OH GOD. IT’S raining again. But as there’s just one day left to savour of the 2015 Glastonbury Festival, we ignore the sound of raindrops on tent flaps, get the wellies back out and squelch off to the now-customary Sunday morning set by ardent Morrissey and Marr tribute act The Smyths, at William’s Green. Drilled and convincing, they’re a fine accompaniment to a hearty breakfast, but what’s with the updated Bigmouth Strikes Again lyric that refers to an iPod instead of a Walkman? A spanking with a wet plimsoll may be in order.
“Patti Smith gives the Dalai Lama a birthday cake.”
Patti Smith revisits vintage work to different ends in her early afternoon set at the Pyramid stage. Though she announces she’s losing her voice, it’s a masterful and energised hour-plus of mind and body protest rocking: all smiles between songs, she performs selections from 1975’s wondrous Horses and beyond with an edge of righteous fury, and it’s a riot.
Along the way she declares one of the ‘G’s in Gloria stands for ‘Glastonbury’, covers The Who’s My Generation, and brings the Dalai Lama onstage to give him a cake for his 80th birthday, also leading a chorus of Happy Birthday To You to the eminent peacemaker. At one point she takes an onstage tumble, later explaining, “I fell on my ass at Glastonbury, but I don’t care ‘cause I’m a fucking animal!” Right on!
It’s a performance destined for the festival’s All-Time Greatest list, and while Lionel Ritchie’s slot immediately afterwards is good natured and hit-packed, it doesn’t connect in anything like the same way.
Someone else who falls over onstage today is Samuel T. Herring, the body-moving, all-man vocal chameleon from North Carolina’s Future Islands, who trips over a monitor after the band’s first song at the Other Stage. Laughing it off, the band go onto deliver a mood-elevating set of sad-euphoric electro pop, wholly synchronised with the now-beauteous sunshine.
When they play Doves off last year’s excellent Singles album and the crowd go ape, it’s a moment to relish. A quick dash over to West Holts finds Steel Pulse playing songs from their 1978 landmark Handsworth Revolution, and beyond. Their rocking and militant rasta reggae retains its punch, and the band are on blazing form.
The last time The Fall played Glastonbury was in 1992, when Chairman Mark E. Smith caused ructions by protesting from the stage about having to play underneath James. At their evening show at The Park, the smartly attired MES makes no mention of his rehabilitation, preferring instead to goad the road crew before blowing his starting whistle on a maelstrom of garage grind, scathing psycho-narration and onstage sabotage.
There are no fan favourites from the catalogue, but the motorik Wolf Kidult man does make you wonder if it’s a comment on the beards and ropey tats phenomenon. Defining moment: when MES proclaims “chocolate éclairs!” and gesticulates weirdly, as if scrutinising a particularly fascinating dust mote.
“Mark E Smith proclaims 'chocolate éclairs!' and gesticulates.”
For the indecisive reveller, the sad but inevitable final act is a challenge – where to go, and how to get there in time? Headlining the Pyramid, The Who draw an expectedly vast crowd, primed to “be sent home happy” says Pete Townshend. The mega hits (how ace is You Better You Bet?) sound as mighty as you’d expect, with the still vigorous Townshend and Roger Daltrey looked down on from screens by their younger selves and their late bandmates. When a giant-sized Keith Moon appears wearing a wig and some lingerie as accompaniment to onanism memoir Pictures Of Lily, you smile, sing along and feel sad all at once.
A new project with its own historical baggage, FFS – the Sparks/ Franz Ferdinand superband – have the crowd screaming at the John Peel Stage, as they play gene-spliced versions of both bands' hits and songs from their self-titled collaboration. When MOJO arrives for a blistering triple whammy of Sparks’ The Number One Song In Heaven, Franz’s Michael and then This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, it may be the endorphin peak of the weekend, made even more glorious by Ron Mael doing his dance routine in (immaculate) rubber boots.
Back at the Other Stage, there’s just time to see The Chemical Brothers blast out their rubbery 1997 beatdown Block Rockin' Beats, and with a clap of thunder they’re done, and so is Glastonbury 2015. As we trudge off across a now silent arena littered with crushed lager cans, empty cig packets and water bottles, the painful realisation sinks in that the magic city that augurs so well for humanity has dematerialised for another year.
No more can we presume that wandering randomly about this massive site will enable us to gaze upon such rare spectacles as, say, a DJ booth-cum-giant metal spider that spews out flame, hazardous no-clothes fire eating and the all-night pandemonium that is the Shangri-La field, not to mention the amazing music. But there is, of course, one place that you can do it all again: Glastonbury, next year.
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