Live Reviews: Glastonbury 2008, Part 4 ([Director’s Cut]
November 5, 2009, 3:00 pm
Filed under: Features, Live Reviews


Sunday 29th: Final Day

Having foregone much of Sunday afternoon’s line-up (due in part to extreme sleep-deprivation and lower abominable mischief ), ill advisedly AU starts the last day with a bona-fide baptism of fire. The security staff’s worst nightmare, Crystal Castles play havoc with their surroundings until organisers at the John Peel Tent pull the plug once and for a second time indefinitely. Suffice to say, today 2008’s Les Enfants Terrible play at being punk provocateurs of Glasto 2008 .

The area teems with Day-Glo clowns and bruised Madonnas readied for violent death by misadventure. The excruciatingly fashionable two-some thrill on sight. Hunched over, trademark fringe in place, Ethan Kath tirelessly molests his steaming, overloaded box of tricks while Alice Glass’ is made up like Bladerunner’s lethal sex-replicant ‘Pris’.

Three tracks in she begins to scale the rigging left of the stage. Just as the first clattering of ‘Alice Practice’ are detected, the stage goes black. Several minutes go by as a heated argument ensues with shadowy stage-hands. Again we are back in business and Alice wastes no time to heroically chart the atmosphere-slaying ‘media-space’ so that (hoisted by two sweating bouncers) she can tower menacingly over the audience, vomiting indecipherable sound onto happy faces.

Five or more minutes of this go by until in what can only be interpreted as an act of spite, the operators put an end to the show, citing the ‘crowd interaction’ as incompatible with health and safety regulations. Handed only 15 minutes with the trailblazing Canadians and robbed of brain-freezers ‘Air War’ and ‘Crimewave’ a sullen crowd evacuate the tent to hunt adrenal-pigs behind the Tipi Fields.

With a blushing sky calling time on a second beautiful day, a healthy number of unhealthy burn-outs convene for Spiritualised. Dry ice floods the stage as Jason Pierce and his swollen session band peering back though black lenses at a falling red sun. it’s a perfectly befitting image to accompany the powerfully ethereal Krautrock. Dotted between entries from “Songs in A&E’ are many of the classics, poignant reminders of the profound, gutsy and genuinely epic music
originating from a time before British guitar bands looked exclusively to U2 and Jeff Buckley for inspiration. Pierce, stands as still as a stautue throughout the entire duration, cast his spell on a tired and dreamy crowd, a fitting farewell to The John Peel Stage, for another year.

As we snake up through the site towards our final musical appointment, all around us Glastonbury 2008 is in its death throes. Sam Sparro slays the Dance Village’s last operational tent, whilst on The Other Stage The Zutons attempt to finish their one good tune 18 different ways and a dead-eyed burger-van attendant forgets to take our payment.

As night time descends, we near the rear-entrance to The Pyramid Stage enclosure. Before us is an unforgettable sight. The stage’s diamond-shaped field is aglow with the orange sparkle from hundreds upon hundreds of fires, with some 80,000 bodies amassed across the dramatic topography. They are waiting, of course, for the return of a prodigal son and his twice-retired band.

The Verve take the stage to a deafening roar. “Glastonbury. This is Music!” cries a reborn Ashcroft. What happens next is 90-odd minutes of Glastonbury history making; this nearly forgotten and consummately Nineties outfit channelling their stratospheric worldview back into the hearts and minds of everyone present. That they have a front man of unparalleled conviction and boast an expansive stable of great songs can only ensure their success.

Nobody purges inner demons through performance quite like Richard Ashcroft. Every single dream and depression that lurks within him is apparent in his ghostly veneer. Whilst ‘Velvet Morning’ provides an intense spiritual blast, ‘History’ originates from the longest of dark nights, soaring ever and ever higher with Nick McCabe’s guitar serving as a worthy substitute string-section.

However, the pinnacle of the performance comes with ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’. It is delivered with such unabashed emotion, Ashcroft once again become the kid who sat bed-side and waited for his father to succumb to cancer. Watching the man, eyes clamped shut in rapt passion, chin pointing to the stars, you get the eerie sensation that it’s no longer the crowd he is addressing. So painfully touching is this moment that a tangible feeling of togetherness circles the field, with many a head rested on the nearest shoulder.

If this all sounds very morose the actual experience was a soothing one. It is tempting to transcribe verbatim Ashcroft’s introductory words to ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ but suffice to say the hairs on the back of our necks were already at attention when those iconic strings rang out. The Verve owned the night.


Honourable Mention must go to multinational world-music warrior-activists Mundo Jazz. In reality a hysterically funny comedy act from Manchester, appearing very late on at the Blazing Saddles comedy stage. With songs that deal with such pressing issues as; why Dr. Quincy never pays in restaurants; penguin militias; different types of fruit (a thinly disguised treatise on homosexual freedom) and best of all; Scouser Chavs “You wouldn’t be so arrest-able/ if you ate the occasional vegetable” they unquestionably bring the house down (but only because they really care). For all those who happened upon the act, drawn to the sound of hundreds of people laughing outrageously, the wily satirists succeeded in completely expelling the end of festival blues. With some inspired improvisation, surprisingly accomplished musicianship and not to mention – face-melting triangle solos, the band managed to transcend your garden-variety anarcho-syndicalist sub-Trotskyite protofascist communist revolutionary workshop collective. Juanpablo Colon told me they are coming to Belfast soon. He said: “Hey John! We are coming to Belfast soon!”. .that’s all he said though. Love that Guy.

John Calvert

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