With Pulp, James Blake, Wild Beasts

After a Friday night trudging the swathes of gloop and mud to witness the opening night ‘biggies’, followed by some Shangri-La induced contamination till the wee hours, Clash had a mildly slow start to our Glastonbury Saturday. The rain was a fairly constant factor and movement en-masse even more arduous, so we decided to devote our day and evening to Gastonbury’s best area for diverse new music, now also famed for throwing up some stunning surprise guests.

Kicking off with the solo acoustics off Ellen and the Escapades, and some orchestral Balearic folk, Sweden’s all-female indie troupe Those Dancing Days then handed over to Clash favourite Graham Coxon to blast out offerings from his double-whammy of new album offerings. By 7pm the stage was well and truly set for tonight’s early evening surprise guest.

‘You didn’t think we’d let you down, did you?’ asks Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker as he bursts on-stage in front of 30,000 (‘people-standing-in-a-field’), the biggest crowd The Park has ever seen. Entrances were again closed off, with the likes of Kate Moss even struggling to get through to join the emphatic response to Cocker’s appearance.

For those stood further up The Park’s far reaching verges this reaction became strangely muted as they struggled to hear the opening strains of ‘Do You Remember The First Time’. This is, you see, the slightly fundamental problem with the beast that the Eavis’s have created with their secret sets. A main-stage band generally deserves a main-stage sound-system.

However, you cannot really knock the nailing of tonight’s artist and last night’s offering ‘Radiohead’ as added bonuses for your ticket price. These bands would walk straight to the top of almost every bill in the world.

In their return to the fields of their 1995 triumph, stepping in admirably upon The Stone Roses pulling out, Cocker announced that gig as the one that ‘set them off on a strange orbit around the earth’, landing once again now to wow a crowd that hold them genuinely close to their hearts. They responded by offering up crowd favourites ‘Disco 2000’, ‘Babies’ and a beautiful ‘Something Changed’ all sung back fervently by those intent on filling the entire hill with the sounds they could not quite hear from the stage. At times it was awesome, and Pulp’s definitive song for the masses ‘Common People’ proved the cherry on a sodden cake making it worth every inch of the arduous trek.

Next up is James Blake, singer song writer and dubstep-scene hero who this year has flirted with the more populist music spectrum. A Pulp-following set at Glastonbury, which had to be trimmed to allow for a smooth change-around, would be a true test of his mettle for the mainstream. And like Pulp he didn’t let us down.

Rib-rattling moments like the lapped-up ‘Limit to Your Love’ and ‘Wilhelm’s

Scream’ brought the largest cheers from a vastly reduced crowd after a sluggish ‘I Never Learned to Share’ and its drawn-out ‘My Brother and my sister don’t speak to me’ intro. His clever use of a Kelis’ sample from ‘Caught Out There’ in his oldie ‘CMYK’ pleased the purists in the crowd, giving Blake’s set the balance and quality he was looking for can from a set that ideally would not have been so short.

Headliners Wild Beasts were next up and could have felt a little short-changed by Jarvis and co stealing their thunder (and their crowd), but they did not let that show, effortlessly flowing through three albums worth of ethereal wonder. The setting and the timing of their set was perfectly planned, with Hayden Thorpe’s haunting vocals providing a hair raising end to a hair wetting day.

Latest single ‘Bed of Nails’ provided an intoxicating opening, with a tweaked version of ‘Plaything’ and ‘Albatross’ all highlights from new album ‘Smother’, and ‘All The King’s Men’ and ‘Hooting and Howling’ harking back to 2009’s stunning ‘Two Dancers’, the unique album that set the Leeds lads on the path to the top of a stellar bill like this, on one of Glastonbury’s most recently revered stages.

A fine shift was put in by Clash and those on-stage and on-hill on a day that started miserably, but finished euphorically. The trick now was to ‘try’ to keep away from those other corners of the festival site!

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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