“Well it looks like we might have made it to the end”
Glastonbury, if you think about it, is the best part of a week; but more importantly, it had been the best part of our year thus far. We had finally made it. Jacko had copped it, with hindsight one of the headliners could have popped a hip, but it was set to be one of the best ever. Even Michael Eavis was buoyant as he address the press and privileged at 11am’s conference: “I’ve always said this, but this really must be the best [Glastonbury] ever, surely?”
Not that Gigwise was there; many hacks weren’t for that matter. Too busy climbing trees and finding that part of ourselves that we left in a field this time last year. Even the BBC’s Andrew Marr had been given time off to adorn his most casual of conservative festival gear and left to his own devices – the mind boggles. No, Gigwise was woken-up a few sleep deprived hours later by Tony Christie and a near 20,000 strong Glastonbury crowd singing along to ‘Amarillo’ at the Pyramid Stage. Motivated by an unquiet desperation to seek an inaudible distance, the chorus sweeping with the clouds that loomed over head, resolve was to be found in Emmy The Great.
Six months into 2009 and we find ourselves stood in a field of this year’s hotly-tipped female artists and the media hyperbole that nourishes them. Trying to keep apace with the likes of VV Brown’s three night stand across the weekend is tough, but Emmy’s ethereal performance was something of a grace. From ‘Absentee’’s swelling beauty, to the chandelier-swing of ‘We Almost Had a Baby’, her set of moving soliloquies were only enhanced by their folksy gospel deliverance.
Many a snoot would have laughed at the sheer number of people that gravitated towards the Pyramid Stage for Tom Jones’ cabaret performance, but the appeal was clear: filling the stage with his orange glow, resplendent presence and lighthearted banter, the crowd were enraptured and in chorus with his schmaltzy renditions of ‘It’s Not Unusual’, ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ and a cover of EMF’s ‘Unbelievable’ to end.
Dedicating ‘Maps’ in tribute to the King of Pop and “All the lovers in the crowd,” the audaciously dressed Karen O on the day sounded papery. A tight but mediocre performance of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was lost to the atmosphere surrounding the Other Stage. Tracks from the electronic endeavors of It’s Blitz! were lost to the ether; in a similar fashion, the likes of ‘Date With The Night’ failed to cause the musical maelstrom once expected.
The Park stage’s water colour tranquility set as a picturesque canvas for Alela Diane. ‘White As Diamonds’ and a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ deliver with a coruscating beauty as she bartered with the crowd for information of anyone who could sort them out with a “good time”.
Stripping ‘Prescilla’ down to the solo undulations of an autoharp was met by an engaged audience, swept away by a showcase from Bat For Lashes. With all the flamboyance and splendor of a Kate Bush-Madonna Eighties hybrid, Natasha Khan’s display on the Other Stage rubber stamped the reverence she has received since the release of her 2006 debut Fur And Gold.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ second headline slot produced a slew of rebellious hits, brilliantly composed and as cacophonous as ever. Their weathered complexion belying their gentlemanly gusto as they ripped through a rupturing rendition of ‘Big, Lazarus, Dig!!!’ to finish on poetically lachrymose ‘The Weeping Song’.
An exhibition of his legacy it may have been, brilliant it was, but Cave could not have helped feeling that he was playing second fiddle in Albarn’s orchestra, as Blur entered stage right to greet an ebullient crowd with their first single ‘She’s So High’. After a tentative start of frangible vocals and missed beats, Blur went on to prove why Britpop was the last cultural revolution of our time.
With ‘Girls And Boys’, ‘Beetlebum’, ‘Coffee And TV’ and actor Phil Daniels’ entrance to perform ‘Parklife’ whipping the crowd into a frenzy, Damon was left in tears, head in hands, during the orchestra-lead ‘End Of A Century’ and ‘To The End’. Received with by a rousing reception, their lyrics appeared more poignant to this day and context.
Politically charged as ever, “Vote Dave” illuminated the stage behind them as they burst into ‘Song 2’ in the encore, ironically signaling the beginning of the end of many things. Closing with an intoxicating version of ‘The Universal’, the crowd consumed with its beauty and admiration for the band, they swayed with arms aloft to its galvanizing and embracing score. Symbolic, if anything, of the festival’s spirit and our evolving times.