With Radiohead, U2, Primal Scream
Primal Sceam live at Glastonbury 2011 by Al De Perez

Epic doesn’t even come close to describing Glastonbury.

You are daunted by the journey, haunted by the weather and the conditions that follow, and it takes at least a day to acclimatize to the hedonistic microcosm that this mud filled bowl becomes. But when it delivers, it delivers in style.

What other festival can commandeer the planet’s most enigmatic front-men under one rain sodden sky? All of whom are happy to play a supporting role in a plot far bigger than any one of its parts.

Thom Yorke battling with Morrissey and Bono jousting with Bobby Gillespie within a square mud mile of each other on opposite stages is a dream scenario most events would kill for, and with the new ‘secret set’ phenomenon at Glastonbury the Eavis’s have created a beast they may now struggle to control.

The worst kept secret of Glastonbury Friday, ‘your budget U2’ as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke put it, took to the stage in Emily Eavis’ now keystone hill-side arena The Park under a dank sky a year to the day he and band cohort Jonny Greenwood played a now legendary slew of classics.

Announcing this set as a selection from latest album ‘King Of Limbs’, Yorke jerk-danced through opener ‘Lotus Flower’ as the masses squashed in to grab any small view they could of a performance that would divide opinion as much as the album in question has.

Second track ‘15 Step’ from 2007’s ‘In Rainbows’ proved an immediate indicator of a slight discomfort with how ‘Kings of Limbs’ would stand up played live in it’s entirety. As one of Glastonbury’s imperial headliners, Radiohead will always be expected to deliver a jukebox-smash set of 1997 and 2003 proportions. But that’s not what tonight was about, and is probably why they devised this slot.

Peppered by drizzle as constant as the scatter gun rhythm section of dual drumming wizards Phil Selway and Portishead’s Clive Dreamer, the crowd listened intently as ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ and ‘Little By Little’ were interspersed with more familiar (and ultimately more popular) moments like ‘All I Need’ and its Boards of Canada aping bassline, ‘Arpeggi’ and ‘Reckoner’, all of which seemed to please the swaying throngs more than ‘the new stuff’.

New Youtube release ‘Staircase’ went down well and ‘The Daily Mail’, dedicated to ‘the mellow liberal free thinking British’, showcased a band that will always challenge opinion as they left the stage to chants of ‘For a minute there…’.They returned to launch into ‘Street Spirit’, rewarding those that had braved the conditions and the crowds with the classic moment everyone wanted.

U2, the self-styled worlds biggest band, took to the Pyramid stage next for one of Pilton’s most anticipated performances and in contrast were never going to deliver anything other than an anthemic selection. After a sickie last year Bono was absolutely determined to put in a shift worthy of the glory of Worthy Farm.

Opening with ‘Space Oddity’ and enduring an Art Uncut non-payment of tax protest throughout ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’, Ireland’s rock and roll icons blistered through an opening hour that included ’Mysterious Ways’ sprinkled with a little Beyonce and ‘I Stall haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ peppered with Primal Scream’s ‘Moving On Up’, all delivered in tribute to his fellow headliners.

All things glorious in U2’s pompous rock odyssey were present and correct, none more so than his anglo-wanking rendition of ‘Jerusalem’, however it has to be said, they were great. For all his hypocrisy, sanctimonious gesturing and angst-y postulating, Bono remains one of the

world’s great front men. ‘One’ and ‘Where The Streets…’ gave the huge audience the vocal unison moments they craved and ‘I Will Follow’ and ‘Elevation’ provided the balls to underpin a headline set that defined the meaning. Clash didn’t hang about for the cover of ‘Yellow’ and we’re glad we quit while we were ahead.

We took Bono’s advice and headed to Primal Scream on The Other Stage to watch a bacofoil shirted Bobby Gillespie return his compadre’s compliment with a ‘pay your taxes’ interlude during ‘Loaded’, as their acid house era defining ‘Screamadelica’ was played in its entirety for the first time at a festival in 20 years. It’s an album that Gillespie does not laud as one of his best, however the Primals unleashed an utterly euphoric sonic rendition of their psychedelic opus, which proved it as a genuinely timeless album. Replete with 4-piece vocal choir, songs that could have sounded dated transferred magnificently with ‘Higher Than The Sun’ and a 10-minute extended version of ‘Come Together’ igniting a soaking mass of uplifted hands and emphatic hugs.

They were hauled off the Pyramid Stage 3 years previously but rightly remain Glastonbury regulars, and tonight proves one of their triumphs as set closers ‘Country Girl’ and ‘Rocks’ take the blissed out audience back into the realms of the rock and roll band Gillespie always wanted to create.

Out of these three headliners we bore witness to a defining triptych of music’s great diversity,leaving us to debate for long after who was the good, the bad and the ugly.

Words by Brian Murnin
Photos by Al de Perez

Discover more of Clash's coverage from the Glastonbury festival 2011 HERE

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