The musical line-up for the Saturday is a little jumbled, a touch bland, and far less Buzz Band-heavy than the days that sandwich it. For this reason I find myself bouncing around the (mainly mudless) site, willing something to grab me by the tent poles. Alas, nothing much really does (don’t worry, read on, I promise there is a happy ending to this one).
Magistrates, appearing early-doors in the Uncut Arena, are four Essex lookers with an XL record deal and a hatful of effortlessly catchy tunes. In the white-funk pop stakes it is a step or two up from Jamiroquai, and Usher (his real name apparently, falsetto vocals) has a legion of young girls fawning by the end.
Next up – via Phil Jupitus reciting A Christmas Carol in the Literary Tent – is White Lies, looking surprisingly comfortable on the huge stage of the Obelisk for such a young band. Though it is not really surprising at all, is it? This is the group tipped to be “this generation’s U2” (backhanded compliment or what?), with a huge amount of money behind them and an epic record company scrum in their recent past. They sound and look assured – of course – bold and grand, their Joy Division-ish bleak anthems seeming to satisfy the large and curious crowd assembled. It doesn’t really get me going, I’m afraid, but I’m pretty sure they couldn’t give a damn.
Bishi is a proper pop star – glam and eccentric and a bit other-wordly. Opening with an interpretation of an old British folk song played on her modified sitar, she melds West and East, effectively a musical representation of multi-cultural Britain. Thus I am behind her from the start, willing her to shake it up a bit, break from the shackles of a claustrophobc and cloying Music and Film Tent, wake up the man who has passed out at the front in a pool of his own (purple and watery) vomit. She is good. I like her. But all her songs sound the same. I leave before she ends. I feel a bit guilty.
Poor old Soko. It is the French chanteuse’s first experience of a British festival, and the first heavy downpour of the weekend arrives just as her softly-spoken set begins. Unfortunately she is on at the Sunrise where the audience enjoy full rain protection, but the performers do not. Cowering in her leather jacket, behind a small statue of a cat, she still charms her crowd, apologising for her guitar playing, blushing at her English, leading musicians she has only just met through her little song bubbles. They are fragile, angry, and very pretty.
As evening draws in, big, big crowds come out for sets from some big-hitters. The Coral weave acoustically through their back-catalogue, predictably provoking a mass-jig with Dreaming Of You (how many times must they have played that song? – they grin and bear it). Characteristically, though, they still manage to throw a curve-ball, ending the set on an untitled song they’ve just written. Try as I might I just don’t really get the appeal of Seasick Steve. To me it sound like a rehash of blues we have heard a hundred times before, although what that man can do with a piece of string tied to a block of wood (his own invention) is quite incredible. The Guillemots sound majestic on Made Up Love Song #43 – an underrated classic to my mind – and do a great deal of jumping up and down. Unfortunately they also do a lot of musical jumping as well, changing tack ever few seconds, before the audience has had time to get into the original groove. Commendations to them for their abundance of ideas, but I do wish they would try to lengthen their attention span a little, and really nail each one. Elbow get a lot of hands in the air, and are very sincere as the sun begins to set. But I am still waiting for a proper excitement fix, one of those transcendent moments, where you get swept up and flown away.
Joyfully, Sigur Ros provide it – and more – silencing any who doubted their headline credentials. It is one of those essential, unrepeatable festival sets, with a relentless stream of breathtaking, memorable moments and a rich and varied visual show. A white-suited brass band just pass through during one number. The lights are like lightening. It snows. Confetti is shot at my face towards the end, and my heart jumps up with it. They are glorious, and sky high, and it matters not a jot that the words they sing are made up because we all know everything together. It is such a joy to see a band like Sigur Ros connect to those previously unconverted, to them at the back not fluent in Hopelandic. After the encore, when the audience lights fade up, the band and their array of colourfully dressed support artists return and bow. It is a lovely touch, and they seem a little overwhelmed at the hugely deserved applause.