The never-ending list of bands playing Glastonbury always makes it somewhat impossible to decide who you are going to see. Even the ones you do pick will inevitably hit and miss: some sets feel like a waste of time given that you could have been off your face in Arcadia whilst others make you wish the artist was playing for the whole three days.
Blondie were the undoubtedly iconic start to the weekend. Even people who don’t know the band will happily sing along to ‘One Way or Another’. However at 68, Debbie Harry is just not quite the performer she once was. It was not an unenjoyable performance, but the excitement was lacking. When newer material was being showcased, the audience were lost. Apparently not interested in Blondie as a current artist, it became no more than a nostalgic glance at Blondie’s earlier success.It was indicative of her performance that the most enthusiastic cheers were prompted by brief glimpses of the sunshine peering out from between black clouds rather than the music itself.
Interpol are that band which you always end up having to see at festivals when dragged along by some enthusiastic friends, despite having never heard a song by them. Sometimes this can lead to fantastic discoveries of music you would never even have guessed that you would have liked. Sadly, Interpol did not have this effect. Seemingly devoid of charisma, the average songs rolled on, none of them standing out. Clearly these were songs that had been played time and time again so that they lost any impetus and excitement. Perhaps if I had known their songs beforehand I might have had a different experience, however as an unfamiliar audience member Interpol were decidedly bland.
Thankfully the charismatic trio of Haim make sure that Friday doesn’t end on a sour note. The group of three unfairly talented sisters, covering vocals, guitars and drums, are all dressed in predominantly white outfits. They played a wide variety of music, deviating between rocking bass lines and close harmony, not to mention a jamming session and a Beyoncé cover. The band moved seamlessly between the stripped-back rock of their earlier live shows and the pop songs of their album, combining the two together to wonderful effect, and making sure that their set was never boring. Even the tunes that I didn’t know, I was dancing along to. As well as their undeniable musical talent and ability to entertain, Este’s unbelievable facial expressions must also be given credit for making this show a memorable one.
Bare-foot in a tie-dye dress, cigarette in hand, Lana Del Rey’s vocals were, as ever, flawless. Floating across the crowd during a brief hour of sunshine, her voice has a husky warmth that created a beautiful atmosphere. It is a voice that washes over your skin like a velvet breeze. Behind her, music videos played in sepia and sun-drenched pinks. However, despite being one of the highly tipped stars for Sturday, she was certainly not the most charismatic of performers. A rare half-smile punctuated a general lack of enthusiasm and seeming reluctance to perform, which seemed out of place at Glastonbury. The highly emotive colourings of tone did not seem to translate visually to her performance, so that the effect was somewhat lack lustre. It seems unclear with Del Rey whether her bored appearance is part of the act, the personification of the empty American dream, or genuinely just a lack of personality. However, any of the performance jitters which seemed to plague her first live shows are most certainly gone. Although her engagement with the audience was lacking, the quality of her voice is undeniable and hearing it live was a memorable experience.
By Sunday, it is easy to be exhausted and find yourself content to lie in your tent for the whole day. Fortunately, some of the best set of the weekend were still to come. Performing on the Park Stage as the sun was setting, the atmosphere was set up perfectly for James Blake before his set had even begun. He achieves the perfect balance between electronica and intimate vocals as the looped vocals layer over each other into harmony, crooning over the beats. Every song is highly emotive: the pauses, the trembling notes and the waves of electronic sound. There are moments when everything feels suspended as he holds onto a single note, the audience hanging from his voice. Even with minimal speech between songs, he manages to communicate with complete emotional clarity. ‘A Case of You’ floats through a festival of thousands, as intimate as if spoken to a lover.
Next up was St Vincent, with the curly haired songwriter having gone from strength to strength on her past couple of albums. A few songs into her set St Vincent proclaimed that we, the audience and the performers, had a few things in common. When we were small children we made a hot air balloon out of bed sheets and were very disappointed when it didn’t fly. But the reason that all of us were there was because we never stopped believing that it would. Then she launches back into the music, her recent delve into electronic sounds being supported by the strong guitars and her soaring vocals which characterize her music. Every movement is in slow motion, rolling down the tiered stage, arms folding around her body as she sings. Her voice is bold but light simultaneously, overflowing with feeling, a sound that wraps you in its many folds so that you are unable to escape, not that you would ever want to. A thrilling end to the weekend.