After taking a break for the Olympics last year, Glastonbury returned in style this past weekend with a genre and generation-spanning line up which prompted founder Michael Eavis to declare it the best festival he’s ever done.
Of course, the world’s most famous dairy farmer may have been slightly swayed by the fact that he had finally managed to persuade The Rolling Stones to grace one of his many stages after 43 years of trying. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that the legendary rockers were worth the wait following an energetic and hit-packed set which silenced most of the critics who had argued that a band with a combined age of 276 had no place at such an event.
Indeed, Mumford & Sons, playing their first gig since bassist Ted Dwane’s brain operation, could certainly do with taking some tips from Mick Jagger and Co. on how to wow a crowd. The nu-folk quartet always felt like a strange choice to close the festival with their country bumpkin sound far more suited to a more relaxed late afternoon slot than the Sunday night headliners’. And with only two albums to draw upon, their set noticeably lacked the same rousing sing-along quality of the night before.
Perhaps keen to compensate for their slightly underwhelming first headline appearance six years previously, Arctic Monkeys were much sharper on Friday night. Combining the vibrant youthful indie-pop of their early years with the lean and mean swamp-rock of their more recent material, the Sheffield quartet looked and sounded every inch the crowd-pleasers, although Alex Turner’s bizarre US accent almost ended up attracting all the attention.
But as always, there was much more to this year’s Glastonbury than its bill-topping stars. Friday saw Los Angeles siblings Haim live up to all the hype with a self-assured performance, albeit one where bassist Este had to sit down after nearly going into a diabetic coma. Portishead dazzled and unsettled in equal measure with a set which included an image of the Prime Minister shooting red lasers out of his eyes, while Chic’s Nile Rodgers proved just what an incredible songwriter he is with an astounding trawl through five decades of glorious disco-pop.
Saturday was no less stellar with Laura Mvula’s avant-garde soul, Alabama Shakes’ vintage blues and Daughter’s gorgeous folk-rock perhaps the most spell-binding of the surprisingly sunny afternoon slots. Those who decided to opt for Chase & Status ahead of the Stones were rewarded with a blistering 90 minutes of dubstep, drum ‘n’ bass and acid house which will probably still be reverberating around Somerset when the festival rolls into town again next year.
Sunday belonged to The xx thanks to a haunting light show which perfectly accompanied their echo-laden atmospheric sound. But a revitalised Smashing Pumpkins, an effortlessly feel-good turn from Kenny Rogers and a triumphant display from Vampire Weekend all served to help maintain Glastonbury’s reputation as one of the best and most eclectic festivals in the world.