With that punishing sunshine beating down from an early sunrise every morning, there’s little chance on getting more than a few hours of sleep. So the early performers find themselves getting decent turnouts. With our tent finding itself parked near to the Park Stage we’re there in time for today’s opening act I Blame Coco. Little Miss Sumner has been plugging away at her material tirelessly, and it remains … not bad. But she still doesn’t seem to have the essentials to step it up to the next level.
Wandering around the site we happen across Ian Broudie and his Lightning Seeds recreating their little corner of early ’90s indie pop. Never the strongest vocalist, he instead relied on infectious irresistible hooks. The likes of Pure and The Life Of Riley remain the Butterkist popcorn of pop, sweet but sickly after a while. Neither Skinner nor Baddiel turn up for an inevitable Three Lions, but it goes goes down a storm, as do Broudie’s overly optimistic World Cup wishes.
On to more current things and some great late afternoon sets from the creators of three of 2010’s best albums. First up, Baltimore’s Beach House provide a late-afternoon respite, bodies strewn around the Park Stage like refugees. The greatest audience concentration straddles the shadows cast by the mixing desk and the sunlight beside, a mix of sun and shade that befits Beach House’s music perfectly. Gentle yet tinged with melancholy, singer Victoria Legrand’s eerie vocals wash over the assembled like a breeze, cooling yet affecting, with a subtlety that leaves a mark long after the evening’s tinnitus has receded.
The National have attracted a wealth of praise this year on the back of their High Violet album. Somehow still remaining under a lot of people’s radar, they make a few new fans over on the Other Stage. Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals shudder around the field as the band implore their way through songs from their last three albums.
The John Peel Tent is heaving with young people, old people, people with limps and people with silly hats, people with beards and people with ice-creams: like the freakshows of old all life has gathered to witness Foals‘ singer Yannis Philippakis’ strange canine yelp in the flesh. They’re not disappointed: an early Cassius resounds like a vet’s waiting room, whilst Two Steps Twice has the displaced howling of a van en-route to the Pound. Vocals aside, Foals are tremendous, all jagged, disjointed rhythms and tricksy song-structures, their set buoyed by the infectious energy of Balloons but truly driven by the darker hues and dynamics of Red Socks Pugie and Spanish Sahara.
If you follow a certain route on this Saturday evening, you can have one of the most poptastic evenings available. We managed to follow that route and in doing so experienced the Latin magic of Columbian sexpot Shakira, followed by the flesh-revealing antics of Jake Shears with his Scissor Sisters on the Pyramid Stage, before ending up watching the Pet Shop Boys headline the Other Stage. Things that you need to know about those sets are: Shakira covered Islands by The xx to great effect; Scissor Sisters welcomed Kylie Minogue on stage for her “it’s been a long time coming” Glastonbury debut for a song that no one knew; and the Pet Shop Boys were very. Very amazing that is, their live show still wowing people with its dependence on theatrics and choreography. Unavoidably fun times on a pop tangent.
However, the Saturday hype has gone to Muse. The crowd is pressed in like a Nazi rally, and there’s more than a touch of the dystopian to their bludgeoning Pyramid Stage show. Taking the stage to an audience response terrifyingly close to the ending scenes of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers – mouths agape and faces twisted, outstretched arms forward – the four-piece proceed upon a monstrous two hours of steamroller electro-metal-classical-glam-whatever through a setlist that reads like the level-selection in Halo.
It’s certainly an impressive show, the Pyramid alive with light and motion, the crowd a Dharavi sprawl of camera-phones and paper cups, even if it is essentially a more industrial Flash Gordon. The drums are truly pounding and the guitar lines incredible, but Matt Bellamy’s falsetto is so melodramatic as to render the drama almost farcical, the band’s endless themes of resistance and revolution impossible to dwell upon without snorting cider down your front. Snatches of other artists go some way to leavening the pomposity though, riffs from Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine and House of the Rising Sun wrestling the setlist away from total introversion, and their Edge-augmented cover of U2‘s Where The Streets Have No Name is, grudgingly, a masterstroke of crowd-pleasing despite the bile rising.
With an audience this expansive it was always going to be the singles that played best, and unlike the previous night’s Gorillaz set Muse can deliver these in abundance. An early Supermassive Black Hole is met with hysteria, whilst the main set’s closing triplet of Time Is Running Out, Starlight and Stockholm Syndrome is greeted like Jesus’ return. (iIcidentally, the girl sat in a wheelchair in front us actually took to her feet at this point. No lie.) Really though, more than any one song this was a performance so assured, so overwhelming as to make criticism a bit redundant: it’s strange that a band so teenage in their emotion should have such mass appeal, but when it ends the cheers don’t stop, raising in pitch and fervour until silence itself seems just a memory, dim and fading.
We spend a few hours exploring the Shangri-La and Arcadia all-night meccas of insanity. Crazy visions designed with Mad Max dystopias in mind, they prove a little too popular with the tens of thousands of people not ready to turn in yet and chaos reigns. Security instate one way systems that lead us not to where we want to go and eventually we get fed up of the crowds and head towards the Stone Circle for a more sedate and relaxed time.