Somerset, UK – The festival got going in earnest on Friday as campers woke up to more of the same weather – warm, cloud cover with sunny intervals. A few souls were persisting with wellies as the chosen footwear but perhaps they were worried that nothing goes quite as well with the young female Glasto uniform of big shades, floral hair bands, face and body glitter, crop-tops and cut-offs. The blokes just want to play farmers. Music-wise let’s start with a best old band and an iconic one at that. My Friday began with The Pretenders opening the Other Stage at 11am. Fronting an immaculately tight band, Chrissie Hynde mixed righteous anger (dissing Rupert Murdoch) with good vibes and showmanship. Sporting a Motorhead t-shirt and jeans, her voice and range were perfection from start to finish; capping a consummate show that mixed a healthy dose of old favourites with some newer material.
British breakthrough act, Blossoms, were perhaps a bold choice for an Other Stage debut at last year’s festival. The more customary route goes via the John Peel to the Other to, eventually, the elevated ground of the Pyramid Stage. Well, this year the Stockport boys were back in tow, hitting the heights of a lunchtime set on the Pyramid. The band pulled it off with some panache, engaging a committed core crowd with its radio-friendly indie pop, which was pleasant enough for those on the periphery to hang around too. Strong on melody throughout, the set picked up momentum with the purposeful “Getaway” and “Honey Sweet” and as the inner core sang back to “Blown Rose” you sensed the band had found its feet on the vast stage. Opening “My Favourite Room” as a solo acoustic number dedicated to those who’ve been dumped, frontman Tom Ogden segued into snatches of Babybird’s “You’re Gorgeous”, “Half The World Away” by Oasis and Wham’s “Last Christmas”. Cue more audience participation. Thanking “probably the best crowd we’ve ever had”, Ogden led the persuasive closer “Charlemagne” signalling that Blossoms had worked its charm on Glastonbury.
As Blossoms finished, Dua Lipa was opening up on the John Peel Stage. The young English pop singer with Albanian parentage might appear an odd choice for the stage home of guitar bands but she was following in the footsteps of Canadian singer-songwriter, Alessia Cara who worked a Peel crowd to great effect last year. Dua Lipa’s self-titled debut album released last month is already a Top Ten chart hit so a big audience was on the cards. The people duly came in serious numbers and her set bookmarked by hit singles “Hotter Than Hell” and “Be The One” went down a storm.
Next on the Peel came a wholly different vibe in the shape of New Yorkers, The Lemon Twigs, an even more youthful double act of brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario – singer/guitarist and drummer who also swop roles midway – augmented by bassist Megan Zeankowski and Danny Ayala (keys, backing vocals). Maybe it’s the brotherly connection but memories of 70s glam rockers Sparks come to mind when mulling over the retro elements of The Lemon Twigs’ theatrical style. Opening with the hook-friendly “I Wanna Prove to You” was a good lead in and as the set progressed “These Words” stood out for how well a lead guitar workout meshed with refined pop balladry. “How Lucky Am I” featuring stripped back piano with some well-chosen minor chords was an example of how the band mixed up its set while always retaining musical and visual interest.
Royal Blood, i.e. Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher, had Metallica’s Lars Ulrich watching from the Pyramid wings but scarcely needed past headliner endorsement with the crowd on its side from the opener “Where Are You Now” from new album How Did We Get So Dark. The black and white clad duo kept up a relentless pace throughout a 11 song set culled from its eponymous debut album and the new one, pausing only midway to crack open a bottle of champagne to celebrate a consecutive UK No 1 album. Thatcher’s powerhouse drumming could inspire a Rock n’ Roll workout DVD so energetic and punishing was it while Kerr’s mastery of the bass guitar as a lead instrument is a sound effects to savour. Of the latest songs, the melodically charged album title track and lead single “Lights Out” with its monstrous riffs and giant choruses were standouts. The mighty Royal Blood took on the Pyramid and won.
George Ezra is well known from his debut recording Wanted On Voyage and notably the huge hit, “Budapest”. He kept that song till last tonight on the Other Stage but previewed five songs that are likely to feature on a follow up album before long, including the single “Don’t Matter Now”. “Song 6” was also a new one, unless you already have the deluxe version of Wanted On Voyage. The singer’s apology for a commercial plug when mentioning it was true to a self-effacing nature. Ezra impressed with his deep, strong vocal range and the horn section in his terrific band was an especial joy.
After such a full-on day of huge crowds and great, loud and proud music, it is worth remembering that Glastonbury is also home to new, emerging artistes with the ability to move and enthral you with a single voice and instrument. On a crowded line-up, one such act stood out, playing on a homely bicycle-powered (yes!) stage in front of a small audience (well Radiohead were on in half an hour!) Today’s honour goes to the Ailbhe Reddy (pronounced Alba). The Dublin, ROI singer-songwriter has the kind of voice that sets her apart on a crowded beach; a tone that sets hairs rising, strong and soulful, tinged with blues and yearning. She has a particularly intriguing manner of stretching syllables and a set of songs anyone in love or looking for love can relate to; and being from Dublin, the craic between songs was special too.
Photos by Maja Smiejkowska – http://majasmiejkowska.co.uk/ – for Best New Bands.
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Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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