Festival Review: Glastonbury Festival 2011 – Part Five: Sunday (26.06.2011)

The final day of Glastonbury brought with it baking hot sunshine to dry out the remainder of the mud. A stark contrast from this year’s damp start. Opening proceedings on the Other Stage was Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan. Mangan offered up a fantastic performance for a fairly modest but enthusiastic audience. It was a performance that was energetic and upbeat, as well as showing Mangan to be a charismatic and engaging performer. There was a great dynamic within the backing band, each member feeding of the energy of their fellow bandmates. “Post War Blues” a song off of Mangan’s forthcoming album was one of the many highlights, topped by Mangan making his way down to the crowd coaxing a sing-along out of the crowd. A triumphant end to a strong set.

Following Mangan onto the Other Stage was British singer-songwriter Claire Maguire, who brought a sense of the dramatic to the stage. With (fake) carnations decorating mic stands and keyboards alike, there was an undeniable theatrical feel to the set. The quality of Maguire’s vocals was also undeniable, she has a great voice, one which is somewhat reminiscent of Annie Lennox and Stevie Nix. She seemed at home on stage, but didn’t engage enough with the audience to get the crowd reaction and involvement that it seemed she was looking for. But all in all a solid set, with some fine moments.

After Maguire came the turn of the Cold War Kids, a move which highlights the diversity of the Glastonbury line-up. The band put in a raucous performance and drew an impressive crowd, though it was their older tracks that drew the biggest cheers. They played a variety of tracks from their different albums, but it was the track which helped them make their name, “Hang Me Up To Dry”, that was the highlight of the set.

It was then across to the Pyramid Stage and you couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather as Laura Marling took to the stage with her band, looking as endearingly bashful as ever. Whilst Marling might not have looked completely comfortable on the large stage, her performance certainly warranted her being there. Right from opener “Devil’s Spoke” she was at the top of her game. Marling played selections from her forthcoming album throughout the set, all of which sound promising and suggest that Marling is really maturing and developing, both as a performer and a songwriter. A fantastic and mesmerising performance throughout.

Following Marling onto the Pyramid Stage was Paul Simon filling what has been dubbed the “legends” slot at Glastonbury, previously been filled by the likes of Tom Jones, Ray Davies and Leonard Cohen. Battling a sore throat, Simon’s performance may not have been up to same level as the audience were expecting. None the less, he put on a strong performance with a largely upbeat and hit-laden set. His band put on a great solid performance behind Simon, occasionally taking the opportunity to show off with some great individual performances and solos. A good set all round, with a few stellar moments here and there.

It was then a case of battling against the mass exodus from the Pyramid Stage, something which is no easy task I can tell you, to catch ex Czars front-man John Grant play his set on the Park Stage. Playing tracks from his debut solo release Queen of Denmark, Grant heralded in the final evening of the festival in a great chilled out fashion. With the only accompaniment for the most part being either Piano or electronic accompaniment, Grant’s fantastic vocal was given room to shine. Despite there only being a modest crowd, the atmosphere was great, the crowd being incredibly attentive and receptive to tracks both old and new. A very charismatic performance.

It was then down to the Leftfield (for the first time this festival) for British folk super-group Bellowhead. As performers they are wonderfully chaotic, even their sound check was “organised” chaos, with around eleven musicians and even more instruments you would never expect. Once the band start up and are in full flow they are a joy to watch. Energetic, frantic and undoubtedly entertaining – it’s almost as if Bellowhead tore up the rulebook when it comes to performances by folk bands.

With disheveled smart casual seemingly the dress code of the evening, the band worked their way through a selection of tracks from their three albums,each track giving each of the performers ample opportunity to command attention. Indeed, one of the main problems with watching Bellowhead in action is you’re not too sure which musician you should be watching at any one time. By the time Billy Bragg joined the band on stage for an Clash themed encore, the fiddle players had already dived around the stage half a dozen times and played with the same energy and fun as a number of rock bands. A stunning performance from a band who I most definitely want to see more of.

Now Beyonce isn’t my thing, and the snippet of her set I heard as I passed the Pyramid Stage area didn’t exactly make me want to hang around. From talking to a few people since, it apparently took them a couple of songs to get the sound right for her performance. Rather than hang around I headed across to the Bourbon Street stage for another performance by Sean Taylor. Much like with his previous performance on the same stage, he put on a confident and charismatic performance; making it clear why there are some within the industry saying great things about him. He has a great voice, which is soulful but has an edge to it. His guitar playing, meanwhile, is solid, with a subtle hint of jazz in the mix. A great set of his own material with some fantastic covers dropped in as well; his version of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” is great.

My final band of this year’s festival was Rabbit Foot Spasm Band who I am still slightly unsure of even now. All in all it was a great upbeat set, with some fantastic performances from each of the band members. The piano playing throughout was great, and the main vocalist of the band had this great early Tom Waits thing going on. A superb gravelled and broken voice, which gave the songs an added edge. The other vocal performances from the band were strong, but were more polished and lacking that extra little edge. The great upbeat tempo set by the band ensured that the majority of the audience were up on their feet jiving and dancing away. Not a bad way to finish the festival if you ask me.

There won’t be a Glastonbury next year, partly to give the site a chance to recover from the last few years of festival usage and partly because with the Olympics being staged in London next year. But there is no doubt that with a year off the festival should come back better than ever in 2013. See you there!

Elsewhere at Glastonbury:
Beyonce followed husband Jay-Z in headlining the festival, with Aussie electro-rockers Pendulum warming up the crowd beforehand. Across on the Other Stage the Kaiser Chiefs marked their return by getting the crowd energised for headliners Queens of the Stone Age. Across at the John Peel Tent The Streets‘ Mike Skinner played his final Glastonbury under that moniker whilst Kool and the Gang closed out proceedings on the West Holts Stage.

Photo by Jason Bryant. See the full gallery HERE.

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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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