Glastonbury 2011: Day 3 Roundup

By on Thursday, 7th July 2011 at 1:00 pm

At last the sun was shining, and all I could think about is how badly I was going to burn in this unbearable heat, the summer sheer had to come out at some point though and who better to provoke such cheers then American hero Don McLean. He comes on and the first thing he says is, “I’ve got a couple of songs you may like to hear, and one really long one that you definitely will”. At least he’s honest! The set is long enough for him to get the crowd on their feet this early in the day, but it’s the anthemic ‘American Pie’ and its numerous verses which really get the crowd animated. The crowd hang on his every word throughout and the atmosphere is buoyant and one indicative of what a great day of music this will be.

Who better to follow up an elderly Yank with a guitar and a backing band then a young English woman with a guitar and a backing band? Laura Marling ambles on stage nervously but automatically already has the crowd in the palm of her hands with her unique brand of folk, rock n’roll. Opener ‘Devils Spoke’ ensures that the set starts strongly, with the pounding drum beat and haunting vocals projecting beautifully across the fields of Avalon. Noticeably though, even though Marling can’t admit it she grows in confidence as the gig goes on culminating in a foot stamping finale to get even the harshest folk purist square dancing.

Occupying the mid-afternoon “Living Legend” spot this weekend is one half of American duo Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon. Simon admits straight off that he has a throat infection and sadly for the veteran singer songwriter it shows, as if the “2nd best to Dylan” comments weren’t enough, his big moment on the Pyramid Stage was ruined by illness, a shame if ever I’ve seen one. The hits aren’t out in abundance with Simon opting for more from his new record; however, an encore of ‘You Can Call Me Al’ you would think would be enough to save him. However even this cannot rescue the poor guy’s set and sadly the set ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

Out with the old then, and in with the new, rapper turned soul star Ben Drew (AKA Plan B) is up next and is introduced by a beat boxer. While a lot of these acts are often gimmicks to disguise weak sets etc. this one is anything but, it leaves me thinking if this is what he can do, what is ‘Plan B’s’ actual set going to be like. Nothing short of a master class, ‘Drew’ has the audience in his hands from the first note of ‘Prayin’ to the last screech of ‘Stay Too Long’. Big things lie ahead for the London born star and if he carries on at this pace there is no telling how big he could be.

For many my next decision would have been looked upon as mad, leaving the Pyramid Stage before Pendulum and Beyonce, you must be mad? Well sadly, the drum ‘n’ bass assault of the Aussies from Pendulum just wasn’t for me today and well while Beyonce is cool, who can resist the sleazy desert rock of Queens of the Stone Age?

So I headed to the John Peel Stage to catch Manchester born and bred Hurts. If you only can say one thing about these guys, it’s that they don’t do half measures. Arriving on stage with the band of two are, in order of height, a 7-foot tall opera singer, a drummer, guitarist, backing pianist, all female string section and two dancers with flags. All in black. Naturally. They burst into single ‘Wonderful Life’ and immediately the sheer power if their live show is apparent, Theo Hutchcraft stands statuesque for much of the performance but there are moments when the rock star within escapes, as he rampages around the stage thrashing the microphone stand from side to side. ‘Illuminated’ is as powerful as any U2 ballad and closer ‘Stay’ is a fitting end to one of the best sets of the weekend.

Next it’s off to the Other Stage to catch Leeds rockers Kaiser Chiefs, who are starting to look (not sound) more like a played down Who every passing day. They are here promoting their new record ‘The Future is Medieval’ and you can tell this without even looking at the backdrop, the hits are there but the frequent new tracks don’t give the set any fluency, so not even number 1 hit ‘I Predict a Riot’ and crowd live favourite ‘Oh My God’ can save there ailing set. New track ‘Little Shocks’ though is s a surprise, managing to sound slick and sexy. Yes: the Kaiser Chiefs, slick and sexy, whod’a thunk it eh?

Finally to close the weekend on the Pyramid Stage American r&b / pop behemoth Beyonce comes onstage to volley after volley of fireworks. On the Other Stage though for the rock purists the entry is incognito and Queens of the Stone Age (pictured at top), announce their arrival with ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’s’ trademark lyrics “nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol!” Playing a set chosen by the Radio1 public means it’s all the way and every song turns into a crowdpleaser with some sherry mind-boggling riffing from giant frontman Josh Homme. The crowd hang on Homme’s every word and when it comes to hit ‘No One Knows’, he announces he wants Beyonce to feel this one in her bones. No doubt after a performance that good, she would have, and hey Zane Lowe chose these guys over her (read more here): they must have done something right.

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