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Glastonbury: Alexis Petridis: Ignore the mud, just enjoy the music: In a surprise performance, Kaiser Chiefs provide a musical comfort blanket for a rain-soaked audience

June 28, 2014

"Look at what the weather's doing!" cries Ricky Wilson, early on in Kaiser Chiefs' surprise 11am performance on Glastonbury's Other stage. "It's stopped raining!"

No sooner are the words out of his mouth than it starts raining again, as it has been doing all morning. "Shall we stick two fingers up at the sky?" he offers. The audience stick two fingers up at the sky.

It's rained so often at Glastonbury in recent years that, on one level, it seems beside the point. These days, people arrive fully prepared to be drenched: the entertainment of watching someone who's turned up with no footwear other than a pair of flip-flops gingerly attempting to pick their way through the two inches of mud alas belongs to the past. But it would be wrong to say that the weather makes no difference, at least as far as artists are concerned.

If it's muddy and tipping it down, Glastonbury audiences seem to vastly prefer a kind of musical comfort blanket: they're after stuff they know rather than intrepidly exploring the unknown. So it is that Kaiser Chiefs play one Noughties hit after another - I Predict a Riot, Ruby, Everyday I Love You Less and Less - and go down a storm, while on the main stage, a band called Turtle Island play to a scant handful of people.

It's hard not to think that were it not tipping it down, the latter might attract more attention: they make a pretty diverting noise, a sort of Japanese take on the Pogues' punk-folk hybrid, heavy on the taiko drums, bamboo flute keening away over distorted guitars.

They also have a pretty diverting frontman in the shape of Yoshiki Nagayama, although it's hard to work out whether the moment where he dives face first on to the stage is an Iggy Pop-like expression of nihilistic physicality or simply a reminder that the wet weather makes for treacherous conditions onstage as well.

The sun briefly flickers into life midway through an extended guitar solo by War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel, provoking a round of applause from the crowd. In fairness, War on Drugs deserve a round of applause anyway: there's something undeniably thrilling about the way their Pyramid stage set slips effortlessly between familiarity and abstraction, from air-punching stadium rock of the mid-1980s variety - underlined by their keyboard player, who, in stonewashed denim jacket and bandana, appears to have come dressed as 1985 - to passages of feedback-laden drone, decorated with hypnotic brass figures.

"What am I doing here?" ponders John Newman between songs: behind the white-jacketed soul-revue sophistication of his presentation, he turns out to be a rather bluff Yorkshireman. The kind of person who bemoans Glastonbury's gradual shift from countercultural haven to mainstream entertainment event might note gloomily that no one in the huge crowd at the Other stage seems to think it odd that Newman's here - he has them eating out of his hand from the off, aided by the fact that it's stopped raining.

Still, it's not as if there's no alternative on offer to the middle of the road. If Newman's chart-topping brand of pop-r'n'b is too toothsome for your taste, a short walk takes you to the Gully stage, where a band called Jambiani are producing a dense mesh of metallic noise, underpinned by the twang of traditional Korean instruments, so experimental that it's not entirely clear when their soundcheck ends and the performance itself starts.

A short walk on from there, and you've arrived at the West Holts stage, where the surviving members of Sun Ra Arkestra still perform jazz that sounds as if it's spinning queasily off its axis.

By the time De La Soul turn up on the Pyramid stage, Glastonbury is blazingly hot, and the crowd that assembles to see them is impressively vast.

De La Soul understandably milk them for all they're worth: dividing the audience in two, asking where all the ladies are at, playing substantial chunks of their now 25-year-old debut, Three Feet High And Rising.

It's both joyous and a little corny. The audience, happily acceding even when Posdnuos asks them to join him in miming driving to the festival, seem delighted: they stay that way for the pop-dance of Rudimental, despite the fact that the sky appears to have gone remarkably dark, and their light show is augmented by a series of flashes of lightning.


Clockwise from left: Blondie's Debbie Harry performs on the Other stage; Este Haim of Haim; Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs Main photograph: Adam Gray/SWNS

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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