THE BEGINNING

Gorillaz’ Glastonbury set was only disappointing to the deluded, says Danny Canter.

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Gorillaz’ Glastonbury set was only disappointing to the deluded, says Danny Canter

As our Glastonbury coverage [page 38] will attest, those at Worthy Farm a few weeks back would have struggled to be less impressed by Gorillaz’ Friday night, headlining set. The people that had cheered as Bono put his back out sluggishly sloped off to the Healing Fields and beyond; those who considered the cartoon band a sizeable upgrade from U2 grumbled into pints in paper cups. The appearance of Lou Reed managed to momentarily perk them up, but it turns out that he doesn’t sing on ‘Clint Eastwood’, so it was soon back to the grumbling.

Perhaps inadvertently – due to the public’s distain for Bono more than his music – Glastonbury goers had wished away the biggest band in the world, with the most hits to offer. And, as it happens, hits were all they wanted to hear.

It seems like a fair demand of any band headlining any festival, and yet not of Gorillaz, and not of Glastonbury. They are a band with two hits [‘DARE’ and ‘Clint Eastwood’], after all, and if there’s one festival where you should be able to get away with self-indulgently grooving out world music, lyric-less interludes it has to be the only one sat atop the cosmic laylines of Pilton. Glastonbury is about expression and freedom and discovery, above mass sing-a-longs to FM smash hit number ones. Isn’t it?

Gorillaz’ failing wasn’t in that they didn’t play the hits; it was in the fact that they didn’t write them. They weren’t ready to top a festival, and people weren’t ready to admit that they only knew a handful of their songs. So instead of trying something new between the tracks they’d already heard, they moaned, turned to their friends and whinged, “I was expecting something… more.”

I was saying the same thing to a friend in 2006. We were at Coachella Festival where Madonna had made her first (and to date only) festival appearance. The high witch of reinvention was then pushing her ‘Confessions Of A Dancefloor’ album (the grandma-in-a-leotard record) and had deemed it fit to spend half of her allotted stage time in her trailer, a quarter of it playing ‘Hung Up’, ‘Sorry’, new album fillers and “an oldie”, which nobody knew, before a premature exit back to the Winnebago. For the twenty minutes that Madge was in front of us she was booed, which fucked her right off, but not as much as a stray bottle that flew past her ear. The mutton dressed as lamb was now playing the toddler, stamping her feet at us ungrateful lot who’d dared express our disappointment. And with that she was gone.

She – a woman whose ‘Immaculate Collection’ is the most justifiably titled record of all time – had no excuse for her shit show of a festival debut. Her set could have shamed all others for a very long time, but diva-ish stubbornness prevented all of that, as we all sloped off and grumbled into pints in paper cups.

So I know how the people of Glastonbury felt as they fled The Pyramid Stage and Gorillaz, but I fail to see how the disappointment wasn’t inevitable for all of those who wanted a typically epic end to the day, or a carnival party before going mental in the fire-breathing Shangri La area of the site. Gorillaz weren’t the band for either of those eventualities, and for those who stuck around to be suitably amazed by the countless special guests, it was a far better show than expected, characteristically ‘Glastonbury’ in its sense of fun and spontaneity as Snoop Dogg missed his cue for the eventual arrival of ‘Clint Eastwood’ to uncontrolled laughter from Damon Albarn. At least three of us were having a good time.

By Danny Canter

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Originally published in issue 20 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. July 2010

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