Photo: Shirlaine Forrest
Glastonbury 2010 kicked off in typically eccentric fashion as a wobble board-clutching Rolf Harris delighted the Pyramid Stage with a selection of old favourites like ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport’ and ‘Two Little Boys’, as well as a maverick cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Never has the phrase “good old-fashioned fun” been so applicable to a Pyramid Stage performance and the jovial atmosphere was further enhanced when Harris declared the didgeridoo as being “far more tuneful than those bloody booboozumbus... or whatever they’re called” in reference to the omnipresent vuvuzelas in South Africa. (AA)
A quick dash over to the Park Stage saw Lissie justify the growing hype around her fledgling career as the chilled-out Californian folk-rock of her debut album ‘Catching A Tiger’ floated blissfully over those who had gathered and on into the summer’s afternoon. Perhaps a little MOR (comparisons with Sheryl Crow will no doubt be made) for some, Lissie will no doubt go from strength to strength as her singalong melodies and poptastic hooks went down well with burgeoning crowd and were topped off by a cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’. (AA)
Soon after, Swindon upstarts Napoleon In Rags boosted their emerging reputation with a tight-as-hell performance on the BBC Introducing Stage. In front of packed tent, Ben Altieri and co raised the roof with their catchy brand of riff-fuelled powerpop. The radio-friendly charge of ‘Don’t Let It Out’ dominated the room in all its anthemic shout-along glory, while closing number ‘Our Hearts’ left the sweat-soaked audience and the watching radio legend Tom Robinson wanting even more. (CA)
Meanwhile, Tegan and Sara supplied the John Peel Stage with an intriguing spectacle as their unique concoction of sibling-led New Wave garage rock electrified and bemused those gathered at the stage in equal measure. Each angst-fuelled number blurred the lines between emo and more traditional Indie and proved to be as beguiling and ambiguous as the sisters themselves. (AA)
For a dose of noise a little bit closer to the mainstream, Gigwise headed to The Other Stage to take in the mid-afternoon show by The Courteeners, who had the watching thousands in their pocket for the majority of their 45-minute set. Although Liam Fray’s posturing betrayed his nice guy offstage persona, he and his troops roused their punters with a fantastic closing trio of ‘You Overdid It Doll’, ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘What Took You So Long?’ (CA)
The Manchester collective were followed by France’s most successful, and perhaps only, indie-pop crossover ensemble Phoenix, who treated the gathering masses at the Other Stage to a rabble-rousing performance of selections from their breakthrough album ‘Wolfgang Amedeus Phoenix’ and older material from their three previous records. It says a lot about a band’s performance when the biggest cheer of the afternoon doesn’t go to a girl wearing a t-shirt daubed with the phrase “FUCK BONO” which is flashed upon the big screen but is reserved for this bristlingly energetic four piece. (AA)
The prize for most mediocre performance of the day went to Ellie Goulding with the electro pop of much lauded debut album ‘Lights’ failing to enliven the lethargic mid-Friday afternoon audience. A questionable cover of Midlake’s magnificent ‘Roscoe’ only served to add further doubt with regards to the integrity of Goulding’s performance. She may have hit all the right notes and failed to put a foot wrong during her 45 minutes of stage time but in truth there was little memorable about her stint on stage. (AA)
Meanwhile, the Pyramid Stage was springing into life once more with the triumphant Glastonbury return of Vampire Weekend, whose aptly summer-tinged outlook fitted the early-evening mood perfectly. Despite its rather gloomy subject matter, ‘Holiday’ was an early crowd favourite, quickly followed by the sparkly melodies of ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’. Frontman Ezra Koenig looked like he was suppressing an increasingly huge smile with every passing line, as further audience bopping ensued with the additions of ‘Cousins’, ‘A-Punk’ and ‘One (Blake’s Got A New Face)’ to the Americans’ joyous live selection. (CA)
Without doubt the largest crowd of the weekend at the John Peel Stage was reserved for London folk collective Mumford & Sons who seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the number of festival goers they attracted. Their irresistible concoction of banjo, guitar and accordion, combined infectious melodies let to a mass sing-a-long of genuine ho-down proportions which seemed bespoke for a sun-drenched Worthy Farm. Two new songs one of which, ‘Lovers of the Light’, which saw Marcus Mumford take to the drum kit were greeted with a predictably rapturous reception by those gathered. (AA)
Further London folk sensibility could be found at The Queens Head Stage with the string ‘n’ brass-tinged harmonies of Fanfarlo. Despite their time slot meaning that many revellers were elsewhere watching so-called bigger names on other stages, tracks like ‘I’m A Pilot’ and ‘Fire Escape’ were performed with the gusto and enthusiasm of a group fully focused on showing their dedicated followers a good time. With Simon Balthazar’s voice was on top form, those in attendance (including the Bristol gig circuit’s legendary ‘Dancing Jeff’) were kept thoroughly entertained as the business end of the evening approached. (CA)
And so to Dizzee Rascal. Is there a bigger pop star in Britain than the Londoner at this point in time? Thoroughly doubt it. The evening’s Pyramid Stage party was consolidated in earnest by a young man at the top of his game. Coming out to a Corden-less rendition of ‘Shout’, Dizzee not only raised the pre-Sunday football fever to a new level of hot, but also managed to get the crowd on his side with some unbeatable momentum from the off. Riff-fuelled, rocky versions of ‘Jus’ A Rascal’ and ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ showed him adapting faultlessly to his environment while hitting every rhyme bang on.
Then came the hits. ‘Dirtee Disco’, ‘Dance Wiv Me’ and ‘Holiday’ - all perfect for the summer, all perfect for a united pogo. Throw in a Nirvana cover, an epic Florence collaboration and a ‘Bonkers’ whirlwind to finish things off, and you’ve got all the evidence necessary to realise that he should have been bumped up the bill to headline Friday night in U2’s absence. Y’get me? (CA)
Likewise on the John Peel stage, the best was saved (almost) to last with Ohio’s Black Keys. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney demonstrated the sort of telepathic chemistry which has made them the 21st century’s most credible, and enduring garage-rock band. After extolling the virtues of John Peel (“You don’t get DJs like him in the States”, proclaimed Auerbach) the two became four to play a selection of material of their recently released ‘Brothers’ album, before normal service was resumed with the pair bringing down the house (or indeed tent) with an apocalyptic distortion saturated rendition of ‘I Got Mine’ which was every bit as primal as the title’s rudimentary grammar suggests. Magnificent. (AA)
Such energy was sadly founding wanting back on the Pyramid Stage, where Gorillaz’ headline slot ended up falling wide of the mark overall, despite some recognisable moments of brilliance. Damon Albarn and his cohorts were willing substitutes for U2, but lacked the crucial festival X Factor when it came to the point of wowing an expectant Glastonbury crowd all the way through the evening.
This wasn’t solely down to the fact that many of their audience weren’t familiar enough with the ‘Plastic Beach’ album to be able to take in a ‘Plastic Beach’-themed set, nor was it a case of the onlookers not being impressed by the host of collaborations when they appeared. Gorillaz’ performance simply didn’t have the all-round show-stopping momentum which other Glasto headliners have often been able to produce throughout their sets, in order to light up the occasion with ease.
In terms of the recent material though, ‘On Melancholy Hill’, the obvious ‘Plastic Beach’ highlight on record, proved to have the same effect in the live arena, drawing a superb reception. Bobby Womack, Lou Reed and Mark E Smith all came on to do their bit for the show to huge adulation, but in the grand scheme of things, they seemed to be relatively quick fixes of boredom prevention.
Luckily though, Shaun Ryder’s appearance for ‘DARE’ went down a storm as expected, while other ‘Demon Days’ material like ‘Feel Good Inc’ and ‘Dirty Harry’ were mini-triumphs. The highlight was saved until the end however, with the emergence onstage of the one and only Snoop Dogg. Following a set of his own on the very same boards earlier that day, Snoop (impossibly tall when viewed in the flesh), served to inject some fantastic energy into the Gorillaz finale with a memorable performance on ‘Clint Eastwood’. It left Damon Albarn, like many of the now notably upbeat crowd, beaming like a Cheshire Cat.
Musically, Albarn is someone who should be treasured in this country, not only for his versatility and creativity, but also for his sheer open-mindedness. Indeed, it was probably this same open-mindedness which saw him accept the role of Glastonbury headliner at such late notice. He becomes the first man ever to headline the festival with two different bands, never mind two years running. There were indeed some genuinely tremendous moments during Gorillaz’ performance, but they didn’t quite add to up one of Glastonbury’s finest showcases.
Glastonbury 2010 - Day One In Photos