Tuesday, 1 July 2014



As my 2013 appraisal of the mud and music fest at Worthy Farm was a hit with blog readers, for the second year running I turn my attention to the festival as brought to us by the BBC.

Kasabian: The missing link between Led Zeppelin and The Prodigy.
(Image: BBC)

A different scenario to last year: I'm working again and attended a friend's engagement party on Saturday night, so I didn't get a chance to do as comprehensive a review of the TV coverage as I’d have liked. Never mind: here are my thoughts gathered together from what I did manage to catch over the three days.

Friday 27 June

Lily Allen The currently red-haired popstrel is a fine singer/songwriter, but in this festival set she was trying very hard to make it look like she wasn't trying very hard.

Elbow. As ever, great songs about getting up. The perfect Glastonbury band.

Paolo Nuttini Not my kind of thing, but a passionate singer with a sound expanded by a very professional band with a festival friendly groove. Extra points for the retro 1960s psychedelic graphics.

On Friday night, the bands had to finish early – mid-set in the case of Rudimental – because of a thunder storm. On Lauren Laverne's BBC Radio 6 the following morning, she revealed that Metallica, the heavy rock headline act on the Saturday night, had arrived in the middle of the thunder and lightning. I laughed out loud and announced to the cats, 'Of course! They couldn't have arrived any other way.' The cats were non-plussed.

Saturday 28 June

Robert Plant The man's a legend, of course, but the noodly, bluesy world music he was peddling on Saturday afternoon didn't hold my attention. Maybe playing a few songs that people recognised would have helped, Mr P. Looking at the audience, he was a big hit with all the upper middle class hippies with trust funds.

Sunday 29 June

Jonathan and Zedicki (BBC acoustic stage) More world music gubbins. All very worthy but it didn't do anything for me.

English National Ballet Of course it's commendable - and, I have to say it, very worthy for Worthy Farm - to perform a ballet on the main Pyramid Stage to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. That said, the ENB's display of repetitive choreography and repetitive music could have been about anything: there was no context to it so it didn't trigger any emotional reaction. Even the BBC cameraman seemed bored, cutting to a single long-shot of the stage at one point, presumably just to keep himself awake. I couldn't help thinking that the enthusiastic audience response that greeted the ENB dancers when their performance was over was simply borne out of relief that it was over. I also wondered if Mrs-Fairclough-in-waiting Lauren Laverne's comment that 'I had tears in my eyes watching that' was heavily charged with innuendo.

Nick Mulvey (BBC acoustic stage) Pleasant enough with clever word play.

Caro Emerald Perfect Sunday chill-out music, and one of those pleasant surprises that often happens at Glastonbury: discovering a great act that you'd never heard of before. Backed by an old-style big band cool enough to go on stage at a festival wearing matching suits and ties, singer Caro's gutsy, good-time mix of swing, bossa nova and ska was a hit with an instantly appreciative crowd, as was the lady herself – she's a natural at working an audience. Endearingly, Caro shed her 1950s-style high heels as they 'weren't comfortable at all', danced around barefoot and delivered a very witty song called 'Liquid Lunch.' One to watch. 

Ed Sheeran (BBC acoustic stage) Today's singer songwriter par excellence, who impresses by making grooving in a pair of wellies look cool. As my lodger succinctly put it, 'He's done alright for a ginger bloke.'

The 1975 A singer with a Prince falsetto backed by 1980s soft rock. I don't get it.

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot (BBC acoustic stage) Reunited for a tour and album, these two ex-Beautiful Southers are fast emerging as this year's musical national treasures, i.e. people who you always knew were good but didn't really appreciate until they'd been away for a while. They perform 'Moulding of a Fool', which features typically scabrous Heaton lyrics such as 'The revolution won't be televised and neither will your death.' They also deliver an immaculate 'Islands in the Stream' as a tribute to Dolly Parton. Bless them.

Sam Smith More young people's music and someone I know absolutely nothing about; vocally and physically, he reminds me of an on-form Boy George. The little ones in the audience are all happily grooving away and, when not singing, Mr Smith appears nicely ordinary. Bizarrely, his guitarist can't resist breaking into Queen riffs every now and again. 

George Ezra Riveting, playing to a packed John Peel tent from an album that was still to be released. Only one song from his electric set, 'Did You Hear the Rain?', but he immediately makes an impression with a huge, deep, distinctive roar of a voice and a frenzied indie rock backing. Along with Caro Emerald an act I'd definitely go see. Later, he's equally good on an acoustic version of 'Budapest' for BBC3.

Dolly Parton What can you say? It's a sign of the Galstonbury collective's eclectic taste that it'll embrace the upbeat, if showbizzy, Country and Western of an American preacher's religious daughter with no irony, while cooler people pretend to like Parton's music purely for the kitsch value. Being a novelty act hasn't kept her around for over five decades and Dolly has both the tunes and the presence: fitted out with a head mic she's constantly moving, clapping, gesturing, talking. She's come to conquer and she's not mucking about but, winningly, this gal is constantly amazed at how popular she is with the crowd. Dolly's band are all in dignified Johnny Cash black, while she's dressed from head to toe in pearly white that matches her big bright smile.

It's the incidental details the camera catches that tell you this woman's a legend. The security guards at the front of the Pyramid Stage do a synchronised dance routine to 'Jolene' while in the audience, banners proclaim amusing slogans such as 'Dolly, Take Me to Your Bosom' and 'Ravin' 9 to 5.' Five o'clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon in June is the perfect time to hear 'Here You Come Again,' 'Islands in the Stream', 'I Will Always Love You' and other feel good fare. The icing on the C&W cake is Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora coming on to dirty up a fantastic rock gospel version of 'Lay Your Hands On Me.' And in the most random moment of the weekend, Dolly performs The Benny Hill Show theme on a bejewelled saxophone. 'I know that was corny but it was fun' she says afterwards, making us love her forever.

The jury’s still out on whether or not she was miming, but even with BBC close-ups it was very hard to tell.

Foxes (BBC acoustic stage) Good looking, great voice, good tune, though - and I might have said this last year but it's still relevant - how many of these photogenic young singer/songwriters do we actually need? How about a bit of variation?

Ed Sheeran You have to admire a likeable, unassuming feller in his early twenties who can follow Dolly Parton on the Pyramid Stage and win over the crowd with nothing more than the amazing amount of energy he can wring from an acoustic guitar, an effects pedal and some impressive vocal gymnastics. That said, the constant call-and-response interplay gets a bit wearing, overshadowing his songs – apart from the second one, which from the sound of it is about his painful break up with Ellie Goulding. The stand-out.

The Kooks Apparently reinvented as an indie Sly and the Family Stone but really, what IS that man wearing? No.

Bombay Bicycle Club Not sure what to make of this lot. I'm always mixing them up with Two Door Cinema Club and to me the two sound very similar. They've had a number one album this year which is apparently their Parklife or American Idiot – i.e. the moment when they officially become An Important Band – but it's all a bit indie-lite for me. Vampire Weekend without the diverting African rhythms, if you will.

The Black Keys Call me old fashioned, but at last it's great to see a band with leather jackets, jeans, five o'clock shadow, a New Wavey logo that could have been designed in 1979 and, er, Eric Morecambe glasses. The Keys are a triumphant mix of scuzzy guitars and swampy blues and the third band on this year's bill that I'd definitely go and see. 'Gold on the Ceiling' inspires a musical riot.

Lana Del Rey I'm singer/songwritered out. Nice dress though.

Ellie Goulding Time for a trip to the Indian takeaway.

Arrive back to see the last few songs in a proficient, festival-friendly set of typical 2014 electro-pop from Ms Goulding and co, which I have to say I wasn't expecting. Thought her posh, breathy, Head Girl 'can't believe all you people are here to see me' act was a bit calculated, particularly as she was wearing next to nothing and knew how to shake her booty. Alright if you like that sort of thing.

Kasabian Headliners on the last night and the only one of the three headline acts – the others being Arcade Fire and Meatllica – that I managed to see anything of. They come out fighting, singer Tom Meighan dressed like James Bond in Diamonds are Forever as it he was played by a swaggering Danny Dyer. What Meighan lacks in vocal technique he makes up for in commitment, the perfect partner to Lee Van Cleef-alike songwriter and guitarist Sergio Pizzornio – he even sounds like a spaghetti western – in delivering the band’s anti-establishment anti-anthems.

The hits are all there – ‘Club Foot’, ‘Shoot the Runner’, ‘Fire’, ‘Underdog’ – and with a sound that’s the missing link between Led Zeppelin and the Prodigy, Kasabian are the perfect band to revive a nearly partied-out crowd. After a while it does get rather samey, true, but even if the band have only got one song, it’s a GOOD song. It also makes a stripped-back, semi-acoustic ‘Crazy’ one of the highlights.

Final thoughts? From what I saw it did seem if there was a more varied selection of acts last year, and over-subscription to the innocuous but bland singer/songwriter brigade grated; someone like Paloma Faith who’s got real personality and attitude was sadly missed.
All in all, though, there was enough to keep me interested and annoyed in equal measure.

See you in 2015.