Having delved into the depths of Glastonbury’s offerings on Friday, Cherwell Music thought they’d go straight up the central reservation and into the mainstream for most of Saturday, and where better to start than Latvian rockers Prata Vetra on the John Peel stage? No?
There is method in my madness, from the Cherwell campsite, the Latvians sounded like another ‘surprise set’ in the form of the Killers and I was sure the Las Vegas quartet were here in Pilton but to no avail! Anyway, the Latvians most definitely delivered, blending soaring guitar melodies with the sort of vocals heard at the top of the British alternative charts only realising they weren’t from these shores halfway through the set! Three and a half stars.
From here I headed through the titanic mists of Silver Hayes to the Other stage where I was met by the 1975, a band no doubt about to be billed by NME as the ‘saviours of indie rock’ and the reinventers of the wheel. In reality they’re a bit pretentious (on a scale of 1 to Mount Kimbie I’d say about 6) and lack any real depth. Some cracking tunes though such as Radio-1-listener and teeny bopper favourite ‘Chocolate’. Two and a half stars.
What Glastonbury would be complete without a cheeky bit of Billy Bragg? And that’s what I got over on the pyramid stage. Usually to be found in the politically orientated area of the festival ‘Leftfield’ the veteran rocker strummed out some tunes to a hefty crowd and put forward his message for the festival, more activism! It starts with the people, and the avoidance of self-cynicism, was the general gist and a powerful message supported by his politically fuelled songs. What a legend. Four stars.
From here I basically camped out at the pyramid, as did a fair few others trying to get a good spot for the Stones. Laura Mvula was fairly uneventful with most of the audience actually sat down! Her unique compositions, and unique voice seemed to just about win the audience over but there seemed to be a lack of ‘oomph’ to get the festival crowd going. Three stars.
Next up was Ben Howard and, with his live performances almost becoming legendary, I snaked my way to the ‘cage’ at the front for what was a cracking set. Although frequently put in the ‘pop-acoustic’ category, this performance showed real substance, real flair and sounded nothing like the record! Howard has been with the same band for a long time now and it really showed as their interactions seemed effortless and even almost subconscious at times. His move away from basic acoustic songs and to something a bit more rocky and experimental is a welcome one. Definitely one to continue watching. Four stars.
It suddenly occurred to me that I was yet to eat all day so quickly headed to the ostrich burger van – they’re awesome! – and for a quick sit down. I caught a bit of Noah and the Whale on the Other stage who, along with Alt-J, have become a contender for ‘sunset slot’ dominators against Elbow at festivals. A very well-crafted set. Four stars.
Onto Primal Scream who were to support the Stones as a mini (and younger) version of the Stones, bizarre! They certainly rose to the occasion though and delivered a truly memorable set. Gillespie, dressed in purple suit, jived around with his characteristic charisma and the bands rendition of ‘Rocks’ was a sublime moment. Having seen them last year, my hopes for Primal Scream weren’t particularly high but with the release of ‘More Light’ seamlessly blending old material with new in their set, my fears were unfounded. Four and a half stars.
And now onto the Stones. The pyramid was packed with a record crowd over 100,000 people deep and, after a one and a half hour wait, the ageing rockers sure delivered. With an anthemic ‘Jumping jack Flash’ to open, the Stones set the tone for the evening with hit after hit. Highlights included turning the pyramid stag into a blues club with ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor delivering a knock-out solo, the bass solo in ‘Miss You’ which is the best I’ve ever heard, and the ‘dragon’ on top of the stage spreading its wings, taking flight and spouting fire during ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. Whilst there were fears that Keith wouldn’t be up to it, his chops seemed secure and, although not as good a guitar player as he used to be, Ronnie Wood goes from strength to strength and sure made up for it. But the star of the show was Mick Jagger. After quipping that ‘they finally got round to asking us’ with Michael Eavis having famously asked the band to play every year since the festival began, he added touches of humour to the set, moved around like a twenty year-old and possessed vocal cords that show no sign of giving up! The set ended as it began, with a bang, literally. As the fireworks took flight to end ‘You Can’t Always Get What you Want’ complete with full choir and Taylor onstage once again, the Stones proved that, if you try sometimes, you get what you need. Astonishing performance. Five stars.
So that’s it for my mainstream Saturday, Cherwell is currently trekking to the press tent whilst writing this for a twelve hour shift. Whilst less music may be seen today, check back in tomorrow to find out what happens behind the scenes, and in the Winnebagos, of the greatest festival on earth.