Friday, 15 July 2011

Glastonbury Festival 2011 (Part 2 - The Awards)

This year the Glastonbury Festival marks its fortieth anniversary, the first (then free) festival taking place on a cobbled together tubular steel and wooden plank stage in 1971.  In order to celebrate the fact, a ‘Spirit of ‘71’ stage was included this year where many of those who performed in 1971 returned to the scene of their crimes to perform to nostalgic on-lookers.  To see the likes of Melanie and Edgar Broughton belting out old familiar numbers even gave hardened old cynic me a misty eye.

The Hippy roots of Glastonbury continue to pervade the Festival to this day and there is no doubt that the festival spirit affects both performers and audience alike.  Major beneficiaries this year were undoubtedly Elbow whose connection with the huge crowd was quite mesmeric.  But they weren’t the only ones and it is one reason why I love this Festival – for three days, the world seems at peace.

But enough of this new-agey stuff, on to the Music Obsessive Awards which this year were very tricky to pitch given the huge and generally enjoyable line-ups on virtually every stage.  However, a decision has been made. 

In third place comes the old crooner himself, Morrissey who played as the warm up act to the all-conquering Coldplay on the Saturday evening.  Despite the fact that he is clearly middle-aged these days and the old joints are not what they were, and the fact that the set went a bit flat in places, I thoroughly enjoyed his mix of solo stuff and old Smiths songs.  It served as a timely reminder of what a way the man has with words.  The mixture of kitchen sink, no holds barred truths and wry black humour has never really been matched by anybody writing since and to hear the likes of ‘I Want the One I Can’t Have’ and ‘This Charming Man’ again was a real pleasure.  All together now;
‘I would go out tonight
But I haven’t got a stitch to WE-AR….’

In second place is Beyoncé.  Yes, I know.  Before the Festival started, I would have laughed in your face if you’d told me I was going to type those words, but it has happened.  Despite not really knowing much about her music, I was vastly entertained by her Sunday headline set and I was entertained because she didn’t fall into the trap so many of her mega-star ( and I have to say American – sorry guys) peers fall into and kept it simple.  No constant costume changes, no huge sets, no complicated Busby-Berkeley dance routines – a bit of glitz, sure, but just music.  Glastonbury is all about music and the connection between the performer and the audience and Beyoncé seemed to understand this.  The mix of songs was spot on, drawing on all her influences from funk to ballad, from R&B to soul.  Glastonbury is not a place to plug your new album, it’s a place to display your best stuff and to convince people who are not necessarily your fans that you have worth and for me she did just that.  Once again Glastonbury wove its magic and you could see the emotion, especially during final song ‘Halo’ where she had to stop to catch her breath.  Beyoncé, you have a new fan.

And so to my Number One Act.  They played two sets; one on the Park stage on Friday and one on the John Peel Stage on Saturday afternoon and they are the all-female foursome from Los Angeles – Warpaint.  Warpaint is such a clever name for starters, combining the slang for makeup, thus underlining their gender, with the more tribal connotations of warfare.  Their music could also be described as ‘tribal’ being a cross between 1982 Cure/Siouxsie gothic and 1992 Cocteau Twins.  It has a peculiar quality of being quite mesmerising without seeming to go anywhere in particular.  Somehow, it doesn’t really matter as the heavily chorused guitars chime over intricate bass patterns and complex drumming and you are drawn in forever.  Their live vocals could do with beefing up a bit as they don’t quite match the studio versions I now have in my possession on their debut album, ‘Fool’ but otherwise they were beautifully understated, yet wonderful and worthy winners this year.

But that is not really the end of it.  Special mentions must also go to The Horrors, Kool and the Gang, Rumer, Hurts and Elbow and a very special mention must go to Jessie J who played her set with a broken foot and provided us with a magic moment.  It occurred when she asked for a member of the audience to help her with ‘Price Tag’ and we old cynics cringed.  But it turned out to be nothing like the toe-curling moment we expected and a gobsmacked Jessie didn’t quite get what she expected.  It put a smile on my face for hours afterwards.  Magical.

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