With QOTSA, Jamie Woon, Paul Simon

Sunday morning at Glastonbury was spent lying in the searing sun listening to bands from a distance.

Jamie Woon, criticized as sounding a ‘bit Charles and Eddy’ stepped up to that plate by playing ‘Would I Lie to You’ in a set including the brilliant ‘Night Air’, before Jah Wobble took things down the toasted dub route that we are all used to on our Pilton Sabbath.

The main stage had seen Don McLean offer up the first ‘legends’ afternoon set before Laura Marling gave the jaded throngs a smooth selection to set things up for the first hopefully unforgettable moment of the day. And it was then we headed for the front.

Paul Simon came onto the Pyramid Stage under a cloudless sky, apologizing instantly for a sore throat that could keep him from the top of his game, but immediately launched into solo classics ‘Boy in the Bubble’ and ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’. This start gave the crowd genuine hope that they would be presented their wish of a classic laden set, complete with Simon and Garfunkel gems, however this was not to be granted.

New album So Beautiful or So What was given a real focus, with most of the crowd not really knowing its West African inspired sounds. However, ‘Slip Sliding Away’ played at a slower pace, and ‘Diamonds on the Soles of her Feet’ were moments to be treasured, with Bakithi Kumalo, 20 year band collaborator in fine form slip-slapping away on bass. Simon exited the stage abruptly before coming back to deliver that unforgettable moment with ‘You Can Call Me Al’ sounding exactly perfect for that point of the weekend.

The Other Stage was our next conquest with TV on the Radio, still recovering from the loss of band member Gerard Smith to cancer, and playing to a far smaller crowd than expected but with an energy that unlocked our weary legs. ‘Dancing Choose’ from ‘Dear Science’ and its scattered drum beats has frontman Tunde Adebimpe showing off his bouncing shoes, and the melancholic bass growl of the iconic ‘Staring at the Sun’ surround offerings from weaker new album Nine Types of Light in a set topped off rather bizarrely by a cover of Ray Parker Junior’s ‘Ghostbusters’ theme tune.

California’s The Eels are up next and convert Clash with a bluesy rock and roll performance more southern than sunshine, delivered in style by a finely bearded five piece. ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ from 1998’s Brit winning ‘Beautiful Freak’ was the highlight of a performance oozing balls and quality. In contrast, The Kaiser Chiefs, who show balls in their persona on stage and in their approach to the record buying process, don’t quite deliver on musical quality when they step up next to serve up a range of idiots anthems to a crowd who seem appreciative.

The Sunday headliner slot was always going to be a tough choice with Kool and the Gang the fun option and Queens of the Stone Age the serious one. Beyonce was the glitzy and BIG one, and she won our initial attention. Turning up 20minutes late, amidst rumours of a missed set, the ex-Destiny’s Child global superstar followed in the footsteps of her husband Jay-Z in taking to the stage for what she called ‘her dream’. Under an outstanding display of pyrotechnics, she rose from below the stage on a hydraulic platform reaching for the stars with a brilliant version of ‘Crazy in Love’. Booty shakin’ chick-rock classics ‘Single Ladies’ (Put a Ring On It) and Baby Boy are up next, with the latter performed with an out-of-place Tricky who cannot even be heard. Covers of Alanis Morrisette’s ‘You Oughta Know’ Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex on Fire’ and the beautiful Etta James’s ‘At Last’ are all present in a set which is slick, tightly choreographed and one that the ladies present will have loved. An epic ‘Halo’ tops it all off.

By this point Clash has headed over to The Other Stage to see QOTSA doll out a thunderous set of nuts-outs ROCK, with Josh Homme telling Beyonce he knows a place he’d like to put a ring. ‘Go With The Flow’ into ‘No-One Knows’ and onto ‘A Song For the Dead’ was a sensational triumvirate of scorching classics, screamed out under a fantastic lazer show. QOTSA keep it simple, the contrived glitz and glamour is frowned upon, with the focus firmly set on delivering earth shaking layers of rock music’s most rudimentary ingredient – the guitar.

That balance is what Glastonbury is all about and why today the trembling queues will be leaving with a wry smile that they were there, having their own individual moments across all corners of a site dripping with visual and aural inspiration.

This revolution was televised everywhere, but to see it in full effect my god you have to be there.

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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