And so to Saturday.
I am knackered from Friday night. Sadly, not from any late night dad-dancing into the small hours, but because the trudge back from the Park Stage was a real ball-ache. The rain, you see, the rain. Although it had stopped a few hours earlier, the damage was done, pathways churned up by 175,000 revellers desperate to get to Avalon, to Silver Hayes (the new name for the Dance Tents, though quite what was wrong with calling them the Dance Tents is beyond me. Maybe it was a bit too Ronseal. Perhaps in years to come the Pyramid Stage will be rechristened The Pointy Place) to The Glade, to Arcadia.
Arcadia is close to where we are camped, and the central feature is used as a reference point to guide us back to our tents. At night-time it’s easy to spot, a giant spidery thing which spurts fire, like this:
Fairly noticeable, right? But during the day, there it stands, sans flames, sans booming techno, sans massive throng of people. Every time I walk past it in the day time, cold and stationary, legs akimbo, it strikes me as being almost gynaecological, which reminds me I really must start my therapy again sometime. And phone my mother.
Anyway, Saturday, and I emerge from my tent to find the weather overcast and, without doing anything as sensible as either checking a) what effect the rain had actually had on the terrain, or b) the little book around my neck with the running order on it, I decide to return to my tent, in frankly a bit of a sulk.
I have it in my head that there’s nobody I want to see until Burt Bacharach on the Pyramid. I am wrong, and I am a twat. This assumption means I miss one of the acts I really wanted to see: Courtney Barnett. When I get home, I plough through all the BBC Glastonbury stuff I recorded, find this and I immediately regret not seeing her. There’s something about this, maybe the almost spoken delivery of the verses that reminds me of Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” which is no bad thing in my book. (To add to my misery, when researching this post – and yes, I do research, though you’d be hard pushed to notice it – I find this duet with one of my heroes, Evan Dando and I’m even more gutted to have missed her.)
When I resurface, I find that I have managed to miss a couple of young lady guests that Andy has brought over to the camp site for a barbecue. I also find much hilarity ensuing at what Dean has brought to assist with the barbecues:
(With thanks to Chad for the photo and for reminding me about this).
I pull my wellies on and head to the Pyramid. The ground is firm. I curse my glass-half-empty thoughts about the state the terrain would be in, and pitch up to watch Burt Bacharach.
He is, and I hate to say this about a living legend, a wee bit disappointing. It’s not so much the fact that he doesn’t actually sing many of the songs himself: he’s never really been renowned for his singing prowess, and when he does venture to give his tonsils an airing it’s croakier than Kermit in need of a lozenge.
But I have a couple of other issues with his set. Firstly, we rarely get to hear a song all of the way through. This is kind of understandable, when you think about the vast back catalogue of classic songs he wrote or co-wrote with Hal David. Burt wants to appease each and every one of us by performing the one we like, and the only way to do that is to only perform a bit of each. And so, Pyramid becomes Medley-Central for the next hour.
The other problem is that we associate most of his songs with absolute classic, legendary singers: Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, Sandie Shaw, Tom Jones …er…Cilla Black…um……Christopher Cross… oh you know, classic, legendary singers.
But what we get are three singers performing snippets of these great, great songs who, whilst very good, are just a little bit cruise ship. They’re never going to do these wonderful songs justice and certainly aren’t going to really affect the on-looking crowd. It’s all just a bit….bland.
Next up is Paloma Faith. I’ve always had a bit of a soft-spot for this bat-shit crazy flame haired Hackney-ite, mostly from her flirtatious appearances alongside Noel Fielding on “…Buzzcocks” and I quite like a couple of songs off her first album. (On the matter of Noel Fielding, if you’ve never heard him tell the story of the time he went missing from his own tour, and was found working in a second hand vintage clothing shop in Brighton, then listen to this: funny as fuck.)
I am totally unprepared for just how much of a show-woman she is; she looks amazing, puts on an utterly spellbinding set, and I don’t really mind that I only know one of her songs (putting aside her frankly inexplicable decision to cover Purple Haze), or that she wants to get off her chest something about a bad thing that the red-tops have written about her, of which most of us have no knowledge, but seems to be about her saying she hates Glastonbury. Paloma: we know The Sun is full of bollocks, there really is no need to clarify.
Anyway, she clearly doesn’t hate Glastonbury. She clearly loves it and has an absolute ball.
She has as much of a blast as we all do watching her. Here’s her doing “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” but the crowd goes uber-wild when she wheels on two blokes behind keyboards/decks; they are apparently called Sigma, they are more than adept at pretending they are actually doing something with their keyboards/decks other than pressing Play, and they rattle through “Changing“, the crowd going mental joining in the “Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh” chorus (they don’t write ’em like that anymore) and I have never felt older.
As Paloma finishes, I espy Chad, Llyr, Emily, Andrew and Cara wending their way through the crowd. I join them, and after much standing around (mostly trying to work out where Andy is – we know he has his magical alchemy vodka drinks and we therefore need him) we make our way down the slope to a decent clearing ready for the next act: Pharrell Williams. Located, Andy passes me a bottle full of chocolate vodka, a swig and all is right with the world.
Pharrell is essentially the warm up guy for Saturday night’s headliner, Kanye West. Emily has written “Kan” in lipstick on her right cheek, and “Yay!” on her left in anticipation of the main event, which could also be construed as a show of strength and unity: his booking has been massively criticised, an on-line petition against his appearance at the festival has attracted waaaaay to many signatories from reactionaries and racists, and its refreshing to see someone wear their heart on their, errr, cheeks.
To be honest, the Eavis’ need not have booked Kanye, for Pharrell utterly owns the Pyramid Stage for the next hour or so. He treats us not just to his solo stuff, but to just about every record he has ever been involved in (actually, that’s not true – we’d still be there if he did that), so we get treated to a barrage of Pharrell’s Greatest Hits: “Frontin‘“, “Marilyn Monroe“, “Hot in Herre” (yes, I have chosen the magnificently camp Tiga version over the Nelly one there); “Lap Dance“, “She Wants to Move“, “Hollaback Girl“, a triumphant and glorious version of “Get Lucky” and we even manage to cast our liberal outrage aside to dance and sing-a-long to misogynist sex-fest “Blurred Lines” on the strict proviso that he doesn’t wheel out misogynist sex-pest Robin Thicke to co-perform it.
Pharrell’s set is embellished by a group of highly gyratory dancers, and also by ushering on stage a load of your common-or-garden punters, the male section of which seem to be hurried off equally quickly, leaving a group of awkward but star-struck young ladies to frug their way through a couple of songs whilst Pharrell and his enclave direct us to watch a dancer literally standing on her head and spinning. If this is what spinning classes involve, then I’m glad I’ve avoided them (and anything else which vaguely resembles a gym class).
Pharrell’s set is book-ended by an intro and super-long crowd sing-a-long-a-climax of “Freedom“, complete with cute kids brought on stage to stand and look cute, and then he is off, taking his Adidas-arse-logoed jeans with him and allowing the BBC producers to breathe again without fear of allegations of product placement being launched against them.
Now then. The Big One. Kanye. It can’t have escaped your attention that his set was, shall we say, more than a little contentious. I have no intention watching him. But let me set my position straight: I have no issue with Kanye West headlining the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. He’s not my cup of tea, so I won’t be joining in, but I appreciate that there’s a lot of people here who do want to see him, and I think he’s earned the right to be here. I had the same feeling about Jay-Z when he headlined a few years ago – I wasn’t there, probably wouldn’t have watched him if I had been, but those who did, fair play, enjoy!
The comparison between Jay-Z’s appearance and Glastonbury and Kanye’s is an interesting one. Both attracted quite the media storm when their appearances were announced (Noel: I think you’re often quite the amusing rent-a-mouth, but you just came across as a bit of a dick on the Jay-Z issue) but only one came away from their Saturday Night Glasto set with their integrity and standing intact, and it wasn’t Kanye. Why? Well, I watched the footage back when I got home, and it seemed to me the difference was that whilst Jay-Z was all charm personified, Kanye just seemed determined to prove himself to be a serious artiste.
Oh, and Jay-Z probably knows how Bohemian Rhapsody goes, and wouldn’t have attempted to ingratiate himself by singing it anyway.
And from what I gather from all those who stayed and watched him, and from the oh so many comments posted on social media, nobody else bought it either.
In short: Kanye bombed.
I later learn that Emily has changed the “Yay!” on her right cheek to “Nay!”, thereby earning herself some additional cool points which she really didn’t need, and effortlessly summing up the Saturday night headliner at the Pyramid.
As I said, I have decided not to watch Kanye. I am going to watch Suede. Suede are a band I was moderately obsessed with in the early 90s; I bought all of their early singles on the day they were released, along with the accompanying t-shirt of each, but somehow I have managed to never see them live. Well, not a full gig anyway. I have wandered past the Pyramid before and caught a snippet of them, but a full gig? Nosireebob.
As soon as Pharrell finishes, I announce I am off and I make my way to the John Peel stage. I am early and am delighted to catch the end of La Roux’s set. Her performance of “Bulletproof” is awesome and almost – but not quite – gets these old bones a-dancing (they’re knackered from dancing to Pharell).
Getting inside the tent for Suede is a non-starter, so I position myself outside in my little fold-up chair, in front of a flag (so nobody could sneak up behind me and steal my chair/booze/etc), ciders a-ready for quaffing.
It turns out to be quite a wise decision: I can see the stage and one of the screens, and a bit more importantly I can hear perfectly, and Suede are just…awesome. Brett Anderson is on great form, a lithe prowling skinny narcissist, working the crowd like a true pro. Five songs in and I’m in heaven: we’ve had Pantomime Horse, Moving, Trash, Animal Nitrate, We Are The Pigs….Suede were well and truly tearing up the John Peel Stage. Watch it here, listen to it all here, or if you just want a couple of numbers, then here’s Beautiful Ones and glorious come-back single “It Starts and Ends With You”
Filled with Britpop joy, I head home, fall into my tent and lay there, listening to the world go by. I’m fairly close to a pathway, and at one point I hear two people walking past, discussing Kanye.
“I quite like him, actually”
“What, even now? Before and after?”
“Before: yes. After: No, he was shit. I’d defend him, but not that far!”
I realise I made the right decision and fall into snooze-mode.