Monday, 1 July 2013

Glastonbury Festival 3


Glastonbury Festival 2013, 28-30 June

The XX: where's Robert Smith when you need him? (Image:BBC)

In terms of music, this has been the best Glastonbury for some time. My TV and sofa are fired up for the final time on this three
day weekend.
5pm, BBC2. Lauren Laverne and Mark Radcliffe start off with a montage of the fun so far, including Elvis Costello, the Stones and Primal Scream doing ‘Rocks’. Oh look, there’s Haim again. Sunday afternoon promises the traditional ‘legend’ slot, to be occupied this year by one Kenny Rogers.

TOM ODELL. Nick Drake enthused, emotionally intense singer/songwriter. For someone so young, I can’t get over the maturity of his lyrics or the power of his voice. His first LP goes in at number 1 today.

BASSEKOU NAGATE (I think: acoustic). Pleasant enough African world music, but my attention starts to wander.

THE CONGOS. Graceful elder statesmen of reggae. Ideal for a sunny Sunday afternoon. So good they nearly finish their set 2 minutes early.

VILLAGERS. First pleasant surprise of the day. Clever wordplay: ‘Look at the birds, look at the bees. Madam, it’s all the same to me.’ Song ‘Waves’ builds and builds to a respectable indie wig-out. Lauren: ‘Downside, no Kenny Rogers.’

FIRST AID KIT (acoustic). Great name. Perfect, crystal clear harmonies on duet ‘Emmylou’.

PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED. The magisterial John Lydon is the Queen Mother of punk. A triumphant ‘Rise’ conquers the Other Stage as Lydon gets the crowd to sing ‘Anger is an energy’. My life would have been very different without this man. Just for the record, this is how to do soft metal convincingly.  

KENNY ROGERS. ‘The impeccably groomed facial furniture’ (Radcliffe) of Mr Rogers is so legendary he gets a clips retrospective before taking to the Pyramid Stage for ‘a post-roast portion of hits.’ Helluva tight boogie woogie backing band. Funny and self aware, he describes Glasto as ‘a picnic’ and, charmingly, says ‘I’m really not used to playing for such small audiences’. But, 65 albums! That’s even more than The Fall (I think).

You can’t fault the C&W melancholy of ‘Ruby’ and ‘Coward of the County’. Is there such a thing as C&W psychedelia? If there isn’t, Mr Rogers has just invented it with ‘I Just Dropped in (to See what Condition my Condition was in).’ ‘We Got Tonight’ is rather beautiful. ‘The Gambler’ is a masterpiece. There are Kenny beardalikes in the crowd. The songs are short and just keep on coming: ‘Lucille’, ‘Lady’…There are a trio of Dolly Partonalikes in the crowd, complete with a framed picture of Dolly. They go mental to ‘Islands in the Stream’.

Has Mr Rogers had some work done? Surely not.

VAMPIRE WEEKEND. Radcliffe’s on form today. VM might not be ‘a great thrutching rock beast’, but their mix of African rhythms and indie pop sensibilities is by now a natural in stadiums, somehow. Quirky songs titles too, like ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ and ‘Ya Hey’, which is a bit of a classic.

Sir Bruce Forsyth is on fine form, saying ‘what the hell I’m doing here I’ve no idea at all. I’m gonna try to rock and I’m gonna try to roll.’ His national treasure status increases.

ROLLING STONES (revisited). ‘Glastonbury Girl’, a song not shown last night. Rewrite of an oldie, with the amusing line ‘now she’s gone to see Primal Scream’.

At 8pm, I nip over to BBC3.

OF MONSTERS AND MEN. A really pleasant surprise. From Iceland, complete with a Bjorkalike on acoustic guitar. Big choruses. Impressive John Bull sideburns (not on the Bjorkalike). Full marks to the trumpet player for tuning up. In short, one for the Fairclough Towers playlist.

GABRIELLE APLIN (acoustic). Another impossibly young and gifted singer/songwriter. Suitably mellow for 8.35pm.

LAURA MVULA (revisited). On The Park stage today. Admirable, but not my thing. Plus points for a snatch of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’.

JESSIE WARE. Endearing. Swings between a cool, jazzy singing persona and a jolly hockey sticks enthusiasm for the occasion, crooning to one of the bouncers and wondering whether or not to climb the lighting rig. ‘How lovely!’

EDITORS. Still doing their Joy Division-meets-early-U2 thing. I almost hope they do a cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.

TOM ODELL (revisited). Pretty bloody amazing. Ripping cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’. You’ve got to love him when, slightly dazed, he says, ‘I just found out my album’s number 1.’ There’s some Coldplay DNA in there somewhere.

LIANNE LA HAVAS. The most original voice among the female singer/songwriters at Glastonbury this weekend. Slick, stylish and I wouldn’t mind hearing more.

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. Where’ve they been? ‘Tonight Tonight’ roars and soars like it’s 1995. ‘Bullet’ is monumental. I want to marry the bassist.  

THE XX. I blow out Mumford and Sons for ‘one of the finest bands in the world,’ apparently. Never heard anything by The XX until today but have always been intrigued by their arty, monochrome image. Yes, Ian Curtis and The Cure circa Faith would be proud, but The XX are compelling in their own right. After a rather intense weekend, for me their sparse electronic beats and skeletal guitar chords are the ideal way to bring the curtain down on my virtual Glastonbury 2013.

In the mesmerising light show, the female guitarist and the male bassist circle each other, sometimes touching, in a hypnotic dance that looks like a gothic mating ritual. It suits the gloomy romance of the lyrics, in songs like ‘Fiction’, ‘VCR’, ‘Islands’ and ‘Far Nearer’. Smartly, the bassist has a slightly Chris Rea croon. I want to marry the guitarist.

FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE DAY: Presenter Greg James – ‘BBC3, meeting the weirdos, so you don’t have to.’

And finally…

I’m prepared to bet that all the acts I didn’t rate over this weekend won’t be around in ten years’ time. Primal Scream will. Kenny Rogers will, God willing. I’d like to think The Strypes will. Elvis Costello, PiL, Johnny Marr, Nile Rodgers, Vampire Weekend, Chase & Status all will. Maybe even the Stones. Arctic Monkeys and The XX  – possibly. The interesting thing is, most of these acts have already been going for over ten years. Any significance in that? As the paid up, card carrying middle-aged man that I am, I think it suggests that staying power in today’s generation of bands is spread thin. Yes, the music business today is very different to when the Primals, Lydon et al started, and it’s getting harder to make your mark, let alone sustain a career. But much as I like Two Door Cinema Club, Jessie Ware and Rizzle Kicks, I can’t see them going the distance; to be fair, maybe they don’t wan’t to. Where, though, are the next Smiths, Suede or Blur? Johnny Marr’s version of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ got one of the biggest cheers of the weekend. Draw your own conclusion.

Or, maybe, rock’s not dead and I've just got old.

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