Live Review

Glastonbury Festival, Friday 27th June 2009

A little rain does nothing to stop the festival’s spirit.

We did the hokey cokey welly dance - will it rain? Will we have second year with the sun? - luckily for us, we Brits are pessimists, so having taken ours anyway we came up trumps as the heavens decided to open on day one.

But a little rain does nothing to stop the spirit of the fest, nor did it deter East 17 from managing to get some thousands of those huddled in the Dance East tent jumping, like giddy teens to the strains of ‘Alright’. The rather naff backing track aside, theirs was a performance of old favourites, kicking off a festival of many backwards looking and smiling moments of nostalgia.

To shake off that first night’s worth of hangover, and even more so the unbelievable truth that is the demise of one of this century’s most unmistakable, colourful and curious legends; where better than the Dance Lounge or perhaps with Paul Woolford? Skream remixed into Flat Eric just about does the trick (more of which later), before we’re ready for sterner stuff in the form of Fucked Up, and they certainly don’t disappoint; as if a man called Pink Eyes raging around the front row could.

The funky house comes from Dance West laden with the falsetto charms of Alexis Taylor, albeit in the form of vinyl being spun by bandmate Joe Goddard. While on the Other Stage, The Maccabees are a lot heartier with crunchy guitars displaying the depths of the new album in both ‘No Kind Words’ (mid-afternoon pogo time) and ‘Can You Give It’ (pick-me-up drumming). The boys ooze humility and excitement, with nerves only marginally evident in Orlando Weeks’ sly beam of a mouth. The cloud has, for now, made way for some odious melodies and first album sing-alongs.

Which special guest to put between a chirpy piano twinkling pop mistress (Regina Spektor) and beardy folkies (Fleet Foxes)? Why N.E.R.D of course! And, although 20 minutes postponed for some mic issues, they bring the hop back to hipsters with storming versions of ‘Rock Star (Poser)’ and ‘Lap Dance’ – although the jollity that ensues is cut short when ‘Everyone Nose’ is plucked from the amps mid-chorus for over-running. Of course the bashful Pharrel Williams takes it well… a few profanities go amiss without a mic, the sound guy is likely shot and something tells us he won’t be rushing back to Pilton any time soon.

Onwards and invariably upwards, dub is the dance du jour, one we dare not shy away from and as satisfying subwoofer beckons us back to the Dance Village for Skream and Benga. Rammed to the rafters in this sweaty plastic bubble, ‘Night’ sounds like the warped voice of the almighty, whereas ‘Major Lazer’ and ‘In For The Kill’ remixes witness a mass of rude boys and La Roux’s bouncing their heads and arms in unison. While we peel (literally) ourselves away from the mass of bodies, Friendly Fires are no doubt limbering up for the gig of their career so far.

Thumb prints are apparently saving Africa, recycling your rubbish is saving water and a very eager fluorescent clad man is handing out flyers about Guildfest. But at this moment Ed MacFarlane is the centre of attention. Springing into life, ‘Lovesick’ marks the start of the most audacious moves their frontman has made to date – his pelvis is practically poking the front row in the eyes left then right all the way to ‘Strobe’. The forthcoming single ‘Kiss Of Life’ takes the samba rhythms of their debut and folds them into streamers of melody making peaks and troughs of pitch. Despite not being committed to memory, the new track channels the carnival groove of Jack’s drum, and the skating ease of Ed’s voice. From the relative obscurity of their 2008 John Peel appearance to the strides taken over tours towards this mass of harmonies and partying limbs during ‘Paris’ and ‘All I Need’, Friendly Fires have at last found their home.

And from new we venture to ‘old’; after all, it’s taken The Specials 28 years to play Glastonbury, and it doesn’t feel a moment too soon. Dedicating ‘Message to You, Rudi’ to the BNP, it seems the jollity of the brass can’t hide how little we have moved on from their heyday and ‘Ghost Town’ sounds more potent than ever. For some more beats, rhymes and real life, The Streets can only be the next logical progression. Their version of ‘Billie Jean’ gets the woops it deserves, not only for its homage paying but for getting pitch perfect and funky to boot.

The weekend boasts a minimum of three sites for mind melting: the first being Erol Alkan’s ear bending centre of gravity meddling set to close Dance West’s Friday schedule. Somewhat the connoisseur of all things electro, but not quite as bewildering as Animal Collective’s Park Stage Friday finale – layers of unfathomable melody and tweaked bleeps combine with lights and lights and lights, to dreamy effect. ‘My Girls’ is, of course, its effervescent self but it’s ‘Summertime Clothes’ that proves the favourite of the night, with the most beats per minute physically and aurally.

To be continued…

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