Glastonbury 2014: The Top 10 Best Acts
Just under 180,000 people attended this weekend’s Glastonbury festival – the world’s largest green field music and performing arts festival, which is held annually at the Eavis family-owned Worthy Farm, located just outside the historic British town of Glastonbury. With over 2,200 performers appearing on over 100 stages, spread across music, theater, poetry, crafts, cabaret and almost every other form of art and entertainment that you can possibly imagine, we can’t possibly claim to have seen every act that appeared – or even a small fraction – but here are the top 10 performances, moments and sets that, in our humble opinion, made Glastonbury 2014 special.
10. The weather – Saturday and Sunday (less so Friday): The forecast for this year’s Glastonbury was heavy rain and prolonged showers and so it proved on the opening day of the festival when a biblical-sized downpour reduced the gigantic 1,200 acre site to a soggy mud-bath in a matter of minutes. At one point, conditions got so bad that Rudimental’s Friday afternoon set had to be cut short after a lightning bolt hit the ground near to the Pyramid Stage. “The weather broke my heart today” later tweeted the band’s DJ Locksmith. Thankfully, the weather improved over the course of the weekend and -- while large areas of the site remained a squelchy mud-pit until the very end -- Saturday was mostly dry and by Sunday Worthy Farm was bathed in glorious sunshine.
9. Lily Allen – Friday, 7.00pm (Pyramid Stage): Taking to the stage 30 minutes later than scheduled due to the above downpour, Lily Allen succeeded in lifting a dampened crowd’s spirits with a winning mix of cheeky foul-mothed charm and vivacious, effervescent pop. “Come on Glastonbury, get your raving shoes on,” urged the singer during a high-tempo run through “Everyone’s At It,” while she danced around the stage (decorated in giant baby feeding bottles) in a pair of vertiginous heels. Other highlights included mass sing-alongs of “Fuck You” (dedicated to FIFA president Sepp Blatter), a bouncy “Hard Out Here,” backed by hot-pant wearing backing dancers, and moving cover of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.” “Is my camel toe prevalent?” asked Allen at one point – a question that has almost certainly never been uttered before on the Pyramid Stage, nor is likely to be heard again.
8. Jack White – Saturday, 7.30pm (Pyramid Stage): Dressed all in black, his face locked in permanent scowl, Jack White channelled the fury and intensity of his recently released sophomore solo album, “Lazaretto,” into his Saturday evening Pyramid Stage set. At times, the endless guitar soloing and prolonged jamming verged on the self-indulgent, but just when you thought the guitarist had disappeared entirely up his own backside, he would bring it back from the precipice with a seething "High Ball Stepper" or the Stones-y singalong “Just One Drink,” both from “Lazaretto,” followed by welcome renditions of the White Stripes classics “Hotel Yorba” and “We’re Going To Be Friends.” Having seemingly finished his set and left the stage, White returned for what appeared like an impromptu, extended encore of “Seven Nation Army.” Planned or not it was bloody brilliant.
7. Connan Mockasin – Sunday, 3.15pm (Park Stage): Technical problems meant that there was a 20-minute delay to the start of Connan Mockasin’s set – an obstacle that he ably overcame by leading the audience in an a capella version of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” When things finally did get going, Mockasin’s mix of psychedelic folk and soulful alt-pop proved a suitably chilled treat for the several hundred bleary-eyed punters in attendance. A deliciously sensual “I’m The Man That Will Find You” was a notable high point in a set of casual, idiosyncratic brilliance.
6. Arcade Fire – Friday, 10pm (Pyramid Stage): Opening with a pulsating, full-bodied blast through the title track of their fourth album, “Reflektor,” Arcade Fire’s Friday night headline performance saw the (possibly) 408-legged Montreal band pull out all the stops, including an explosive fireworks display, writhing backing dancers and a DJ dressed in a mirrorball suit, to bring Glastonbury’s opening night to a triumphant close. “We’re so honoured and grateful to be here, said a face paint decorated Win Butler midway through an uplifting, hit-filled set that drew heavily on the band’s latest album, but also found room for a solid supply of fan favorites, including “Rebellion (Lies),” “The Suburbs,” a disco-infused “No Cars Go” and the epically grandiose set closer “Wake Up.”
5. Late Night Thrills – Weds to Sun, any time after dark (all over): While Glastonbury’s music bill inevitably grabs the headlines, it’s the festivals many other attractions that really makes it unique, not least the plethora of after-hours thrills and attractions that take place on the festival’s furthest fringes. Chief among them is Shangri-La, a deliciously twisted, hedonistic wonderland of hidden back alleys, sin-filled caves, wall-mounted genital sculptures, carnival freaks, wide-eyed revellers, hardened ravers and curious bystanders. Meanwhile, over in Block 9, you’ll find the remnants of a London Underground tube train crashed through a tower block. At the opposite end of the festival site there stands Arcadia - a huge fire-breathing mechanical spider, whose body doubles as an EDM dispensing DJ booth.
4. Ellie Goulding – Sunday, 8.30pm (Other Stage): Arriving onstage as the sun was setting on a gloriously warm and dry closing day, Ellie Goulding’s energetic performance formed a welcome alternative to the large number of male rock bands on this year’s bill. Dressed in a gold bra, Doc Martin boots and black shorts, the singer breathlessly ran around the stage, head-banged and did her self-confessed “weird dance” – sometimes all at the same time – during a highly enjoyable hour-long set that included spirited renditions of “Starry Eyed,” euphoric renditions of “Lights” and “Burn,” as well as an electro makeover of Alt-J’s “Tessellate.”
3. Metallica – Saturday, 9.45pm (Pyramid Stage): As the first ever heavy metal band to headline Glastonbury, Metallica’s booking attracted its fair share of critics and detractors prior to the thrash titans taking to the stage on Saturday evening. In response, the band delivered an unrivaled two-hour masterclass in towering rock dynamics and arena-honed showmanship that effectively slayed their critics in half and then jumped up and down on their lukewarm corpses. “Do you want heavy? Metallica gives you heavy, baby!" bellowed singer James Hetfield during a consistently hard-hitting set that begun with a video featuring the band members dressed as shotgun-toting bears (a mocking reference to the mild U.K. furore over Hetfield narrating a documentary about hunting) and culminated in an encore of Thin Lizzy's “Whisky in the Jar” and a pummeling “Seek and Destroy.” For a band that has seen and done it all, the sight of all four members looking genuinely moved and humbled as they bid farewell to a grateful crowd illustrated how much this meant to them.
2. Massive Attack – Sunday, 10.00pm (Other Stage): Up against Kasabian on the Pyramid Stage, Disclosure on West Holts and James Blake at The Park stage, Massive Attack delivered a brooding, bass-heavy set of melancholic trip hop and pulsing electronic soul to close the secondary Other Stage on Sunday night in dramatic fashion. Performing in front of a giant video screen that relayed news headlines, political slogans and testimonies from Guantanamo Bay inmates, good-time vibes were in unsurprisingly short supply, but you couldn’t fault the Bristol group’s execution or material, which if anything, has got better with age. “Teardrop” featuring guest vocals by Martina Topley-Bird, a menacing “Inertia Creeps” and resplendent “Unfinished Sympathy,” sung by regular collaborator Deborah Miller, will all live long in the memory.
1. Dolly Parton – Sunday, 4.20pm (Pyramid Stage): Attracting easily the biggest crowd of the weekend, many of whom were dressed in blonde wigs and wearing fake breasts, Dolly Parton’s Sunday afternoon performance on the Pyramid Stage saw the 68-year-old country singer crowned the undisputed queen of Glastonbury 2014. Wearing a sparkling white, rhinestone-studded trouser suit and characteristically low-cut top, Parton looked every inch the global star and produced a crowd-pleasing greatest hits set to match. “Jolene,” “Islands in the Stream,” “I Will Always Love You” and “9 To 5” were all transformed into mass sing-alongs, as was a new song which the artist said she had written especially for the occasion and involved the audience repeating the refrain “mud, mud, mud.”
"I can't do a whole bunch of slow sad songs because everybody's drunk and high," said Parton in her familiar southern twang before welcoming Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora to the stage for a gospel version of “Lay Your Hands on Me.” She even played a version of the Benny Hill theme tune, “Yakaty Sax,” on a tiny diamante saxophone. And then played it again for good measure, while walking backwards. "I know that was corny, but it was fun," chuckled Parton, effectively writing her own review.