It was a long weekend for 180,000 mud-splattered fans at Glastonbury, U.K., before fireworks announced the arrival of Beyonce, wearing a glittery gold top.
“I always wanted to be a rock star,” she told us. “And tonight we are all rock stars.” There was a roar of approval. The 29-year-old closed the world’s largest greenfield music festival last night with a jukebox of hits, songs off her album out this week, and covers of tracks by Lady Gaga, the Kings of Leon, Alanis Morissette and Prince.
Beyonce’s Las Vegas-style disco finale made U2 on Friday a distant memory. Lead singer Bono predictably got pretentious, saying he was a pilgrim to Glastonbury’s historic ley lines and “holy ground.” If that wasn’t bad enough, he attempted a version of William Blake’s hymn to England, “Jerusalem.”
Protesters, more concerned with weightier things such as Bono’s bank balance, put up a sign saying “U pay tax 2.” This was promptly removed by security guards, saying it blocked the view. It wasn’t clear who was complaining. The Irish band was finally playing Glasto, after missing out in 1982 and then canceling last year when Bono suffered a back injury.
He looked in good shape, even with dismal drizzle pouring onto his shades, frankly unnecessary after dark. The quartet persisted in a lively greatest-hits set including “Out of Control” and “One,” which really was crying out for a rewrite: “It is getting wetter? Or do you feel the rain?”
I’ve heard many Glasto headliners over two decades and U2 wasn’t boring like Muse and the Killers -- who were in fact playing London’s Hard Rock Calling festival at the same time on Friday. U2 was better than the Arctic Monkeys, Oasis and the Cure; not as good as Bruce Springsteen.
U2 also had more anthems than the following day’s headline act, Coldplay. The best things were Coldplay’s laser show lighting the Pyramid stage and a smattering of new songs.
Lead singer Chris Martin won a cheer by tweaking the lyrics of “Wonderful World” to include “I see thousands of people covered in mud.” The ironies of the weather were everywhere.
Earlier, Jimmy Cliff was singing “I Can See Clearly Now,” looking at the gray sky and pretending the dark clouds had given way to a “bright sunshiny day.”
By Sunday, the sun deigned to appear, and Paul Simon was more worried about the state of his voice after a virus. “You’re very forgiving,” he told the crowd. He turned in a charming African-style show including “Boy in the Bubble.”
Morrissey followed the old showbiz trick of having an ugly group to make himself look good. He arrived with the words “fancy seeing me here” and amusingly mangled the Smiths classics “Meat is Murder” and “This Charming Man.”
Sinking in Slime
The green fields had gone brown with downpours to rival the mudfests of 1982 or 1997. Hundreds of fans were slipping over or sinking in slime. Organizers urged people not to waste water by washing muddy boots: they would soon be filthy again.
Sitting down wasn’t an option in places and some walkways became treacherous, making it hard to stage-hop to see the best acts (never simple at Glasto because of the size of the site). Those who braved the boggy fields found more adventurous music.
The Other Stage had Primal Scream blasting through “Screamadelica,” the Chemical Brothers pumping out nonstop dance music and Friendly Fires serving up Hawaii-style pop.
Tinie Tempah dressed down, looking less flamboyant onstage than he did off, while Cee Lo Green opted for a spiked scarlet costume that made him look like a cross between a “Star Wars” villain and overstuffed cockerel. His voice was one of the sweetest of the weekend on the hits “Crazy” and “F*** You.”
Those in the know could have caught a “secret gig” by Radiohead while punky performances by the Horrors, the Vaccines and Warpaint consoled rockers, with water in their Wellington boots, seeking solace in the John Peel tent.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)