After a superb show from Napalm Death among others on Thursday, the festival kicked off properly last night with all the stages in action. As ever, it was testing to know where to go with so much of the world's best groups playing. But if one band channel the ethical values and epic scenery of this festival the most then it's Radiohead, and it was they who were an absolute priority on our list yesterday. Elizabeth Aubrey was down in the front soaking up the atmosphere.
This was always going to be a special gig for long-time fans of Radiohead. Headlining the Pyramid Stage for the third time close to the twentieth anniversary of OK Computer’s release, anticipation ran high as to just exactly what Radiohead would do. They are not, and of course never have been, a band to pander to the crowd – “play the fucking Bends” one flag read; “they’ll never do Creep” a fan uttered nearby.
The set began a little curiously, opening with the solemn ‘Daydreaming’ from last year’s album A Moon Shaped Pool. It’s an unusual, subdued choice and one that proves a little disorientating – especially as the big screens are black meaning fans deep in the crowd are unable to see anything on stage. The disorientation continues with fans seeing only abstract images of the band throughout the night, creating a frustrating viewing experience for many.
It might be at least part of the reason why the crowd thinned part-way through, as a difficult visuals coupled with Radiohead playing some of their more experimental songs couldn’t convince them to stay. With the exception of ‘Ful Stop’, perhaps, this was a set that catered for the fans as what followed felt like a euphoric, nostalgia-filled tribute to the album and 1997 Pyramid Stage slot that effectively made Radiohead.
The set erupted during an exhilarating version of ‘Idioteque’ and no less than eight songs from OK Computer including ‘Karma Police’, ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘No Surprises’, the latter causing a crowd eruption when Thom Yorke sings “they don’t speak for us.” Yorke is typically mysterious between songs, inaudibly mumbling, until he takes a scathing swipe at Teresa May: “shut the door on your way out” prompting the optimistic left-wing crowd to explode with chants of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” to the Seven Nation Army theme. “Strong and stable!” Yorke bellows mid-way through ‘Mixamatosis’, prompting more elated cheers.
‘Street Spirit’ and ‘Creep’ were joyously received by a crowd who probably didn’t expect either. The gorgeous ‘Pyramid Song’ and ‘Let Down’ were played alongside the more experimental of Radiohead’s career including ‘Myxamatosis’ and ‘2 + 2 = 5’. For long-time fans who were there in the early 1990’s, the set is a fairly balanced retrospective of their work: they’re never going to be able to please everyone because they’re Radiohead – they have too many songs people want to hear. When things start to calm, ‘15 Step’ is the In Rainbows adrenaline shot the crowd need as is ‘Bloom’ and ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’. The accompanying light show is frantic and hyperactive, adding to the disorientation the lack of clear images on the big screens gives.
It was almost twenty years ago to the day that Radiohead took to a rain-soaked Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. Marred by technical issues, Yorke threatened to walk off stage: how different things would have been if he had. The band closed with ‘Karma Police’, with the entirety of the crowd seemingly singing along. Yorke adds on another run of the song’s coda at the end in what becomes an emotional moment between the band and the fans. In 1997, Yorke stayed on stage and completed one of the most iconic performances not just in Radiohead’s history, but in Glastonbury history. Last night’s performance will again go down in that iconic history. “What a fucking great place this is. Ain't nothing like it on earth,” Yorke bellows at the end. A nostalgic performance and a nod to the past, this was a set for the fans.
Exit Music (for a Film)
Everything in It’s Right Place
You and Whose Army?
Street Spirit (Fade Out)
2 + 2 = 5
Fake Plastic Trees
Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals
Just before Radiohead, Anderson .Paak and band were playing their first ever Glastonbury over on the West Holts, formerly the Jazz World Stage. “These are the Free Nationals, the greatest band in the world” exuded Anderson .Paak, as his guitarist played some psychedelic soul pattern, channelling his inner David Gilmour.
This grand statement and others like: “We haven’t seen our family in a long time and right now you feel like family,” sum up what charmer he was as did his wide cheeky smile. He seemed to be buzzing off the fact it was his last show of a three month European tour in support of Grammy nominated album Malibu – an album praised for its intoxicating blend of hip hop, r&b, funk , and soul – and he was playing the show as if it was his last.
Similarly to the album, the set from the Los Angeles group, exhibited these broad diverse influences. The most bold switch in sonics came when they went from being an electronic hip-hop band with a beatjuggler and .Paak rapping at the front of the stage to him switching over to his drum kit on the right hand side of the stage. He played with mesmerising patterns, morphing the band into more retro territory, and allowing experimental side to flourish even more whilst continuing to rap. Whether he was behind the kit or at the front noones glitter smothered eyes were anywhere but firmly on him and the fire-y energy in him shows desire to be the best,
And it’s difficult to think of a more talented frontman who is able to synthesise sinfluences from underground bass soundsystem culture, mainstream pop/ r&b, and retro soul and in a more interesting way; he takes you on that many surprising turns and has jaw dropping musical ability. His first Glasto maybe, but this awesome drumer/frontman will be more than welcome back.
As Anderson .Paak was playing, Lorde drew a huge crowd over on the Other Stage - who helped celebrate Melodrama hitting the Top 5 this week. Lorde spoke for many here at Worthy Farm when she sang of a pursuit of hedonism and a graceless night out during ‘Perfect Places’. The pop star took on the sunset slot on the Other Stage for her first Glastonbury appearance, with nothing short of a headliner-worthy appearance. But it was more than that - the hugely ambitious production resulted in a bold spectacle of pop performance art.
A huge glass box stood in the centre of the stage, which was inhabited by backing dancers and smoke, in front of stunning visuals. The installation rose and tilted on metal legs with Lorde inside for ‘Sober’, before she fell backwards in to the arms of a dancer.
‘Liability’ saw her sit on the edge of the stage and address all those who feel like a “loser’ and an outsider. “You’re not too much for everyone, you’re just magical,” she said, before naming herself a “ good witch”.
This eccentricity and brilliant pop music has resulted in Lorde being one of the most forward-thinking artists of this generation. ‘Running Up That Hill’ was used as intro music last night, and we could quite possibly have another Kate Bush on our hands here. She pours everything into her craft. Bigger things to come.
The xx don’t do daylight. Nope, they simply have to perform in the dark. At least that’s what we might have said before they painted fresh strokes of colour and textures across their former, fragile sound. I See You - the band’s third record - allowed the light to enter, and last night was the perfect moment for the trio to step fully out of the shadows and be in touching distance of the Pyramid top spot. They’ll get there - but for now, The xx just enjoyed their finest moment as Friday night sub-headliners. And as we saw with Lorde, it’s the once uncool millenial outsiders who are raising the bar with truly brilliant art.
“The world has really scared me lately, but seeing us all together in this field gives me so much hope,” Romy Madley-Croft said as she looked out to the thousands parked at the Pyramid. The faces of those in attendance were reflected in the mirrored platform that Jamie xx and his station of samples and keys stood on.
Harking back to earlier tours, the band opened with a dramatic version of ‘Intro’ from their debut record, followed by ‘Crystallised’, which felt bolder than ever with heavier guitar ringing out and pounding percussion. ‘Dangerous’ then flowed seamlessly into the band’s biggest pop effort ‘I Dare You’.
Up next was a solo rendition of ‘Performance’. “I’m gonna be playing this next song on my own…on the Pyramid Stage,” Madley-Croft announced with a grin and shake of the head, clearly overwhelmed by the scale of the moment.
It was these expressions of joy during the set that showed the band’s appreciation at just how far they have come. “You know what? This is all so surreal,” said Oliver Sim, “that three goths have made it onto the Pyramid Stage.” He recalled watching Beyonce headline back in 2011, and was clearly taken aback by the fact they’ve become capable at taking on the on the biggest festival stage in the world.
Set highlight ‘Loud Places’ - taken from Jamie xx’s solo record - was a sheer communal celebration of rainbow lights and dance floor magic, which transformed into I See You lead single ‘On Hold’.
The xx have never reached such heights - but like their South London friend Florence Welch, they’ve proved themselves as one of the few late 00s bands that have what it to takes to headline Glastonbury one day. It’ll happen soon, no doubt.
Streatham rapper Dave played over in Silver Hayes, an area of Glastonbury with a more progressive line-up than most as its finger is truly on the pulse when it comes to up-an-coming music that's saying something meaningful. He was part of the grime and UK rap curated for the Sonic Stage last night. He blew us away at Annie Mac's Lost & Found festival in spring so we were back for second helpings.
And he's catchy as hell, the words: “Tell a man I want a hundred M's / tell a man I want a hundred M's were rapped as he brought the energy up with that single after a slower tempo’d cut ‘Panic Attack’.
Whilst Dave was aware the crowd mostly buzz off the more frenetic stuff the most – the most pacey being the grime cut ‘Thiago Silva’ that he originally recorded with fellow Londoner AJ Tracey, the slower stuff works just as well.
Helping the crowd ride the different dynamics is his confidence to provide context. He deals with serious issues and the crowd dilligently hung on to every word of ‘Panic Attack’, as he explained it explores knife crime in South London – an issue very close to his heart.
After ending this poignant track, he emotionally honoured his brother as it just so happened it was his birthday. Unfortunately, he wasn't there to witness it as we're told he was given a life prison sentence at 15, but it was a heart-warming tribute.
Dave’s ability to not censor the more revealing side of his personal life makes him such a likeable, engaging artist and one that’s going to have a hell of story to tell as he climbs the ranks from hotly-tipped newcomer who Drake's tipped to Britain’s biggest rapper. Dave's the real deal.