Glastonbury 2013: The musical highlights (part I)

Glastonbury 2013: The musical highlights (part I)

“Coming down again, coming down again. Where are all my friends? Coming down again”

When Keith Richards sang those lines on Goats Head Soup forty years ago it is unlikely he could have anticipated they would form the perfect leitmotif for this particular morning after that particular night before.  Some twelve hours prior, The Rolling Stones had appeared on the Pyramid Stage and given us what surely has to have been one of the most epochal of all Glastonbury headlining shows. It was a triumphal, triumphant tour de force which had defied both age and reason.  It had crackled with energy and excitement throughout and survived all of the imperfections of its quite extraordinary execution. You sensed that nothing could ever follow that.

Shortly after midday on Sunday, it was then down to First Aid Kit to try and once more pick up the threads of the Glastonbury experience.  The area before them was now relatively deserted when compared with the previous evening, the ground no longer covered by people but with thousands upon thousands of the red petals that had been strewn from the stage during the Stones’ encore. It had become a scene of quiet and reflective desolation into which the two Swedish sisters’ benign indie-folk floated quite perfectly. Songs from their second album The Lion’s Roar rubbed shoulders with sublime covers of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘America’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’, creating within us a deep yearning for travel, true love and high adventure.

Later that afternoon The Congos’ spoke to the world in front of the West Holts Stage with that same consistent message of spirituality and love they have conveyed through their music since the release of their defining album Heart of the Congos in 1977. For one glorious hour, four elderly Rastafarian gentlemen sang their songs of repatriation, redemption and freedom in perfect harmony. Over the most joyous of roots reggae rhythms and melodies their bass, falsetto and tenor voices coalesced into one and brought with them a huge slice of Jamaican culture into the Vale of Avalon.

John Lydon has evolved into a caricature of himself. He has become a celebrity pantomime villain – part Johnny Rotten, part Frankie Howard – and revels in the contrary image that he has created for us. Yet for all this he remains deadly serious about Public Image Ltd. This is his musical true love. PiL originally produced a sound that was years ahead of its time and it is still one which leaves the entire era lagging hopelessly behind. It is fiercely oppositional music that induces such high, conflicting emotions with its composite parts of taut, angular, fragmented guitar; thundering, claustrophobic dub rhythms; and Lydon’s snarling, twisting and turning voice. His is a remarkable siren wail, the power, glory and potency of which it is impossible to bottle. It spills out of every corner of the Other Stage as Lydon leads his sonic warriors once more into battle. ‘Death Disco’ is recreated and reinvented as a dance floor filler for the apocalypse; ‘Public Image’, an inspirational clarion call for acceptance. God bless John Lydon and all who sail in the good ship PiL.

And quite what all of those innocents who had positioned themselves in front of the Pyramid Stage to secure an early vantage point for Mumford & Sons made of the preceding act is impossible to gauge. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds look and sound like the last gang in town; a bunch of feckless, reckless desperadoes stitched together by a common purpose and shared values and hell-bent on taking us onto the dark side of human experience. Whilst capable of producing moments of tender beauty (tonight ‘People Ain’t No Good’ is spellbinding), together they also create a heady demonic brew of some of the most wanton rock n roll this side of Hades. Their tales of sexual longing, religion and murder, of love and of hate, would provide the perfect soundtrack to Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter were it ever to be remade. Nick Cave would be cast in the Robert Mitchum role and the director would somehow manage to incorporate the scene Cave had acted out this evening during a truly mesmeric Stagger Lee when he had reached out into the crowd and transfixed a young girl with his satanic gaze. This ethereal, expressionistic moment with Cave dressed in black and she in white symbolically captured all of the good and evil that courses through the bloodstream of the Bad Seeds’ music. It was one of the most dramatic of moments in what was one of the most intoxicating of performances at this year’s festival.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.