t fault them, they certainly were intending to send a message to all the other headliners by incorporating ‘Independent Women’ and Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ amongst their hits. Particular highlights included ‘Stay’, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘With or Without You’.
Saturday – Pick of the best
This woman is like a firework; bursting with energy Janelle Monae exploded onto the stage suitably dressed in grim reaper robes for ‘Dance or Die’. Monae is incredibly talented; if you thought her 2010 album ArchAndroid was pretty impressive, you’re expectations will be surpassed as the album was no match to where she takes the tracks when they are performed live. She is on her way to becoming the Godmother of Funk, or at least a major Funkstress, either way she’s someone whom I’m sure James Brown would approve. Keen to get in the crowd, Monae definitely stole the show at the West Holts Stage. If you haven’t seen her yet, I advise you to get on the highlights asap! http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/festivals/glastonbury/2011/artists/janellemonae/
These guys definitely bring the sunshine out, and at the Other Stage they brought a touch of Hawaii, complete with Hawaiian dancing girls in grass skirts. Admittedly, ‘Hawaiian Air’ was repeatedly shown on the telly on BBC Three, BBC Four and BBC Two, and it’s not really one of my favourites from their otherwise brilliant new album Pala. I would’ve liked to have seen a bit of a longer chunk of their set than what was shown, i’m actually quite a bit disappointed in the BBC’s coverage of them, it was just not enough.
It’s hard not to love Elbow, they are just so chilled and relaxing and lucky for them the sun was out too – which made their performance seem extra special. Guy Garvey was particularly relishing in this appearance at Glasto, and it seemed it wasn’t just onstage where he was having fun, his trousers were completely caked in mud, it looked like he had engaged in a mud sliding competition just minutes before he went on stage. Nevertheless, Elbow are never a band about looks, it’s all about the music. They serenaded the crowd with whistles during ‘Lippy Kids’ and the crowd serenaded them with a chorus ‘Happy Birthday’ to celebrate their 20th Anniversary of performing together. It was a magical moment, and Harvey keen to get the crowd going, created mesmerising scenes as he instructed the audience to imitate a wave which rippled across the entire attendance. Of course ‘One Day Like this’ took the leading moment of the entire set, there’s just no limit to the amount of times that song will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
All the headliners this year seem fairly controversial, U2 because – well they’re U2, Beyonce because she’s an R&B female, and Coldplay because… well, the reasoning behind why Coldplay are controversial relies on individual opinion. A lot of people hate Coldplay, they’re considered cheesy and boring, so much so that there’s actually an element of ‘cool’ around disliking them. But coolness aside, Coldplay are the perfect headliners for Glastonbury, their music just works so well on that stage. They performed a set mastered with classics including ‘Shiver’ and ‘Yellow’ (done much better than U2 I might add) and thrown in for balance were just the right amount of newbies like ‘Major Minus’ and ‘Us Against the world’ which strangely felt already familiar. Being the only band to headline Glastonbury 3 times in the past 9 years, in terms of performance the guys definitely have not withheld anything: confetti, fireworks, strobes and amazing lighting which gave the legendary Pyramid a triangular pulse – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that stage look like that. Admittedly, production-wise I think they even outdid Beyonce. Highlights to catch are definitely ‘Fix You’ and the crowd’s priceless reaction to ‘Viva La Vida’. It’s certainly hard to hate them when they put on a performance like that!
Sunday – The Best bits of the final day
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me, that I am a huge fan of Paul Simon. But at Glastonbury you could tell he wasn’t on top form, he was ill with a throat infection, but he still played out all his Graceland hits and even though he didn’t seem happy with his performance, I find it hard to think ill of him, so he was great! I will stop myself from saying more as I shall be posting a review of his Hammersmith Apollo gig, in which fingers crossed he is feeling better!
The winner of the Best Female at the Brit Awards, Laura Marling proved just why she deserved all of the accolade. With her angelic acoustic sounds, she captivated the entire audience at the Pyramid Stage. Marling shares a sense of vulnerability when she sings, but it is that quality which makes her so appealing. I don’t think anyone can dislike her, she truly earned her place on that stage, watch her beautiful performance of ‘I speak because I can’.
Kool and the Gang
Choosing a headliner to watch on the Sunday would’ve been tricky, do you go and see Queens of the Stone Age to soak up the “true” Glastonbury atmosphere for your last day of the festival, or do you go and watch history being made with Beyonce’s glitz and glam? Or you could simply ignore all of that and take a trip back in time to the 70’s and go and see Kool and the Gang and the more you think about it, it’s not a bad choice. These guys are absolute legends, I had no idea these guys were still alive, let alone touring, and let alone being able to play Glastonbury, but they did appear to be phenomenal. Yes they’re cheesy, but don’t act like you don’t know the words to ‘Cherish’ or ‘Celebration’. Of all the headliner’s on the Sunday, these guys would put the biggest smile on your face and ‘get your back up off the wall’ and make you ‘Get down on it’! Let’s face it, it’s not everyday that you can have a ‘Disco Inferno’!
‘Beyonce, can you handle it?’ Yes she can, and she did. Many critics and hardcore Glastonbury fans were against having a pop and R&B artist headline what is predominantly a rock music festival. To some extent I can see where they are coming from, if you are an artist such as Queens of the Stone Age – not one of the best bands but definitely a band finely tuned to the Glastonbury atmosphere, I’m guessing you’d love to headline the Pyramid Stage, but now that the doors have been opened to artists like Beyonce, their chances of that happening are looking slimmer and slimmer.
Hence Beyonce had a lot riding on this performance, as she wasn’t just backing the reputation of female artists, she was carrying the weight of the genre of R&B; she was having to prove that she truly deserves a spot at Glastonbury, let alone a headlining one. So the pressure was on, but Miss Knowles did not disappoint. Yes at times it did feel a bit too pop-y and at points you had to remind yourself that you were watching Glastonbury and not Beyonce’s latest concert at the O2. But musically the standards were very high – her band were phenomenal, incorporating countless samples throughout the set; the ‘all-girl’ band who were accompanied by brilliantly harmonised backing vocals from the ‘the momma’s’, definitely earned their spot on the bill.
I don’t think anyone could deny that Beyonce in her high heels, definitely gave it 100%, you could tell that every ounce of passion went into every dance move and every song sung, it was very personal and emotional and I think that’s what made it a success. Beyonce didn’t come in and try to take over the show, she was truly appreciative of the opportunity and did appear to be stunned by the overwhelming reception. Although I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many girls in the audience – I think most of the blokes went to see Queens of the Stone Age (ahem like Zane Lowe clearly showed in the awkward post-set interview) but you can’t really blame them especially when you think of the amount of “man-hate” that Beyonce came across to portray – I lost count of the amount of times she told the girls to ‘show the fella’s how it’s done’. But so what? There hasn’t been a female headlining the Pyramid in over 20 years! So it was about time, and Beyonce truly did make history when she belted out numbers including a sexy cover of Kings of Leon, and brilliantly blended in the Eurythmics and not forgetting an amazing Prince too; Beyonce was lining herself with greats and putting her own stamp on Glastonbury. Her stunning performance of Etta James’ ‘At Last’, alongside the beautiful ‘1+1’ where she appeared to pour out her heart whilst perched on top of the piano truly sealed the deal for me. Although the rumours of Jay Z and Destiny’s Child reuniting on stage, sadly never came true, Beyonce did do it all by herself, she owned that spotlight and definitely put on a spectacular show. Beyonce proved that there is a place for R&B at Glastonbury; it is called the biggest music festival in the world – not the biggest Rock festival in the world, so I think we should embrace it.
The BBC this year promised the most coverage they had ever offered of Glastonbury, but I was still disappointed, there were not enough broadcasts of the smaller stages or of the new bands, all the critics are talking about The Kills, The Horrors and F-Block, bands that were either only snippets or online. Similarly even artists such as Chase and Status, Jamie Woon, James Blake and Clare Maguire – the last three of whom made the top 5 of the BBC sound of 2011 list – were all seemingly omitted. Whilst sets of artists like Plan B and Jessie J, who – let’s face it – we see nearly all the time on the BBC were displayed in full. But I guess you can’t see everything, and I suppose you do get a decent general overview of the main stages on the telly. Nevertheless, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching and if anything, the coverage works like a great advertisement as it makes me want to experience the festival in the best way possible – live.