Glastonbury 2015: A review
Glastonbury Festival is very possibly the biggest name in the global festival industry. Almost every year nearly 200,000 music and arts fans flood to the South West and create a town the size of Norwich for five days of unrivalled music, comedy, dance, theatre, circus and speech. As I entered the festival gates early on Wednesday the excitement in the air was as palpable as ever.
Before even the first act of the weekend had trodden the Pyramid Stage boards there were already a diverse array of arts and culture talent on show. I experienced festival-founder Michael Eavis singing karaoke, a panel discussion on the Green Party, and breath-taking gymnasts and circus performers, but ask any other punter and they would tell you a completely story, such is the offer of entertainment even as early as the Wednesday lunchtime. Veterans will often tell you the festival is ‘so much more than just the music’ and you’d have a hard time proving them wrong.
That’s not to say that the big names did not deliver. On the Friday night Florence Welch had the whole Pyramid field in the palm of her hand, able to direct 80,000 people to sing and dance as she desires through the electrifying power of her indie-art-rock. The Libertines delighted the same crowd with a surprise performance, filling in for a promoted Florence after Foo Fighters were forced to withdraw following Dave Grohl’s leg injury. From the performances they gave, however, there was no sign at all that just two weeks ago festival organisers had something altogether different planned.
Saturday saw the arrival of the festival’s most controversial booking in Kanye West, but even the anticipation of Yeezy’s headline slot couldn’t overshadow excellent sets from the likes of Frank Turner, Burt Bacharach and La Roux. Those four names alone demonstrate the diversity of music on offer. When it was Mr West’s time to take to the stage, after an admittedly awkward sub-headline turn from Pharrell Williams, he takes the simple approach, performing most of the set under a ceiling of white lights with no visuals, set or props and just one guest in the form of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The only time he indulges is when he performs hit ‘Touch the Sky’ from the top of a crane, but he times it perfectly towards the end of his set, and it goes down a treat.
The biggest talking point going into the Sunday wasn’t headliners The Who, but instead a set from the fantastic Lionel Richie, performing in the festival’s famous Sunday afternoon ‘legends slot’, occupied in previous years by the likes of Dolly Parton and Tom Jones. He didn’t disappoint, engaging with and playing off the audience whilst rattling through quite literally all the hits from his illustrious career. After a superb triple-bill on the Other Stage from Future Islands, Belle and Sebastian and Jamie T, The Who continued from where Lionel left off on the Pyramid, and had the whole crowd singing along to hits including ‘Pinball Wizard’ and ‘Baba O’Reily’.
After Rog and Pete wind up there was one last chance to indulge in Glastonbury’s unrivalled nightlife. The south-east corner of the festival, nicknamed ‘The Naughty Corner’ by its regulars, consists of four unique areas all containing countless venues, bars and clubs, complete with dancers, performance art and incredible architecture, such as ‘The London Underground’, a Drum & Bass venue set in a tower block with a life size tube train crashed into the fifth floor. It is these sights, sounds and smells that set Glastonbury apart from other events with big-name headliners such as Reading & Leeds and Isle of Wight, and why reports of the festival’s apparently distant death have surely been greatly exaggerated.