Live reviews

GLASTONBURY 2004, WORTHY FARM, SOMERSET - 25th, 26th and 27th June 2004

Well we may only have been there in spirit and grabbing the occasional sight of the set as broadcast by the BBC, but with reports coming of the fact this was a somewhat sanitised Glastonbury, festival organiser Michael Eavis was still emphatic in his view that this was the best Glastonbury ever. Events may have lead to this trying to pamper to the four walls and continental-quilt environment most of us now live in, but this was not 1967, '76, or 1998 come to that, even though reports of sometimes heavy downpours were forthcoming, this event didn't turn into that of the later noted, with the mass exodus' of those unable to cope with conditions - "you're in a field for pitty's sake, what do you expect!".

Even though I and most of my collegaues here at 'Atomicduster' may have been content to catch proceedings as feed to us by the goggle box, one hard-core reporter was in the thick of it and brought back the following reports of some of the act's he caught whilst at the festival and at the same time affording his mark on how he saw these bands;


KASABIAN – Other Stage, 11.00

Kicking the festival off on the Other Stage is Leicester’s very own 'Kasabian', who pull a reasonable crowd for so early in the morning. However, if anyone’s going to wake up a crowd, it’s singer Tom Meighan. He covers virtually every inch of the stage with an effortlessly cool swagger that’s been compared to a young Mick Jagger, succeeding in energising the surprisingly young crowd. The set is a taster of Kasabian’s forthcoming album, and as such is largely unknown, but when the singles Reason Is Treason and Club Foot come along, they get a huge reaction. And hey, if you can get people dancing at eleven in the morning, you’re doing something right… (7)

BRIGHT EYES – Pyramid Stage, 12.00

'Bright Eyes', aka songwriter Conor Oberst, was on the bill last year, only to be replaced by an ex-Sugababe at the last minute. Thankfully, this year he makes the stage, surrounded by a large band including Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a harpist. Musically Oberst is very talented, and the number of instruments on stage creates a large sound that’s capable of filling the Pyramid field. The quality of Oberst’s voice varies; partly perhaps due to the fact he admits he’s really drunk. It’s an acquired taste, but the man has talent and writes stirring melodies. If you can cope with his voice, 'Bright Eyes' is worth checking out. (7)

WILCO – Pyramid Stage, 1.00

'Wilco' are alt-country types from the US, and came with a high recommendation from my mate. It’s hard to see why, as alt-country is never going to change the world. The music is passable and there’s nothing really wrong with it, frontman Jeff Tweedy is talented enough but not enough to get me excited, and after about half an hour the set began to drag, not helped by the fact most of their songs seem to have three minute outros. Decent ambience, but you’re not going to come away humming any of their songs. (5)

THE WALKMEN – New Tent, 2.50

There is a surprisingly large crowd in the New Tent for 'The Walkmen', the ‘next big things’ out of New York. However, the sense of anticipation doesn’t last for long. The first couple of tracks are nothing short of shambolic, it’s impossible to translate the singer’s random noises and the band seem to all be playing different songs. One thing 'The Walkmen' do have in their favour though is the single of the year so far, The Rat, and this seems a slightly better attempt at a performance by the band, livening up the crowd. Unfortunately, playing it so early in the set is a mistake, as a large proportion of the crowd leave after it ends, and it doesn’t appear they’re missing much as the rest of the set is so unbelievably average. They’re dark, but not as dark as Interpol, and they have riffs, but not as catchy as 'Stellastarr*' or 'The Strokes'. If they don’t want to go the way of former band 'Jonathan Fire*Eater', they’re really going to have to get it together. (3)

ELBOW – Pyramid Stage, 4.00

Elbow’s quiet, reflective rock seems a strange choice to fill the massive Pyramid Stage, but with Elbow’s back catalogue, they intend to make a good go of it. Opener Ribcage doesn’t really set the world on fire, but Elbow’s music has to be taken as a whole. The band improves throughout the set, turning out stirring performances of Red and Newborn. Singer Guy Garvey is a natural in front of such a large crowd, and is a terrific vocal performer. Switching Off is one of the most emotional songs I heard all weekend, and the set climaxes with a fantastic Grace Under Pressure, on which the stage fills with people, adding a choral element to an already huge sound. It turns out 'Elbow' are just as suited to a huge field as a dark pub, and no one can could come away from this set without being impressed. (9)

FRANZ FERDINAND – Other Stage, 7.00

'Franz Ferdinand' have come from nowhere to be one of the biggest bands in the UK at the moment. They attract a very young crowd with their funky-pop-indie, and the majority of the kids love it. They have slight sound problems early on in the gig, but these are all forgotten when they play the first big track Take Me Out and everyone has their hands in the air clapping. Frontmen Alex and Nick have a good on-stage relationship, feeding off each other for the links between tracks. Every song is impossibly catchy, and it seems they’ve lived up to their promise of ‘making songs for girls to dance to’. The band clearly are enjoying the experience, and judging by the reactions of the people around me, so is everyone else. (8)

LOVE WITH ARTHUR LEE – Acoustic Tent, 8.30

'Arthur Lee' is old. He’s also a legend, and still on stage after 40 years in the business. Lee is still a huge draw, obviously attracting an older audience but looking round there are plenty of people (such as myself) who missed him the first time round. Despite his age, Lee bounces round the stage, tambourine in hand, and the crowd hang on his every move. Funk-tinged songs such as A House Is Not A Motel and You Set The Scene get great reactions, and Lee obviously still loves to perform. In fact, more of today’s generation of bands should take lessons from the man. All in all, it makes me regret not being alive in the sixties! (8)

OASIS – Pyramid Stage, 10.50

"Rock and roll isn’t dead, it’s standing over there!" declares the man behind me as 'Oasis' take to the stage in their headline slot. Debate has raged in the build up to the festival over whether 'Oasis' have still got ‘it’, and as such the pressure should be on them to perform. Well I can confirm for you finally the answer – "no, they don’t". Liam Gallagher looks like he couldn’t care whether he was there or not, half-heartedly belting out the classics in a ridiculous white furry coat, even though Noel appears to try slightly harder. The rest of the band are anonymous, but let’s be honest, no one knows who they are any more. It’s notable that half the set comes from the first album Definitely Maybe, while only five songs are post-1996. The two new tracks premiered get such a mediocre reaction from the crowd it’s hardly worth playing them. The crowd is the key to this performance, as its frequently left to the fans to carry the song, ignoring Liam’s disinterest. Large silent pauses are between songs, and towards the end of the set the crowd grows restless. This is a shame, as 'Oasis' do have a number of decent songs, such as Acquiesce and Champagne Supernova, which impress me. Three years ago at the Carling Weekend, 'Oasis' famously declared their set was “not a funeral”. On the basis of tonight’s set, maybe this time it should be. (4)


THE DUKE SPIRIT – Other Stage, 12.10

'The Duke Spirit' are another hotly-tipped band on the bill this year, and after seeing them I am at a complete loss to explain exactly why. Musically they are your generic post-Britpop indie band, the difference being the singer Leila Moss. Why she should be regarded as an adequate frontwoman is beyond me. Admittedly she may have slight charisma, something the other band members lack, but also has a terrible wail and the looks of an old crackwhore. Stay away, well away. (2)

SCISSOR SISTERS – Pyramid Stage, 3.30

'Scissor Sisters' are one of those bands that you either love or hate. Gay disco is perhaps not the first thing you’d associate with the main stage at Glastonbury, but the band pull it off well enough here. Their songs are real crowd-pleasers, kicking off with big single Take Your Mama Out and containing disco stompers such as Get It Get It. The chemistry between singers Jake and Ana is hilarious, with songs frequently ending with them gyrating on each other leading Ana to apologise to all the small children watching and advising them to “have a little chat with their parents in the healing fields tonight”. As they state in one of their songs, they’re “filthy and gorgeous”. Climaxing with their fantastic cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, they make you forget about the rain for an hour in one of the most enjoyable sets possible. (8)

LONGVIEW – New Tent, 5.15

Bizarrely billed as "American bluegrass" in the festival programme, 'Longview' are in fact Mancunian indie in the vein of Coldplay. The lads begin their performance looking slightly overwhelmed, and as they later admit, this is the largest crowd they’ve ever played to. Their sound is big and atmospheric, and it seems a shame it’s confined to a tent like this. Their song length is also well above average, and fifteen minutes into the performance the band are only starting their third song. Longview’s drawback, however, is a failure to sufficiently distinguish one song from the next, and midway through, you get the impression that once you’ve heard one you’ve heard them all, no matter how good that one song is. That’s until the fantastic majestic closing song Further, which threatens to break out of the tent and sweep up the hills. 'Longview' have undoubted potential, and I await their future releases with interest. (7)

BRITISH SEA POWER – Other Stage, 6.10

'British Sea Power' know how to put on a show. Taking to a stage covered in trees, stuffed birds and foliage, they launch into Remember Me, one of their best songs to date. BSP write fantastic original material, and the crowd react positively to songs such as Carrion (although my personal favourite The Lonely was disappointingly left out). Towards the end of the set, a giant bear joins them on stage, while their keyboard player goes for a walk round the crowd, still banging a drum and the bassist finishes off on top of the large speaker stacks. One of the most entertaining performances of the weekend, and the music’s not bad either! (8)

JETPLANE LANDING – Leftfield Stage, 7.00

Tucked away in the tiny Leftfield Tent are 'Jetplane Landing', described as "the best kept secret in the UK" by sections of the music press. At this rate, they can’t stay hidden for much longer. The amount of energy the band put into a performance is amazing, and guitarists Andrew and Cahir barely stop bouncing around the stage. Singles Calculate The Risk and I Opt Out are delivered with an intensity not matched by any other performers this weekend. Frontman Andrew interacts well with the crowd, launching into rants about “other bands who don’t give a fuck about the music” during two separate songs. The crowd are mental, and their reaction merits an encore in the form of Effect A Change, in which even bassist Jamie joins in with the chaos. Watching 'Jetplane Landing' is a phenomenally breathless experience, and with performances like this they deserve to be on the main stage. (9)

HOPE OF THE STATES – New Tent, 8.30

'Hope Of The States' is probably the largest draw to the New Tent all weekend. The six-piece from Sussex arrive on the back of a stirring debut album, which appears difficult to transcribe to a live performance. Their first two tracks are both cut short while singer Sam Herlihy argues with sound technicians, and for a minute it appears that the set is becoming a shambles. However, the band thankfully pulls together, and the real turning point is the stirring Black Dollar Bills. From then on, their confidence returns, and songs like next single Nehemiah sound excellent. 'Hope Of The States' unique show is marked by their use of images projected onto the roof of the tent that go some way towards illustrating the music, most memorably the evocative video for Black Dollar Bills that was banned in the run up to the Iraq war. This might not be a band that completely works live, but at least they give it a good go. (7)


THE DIVINE COMEDY – Other Stage, 2.40

"Here’s a tune," announces Neil Hannon after strolling on stage with the current line-up of his band. Well, at least you know what you’re getting. The band’s Irish-tinged folk-indie is perhaps not to everyone’s taste, although you have to admit that they know how to write a decent melody, such as recent single Come Home Billy Bird. Hannon is chatty throughout, dedicating old single Generation Sex to "The UK Independence Party – what a bunch of nobs." The set list is an interesting choice, containing a number of tracks from new album Absent Friends at the expense of arguably the band’s two most well known tracks in Something For The Weekend and National Express. However, Hannon’s coup de grace is a stunning lounge-jazz cover of the Queens Of The Stone Age’s - No One Knows, getting the best reaction of the morning. Overall, this is a hugely enjoyable showcase from one of the best singer-songwriters around. (8)

GOMEZ – Other Stage, 6.00

Oh dear, what happened to 'Gomez'? Five years ago they were seen as one of the UK’s premier indie-blues bands; these days no one really noticed their new album Split the Difference. Their set primarily contains tracks off this new album, with a number of tracks from the first album Bring It On mixed in. The absence of tracks from Liquid Skin is notable, with only Bring It On and Fill My Cup making it in, the latter a seemingly bizarre choice as I always considered it album filler. The new material gets a fairly lukewarm reaction, and while guitarist Tom tries hard to work up the crowd he just comes across as desparate. It’s a shame, but we don’t really need 'Gomez' any more. (6)

BELLE & SEBASTIAN – Other Stage, 7.15

The anoraks surge to the front of the Other Stage for 'Belle and Sebastian’s' performance. You know exactly what you’re getting with Stuart Murdoch’s Scottish seven-piece, they’re twee and proud of it. The band play a greatest hits set, nothing life-changing but enjoyable nonetheless, provided you can cope with Stuart’s weak voice. All their best songs are there in Jonathan/David, The Boy With The Arab Strap and Sleep The Clock Around, and they throw in a cover of an old Zombies track for fun too. Halfway through the set there is a torrential downpour, losing some of the crowd, but Stuart is undeterred and immediately leaps off the stage to join the wet fans on the front row. At least he’s happy, and the watchers are too. (7)

MORRISSEY – Pyramid Stage, 8.40

'Morrissey' is another legend making his live return at Glastonbury. As a vocal performer, you can’t argue with his class, you don’t survive in the industry for twenty years without considerable talent, and he makes no mistakes here. His setlist is a weird choice however – no Suedehead, his best solo work to date, yet he finds room for a B-side in Don’t Make Fun Of Daddy’s Voice. His choice of Smiths songs is also strange in Shakespeare’s Sister and The Headmaster Rituals, but thankfully finds room for the fantastic There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, which sends the whole field crazy. Between songs 'Morrissey' is his trademark miserable self, with quotes like "You must all feel pretty disgusting. Well I feel like that every day – except I’m nowhere near mud. Except maybe psychologically." Admittedly, this gets grating after a while. Morrissey’s set lasts barely an hour, and I have to admit expecting more from someone of his calibre. It’s more than acceptable, however. (7)

MUSE – Pyramid Stage, 10.30

'Muse' graduated this year to Pyramid Stage headliners, and taking to the stage in white lab coats, they intended to do a damn good job of living up to their billing. The band’s space-rock captivates the crowd, and from the second Matt launches into the opening riff of Hysteria the excitement is intense. The futuristic set is mesmerising, as is the music, which contains a balance of the band’s three albums. Matt Bellamy is a musical genius, swapping from guitar to piano and back again in the space of one song. Material like Bliss and Sunburn fills the stage instantly, and sends the festival wild. A phenomenal way to end the weekend. (9)

Joel Pearson


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