It’s the final day of Glastonbury, and the sun has well and truly put his hat on. I start off with gloomy prog metallers Black Mountain, whose thumping basslines threaten to dislodge my internal organs, and whose Sabbath-esque riffs provide a perfect Glasto throwback. It’s not the liveliest of sets though, with not much crowd interaction, but perhaps that’s for the best, with a sleepy Glastonbury crowd feeling the effects of three days of mud, walking and bad behaviour.
Round the corner then, to the Pyramid Stage, and Brian Jonestown Massacre play a set that, by their usual standards, is fairly understated and uneventful. Thanks to poor sound and an unfamiliar crowd, it certainly doesn’t match the intensity levels they are clearly capable of, but the usually fiery Anton Newcombe is in good spirits, laughing and joking with the crowd instead of assaulting them. I guess filling in the spot that is usually occupied by Rolf Harris requires your frontman to be a bit restrained.
At the John Peel Stage, we have a chat with Padma Newsome of The National. Discussing the state of the music industry today, he describes his dismay at the wealth gap between the artists, and the lack of adherence to usual trading standards by promoters and labels. Nice chap. Then we pop off for a chat to Yeasayer and Blood Red Shoes, before heading into the tent to watch London new-wavers Friendly Fires. Something’s amiss with their show; the sound is poor, the crowd aren’t digging it, and the band don’t seem to be getting to into it themselves. There’s always next year.
Blood Red Shoes are next, who are filling in for The Long Blondes, whose guitarist had been take ill. For a last-minute replacement who hadn’t even decided on a set list half an hour before the show, they do well, despite being understandably nervous about performing. Drummer Steve Ansell gets the chance to realise a childhood dream though, in bellowing (although semi-ironically) ‘Hello Glastonbury!’ They open with ‘It’s Getting Boring by the Sea’ and close with ‘Try Harder’, and every second of the fuzzy Sonic Youth-esque grunge in between confirms them as one of the festival highlights.
On the walk across to the Pyramid Stage, I decide to rest my weary legs and catch a couple of songs from Dutch house outfit Crack & Smack. It turns out to be a duet between Amy Winehouse and Pete Docherty. Of course not, it’s all good clean fun and their slick beats are just the pick-me-up required to keep going for the rest of the evening.
Next up is a true musical legend, and the turn out for his show is immense. Over 20,000 people are there to see Leonard Cohen, and are not disappointed. The purists who complained about the likes of Jay-Z headlining, and the killjoys who kicked up a fuss about the crowd being too young, were hopefully somewhat appeased by a the gravely-voiced wordsmith who, at 73 years old, still has the ability to have a crowd hanging on every word. The sound of the entire crowd joining in for ‘Hallelujah’ will surely be remembered as an iconic Glasto moment.
To bring Glastonbury to a spectacular showpiece ending, The Verve make their long-awaited festival return, and don’t disappoint. Even for those who aren’t particular fans of the band, it’s hard to fault their set, with Richard Ashcroft in sunglasses, owning the stage with his usual cocksure swagger. His declaration that ‘this next one’s for all of those who have to go to work tomorrow, in a job they despise, for a boss they despise. Life’s a struggle’ seems a touch ironic, seeing as they’re probably getting paid about a billion quid for playing, but as they launch into the familiar opening violin line of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, he’s completely forgiven, and everyone witnessing the show with the final day fireworks exploding over Worthy Farm will hold the memory with them forever. As the crowd disperses, some return to their tents, some to their cars, and some to the Stone Circle to await the familiar sight of the sun rising over the hills of Glastonbury. Roll on 2009.