Glastonbury Festival @ Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, 22-26 June 2022 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024  

Wolf Alice

Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, IDLES, Wolf Alice, Wet Leg, St. Vincent, Warmduscher

Glastonbury Festival @ Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, 22-26 June 2022,

Jul 08, 2022 Photography by Jason Bryant Web Exclusive
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t’s been gone a long three years, but reveller’s excitement has gone into overdrive now that Britain’s (maybe even the world’s) best festival is back. I may have had my reservations of the cultish adoration of Glastonbury – but hallelujah I have certainly seen the light and I can gleefully exclaim I am one of the latest Glasto converts. What other event can collect such an incredible roster of world class artists including Kendrick Lamar, Pet Shop Boys, Megan Thee Stallion and Lorde. Plus, a seemingly endless number of essential acts and rising stars like Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Years & Years, Fontaines D.C., Self Esteem, Confidence Man, Amyl and the Sniffers, First Aid Kit, Just Mustard, Big Joanie, WH Lung – the list goes on and on. And where else in the world will people gather en masse to cheer the setting of the Somerset sun, before enjoying one of the best fireworks display I’ve seen in years, raving at such surreal spots as IICON with its awesome post-modern statue, and beneath the giant menacing metallic fire breathing Arcadia arachnid before welcoming the sunrise at the Stone Circle?

Wolf Alice easily took the title of one of the best bands of the weekend, their Friday afternoon Pyramid Stage appearance made even more magnificent after their miraculous last-minute arrival after their flight from L.A. was cancelled. The Mercury Prize winners shrugged nerves and exhaustion aside as Ellie Rowsell and her gang strut confidently onstage and explode into a set which is as tender as it is tenacious, proving that rock music still has a colossal power of its own.

Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice

Delicate, dangerous, perfectly poised and effortlessly cool – Wolf Alice clearly have both the hunger and the ability to rise to become future headliners as heavenly voices sail above roaring guitars and it’s clear something special is happening here. Every song an anthem, every pertinent second more precious than the last as “Smile” hits so satisfyingly hard, “The Last Man On Earth” and “Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall in Love)” have never felt more touching and the achingly beautiful “Don’t Delete The Kisses” sees Rowsell crying with joy, as was I. We’ve seen Wolf Alice grow from strength to strength over the years, but here and now on the world’s most famous festival stage it feels like a coming-of-age moment as they reveal themselves to be on the greatest British acts of this generation. Can we just call them rockstars now? Because we’ve badly needed some for a long time, and they’re every inch the heroes we want.

Not content with smashing it just once, everyone’s favourite positive post punks IDLES end up playing two wonderfully rowdy sets, injecting a huge amount of wild, dangerous energy into both sets – the first of which saw them greeted with a reported 50,000 fans at The Other Stage on Friday evening. And no matter the size of the stage or number of onlookers, they refuse to play it safe and become just another sanitised show as bearlike frontman Joe Talbot stamps the ground, gnashes his teeth, and decries the callous Conservatives plus the Supreme Court’s despicable choice to curtail women’s right to choose abortion. Dev’s punching bassline on “Divide and Conquer” has never hit so hard, new songs like “Car Crash” and “Crawl!” resonate with hardcore fans and casual listeners alike and I’m sure “Danny Nedelko” became the new national anthem when dress wearing mustachio Mark Bowen crowd surfed into dangerous mosh pit waters for a rousing anti-racist chant-a-long. But fuck knows what they were thinking when their clearly unrehearsed cover of The Beatles classic “All You Need Is Love”, aided with an appearance from Willie J Healey, imploded into a hot mess of insanity. But it’s these moments of insanity that are a welcome break from the overly sanitised shows that are overly choreographed to boring death. And it sets up rampaging closer “Rottweiler” perfectly.

The following day sees the lads enjoy a joint birthday for the first album Brutalism which they play in full to celebrate five years since its release on the BBC Introducing Stage which, as we are reliably informed by compere Steve Lamacq, has been going for fifteen years. For those of us who have seen the IDLES grow from the toilet venue circuit to now packing out everywhere they play; it’s a gloriously messy return to the good old days as we get to hear all the songs that prompted their rise but not oft heard once again. Lee Kiernan single handily creates how own circle pit, brings a young fan onstage who grins ear to ear as she’s handed his guitar and invited to briefly become a band member during, and he even sits on my shoulders as I run around the tent like a giddy school kid, and it feels like 2017 all over again. All the following acts playing the BBC Introducing Stage on Saturday are chosen by the Bristol boys who celebrate the awesome underground movement from which they came with such essential new names as Adwaith, Egyptian Blue, English Teacher and Honeyglaze.


Ironically, some of the best performances were ones that no-one seemed to be there to see. Such as the woefully unattended St. Vincent slot, and people missed out on a flawless set from one of the world’s most enigmatic and innovative songwriters right now. Still, Annie Clark clearly enjoyed herself on The Other Stage as she tore through such superbly sassy electro inflected tracks as “Los Ageless”, “Sugarboy” and “Fast Slow Disco” as she clashed guitars and rolled on the floor ripping out killer riffs. Plus, Warmduscher who finally appeared half an hour after their allotted 04:00 am start to play a stupidly late night / very early morning (take your pick) taut set on the Truth Stage. Those wasted enough to hang around that long were treated to a taut performance of blistering bass heavy carnage. And its bangers like “Midnight Dipper” and “Disco Peanuts” that have the power to make you ignore the frequent showers of rain and the threat of the encroaching dawn light. Joined by Nuha Ruby Ra for a guest spot, the early morning riot climaxes with an overhead rainbow before everyone crashes and disperses.

Top choice of the headliners has to go to Paul McCartney. Decked out every inch The Beatle, complete with his violin Hofnor bass and Fab Four suit and with a roar of the crowd, he rips into “Money Can’t Buy Me Love” and it’s clear from the outset this is a set that will be loaded with special moments. He then entices the crow by telling them “We’ve got some old songs for you; some new songs and some inbetweeners. It’s going to be a great night” and he’s not wrong, as between his solo stuff, Wings and only the biggest band of all time, he’s not just got the hits - he invented what makes one. Perfect campfire song Between his solo stuff, Wings and only the biggest band of all time, he’s not just got the hits - he invented what makes one. Perfect campfire song “Love Me Do” unites the whole audience as one, later “Blackbird” sends an emotional wave right across Worthy Farm and spreads chills beyond the fields and into the TV viewers at home. “Getting Better”, “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Lady Madonna”, “Get Back”; even bloody “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” we get hit after hit. And if that wasn’t enough, we didn’t just get one living legend but three as superfan Dave Grohl joins Macca on stage for just a couple of little-known tunes like “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Band on the Run” for what is likely to be his first public appearance since the tragic death of Taylor Hawkins. As soon as the Foo Fighters frontman walks off, The Boss walks on and none other than Bruce Springsteen is now playing duet on “Glory Days” and “I Wanna Be Your Man”.

The passion and energy of such a lengthy show belies his age and it’s a wonder that a man just turned 80 can keep playing so long as “Live and Let Die” hits hard and “Hey Jude” brings proceedings to a joyous apt end complete with the whole crowd singing. But no, he’s back as perfect song writing duo Lennon and McCartney are reunited once again with the aid of a little Peter Jackson studio magic for “I’ve Got a Feeling”, then its just time for “Helter Skelter”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight” and an all-star ensemble once again for “The End”. It’s likely we will never see Paul McCartney play a show as big as this ever again, and that was one hell of a goodbye to the world.

Whilst she was never actually a headliner; Motown icon Diana Ross manages to pull an even bigger crowd than even McCartney which is a huge testament to her enduring appeal, her formidable talent, and almost unlimited feel-good hits. I’ve heard a few people who have watched her set from the comfort of their sofa that Ross sounded a bit flat, but beneath the scorching hot sun and buzzing on the Glasto spirit, she was phenomenal to witness live. She sets the party vibes right from the outset with huge queer anthem “I’m Coming Out” before treating us to a string of super songs by The Supremes including “Baby Love”, “Stop! In the Name of Love” plus “You Can’t Hurry Love”. Plus, she even sneaks in a couple of covers ending with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Will Survive”, forever proving her status as a pioneering pop singer.

But inevitably, there are going to be disappointments and the biggest of these was Billie Eilish. Whilst she was never bad, and no-one can argue it was an awful appearance – it just never hit the heights needed to justify a headline slot at the Pyramid on the Friday. Her every attempt at emotional connection was crushed by cliché after cliché, and the high energy we were expecting was instead a lacklustre performance even by her slacker standards – “bad guy” barely raised the pulse as she drawled monotonously on for 90 mins or so. If you’ve already bought into the Billie alt pop phenomenon, then it’s likely you will have enjoyed her, and the huge numbers of swaying sad girl fans got exactly what they came for. But any newcomers, if there are any left, likely found the sedated style too sleepy to grab any attention, no matter how many gimmicks she tried and ultimately became totally forgettable.

Similarly, I eagerly worked my way up the hill to await the one and only Jarvis Cocker only to be setup for an anti-climax. I’ve always respected Sheffield’s sage songwriter for continuing to push forward, and under his current guise as JARV IS… we’ve got an interesting mix of folk and stripped-down anglicised disco. It would be so easy to just do all the Britpop bangers and pretend it was the 90’s all over again, Cocker himself even wryly addresses this on single “Must I Evolve?” and he must be congratulated on finding new avenues to explore and to grow musically. But ultimately the set he picked for the Park Stage was too dry and rarely showed him at his best. Maybe he played to the BBC coverage too much, even curbing “Cunts Are Still Running The World” to “pricks” for the sake of watershed safety, as much of the set felt quite chin stroking rather than the awkward indie excitement we so often enjoy from him. Sure “Further Complications”, “Sometimes I Am Pharaoh” and “House Music All Night Long” are great – but maybe it is time to bring back THAT band as the only Pulp track we got was “She’s a Lady” and surely they’ve got at least one more monumental headline set in them?

It’s likely that when band of the moment Wet Leg were booked, it could not be anticipated just how massive they would grow in such a short time thanks to the flawless eponymous first album. But being one of the first big names to appear on the Park Stage at Friday, usually my favourite stage, the area was dangerously swamped with people and instead of enjoying such summery singles as “Being in Love”, “Wet Dream” and, of course, “Chaise Longue” the threat of being crushed on the hillside continued to grow and many like myself had to abandon one of the slots we had been looking forward to the most. Which raises a real question about the safety in increasing the festival capacity by a further 7,000 people without extending the size of the site or suitably addressing stage access or potential bottlenecks. Many Glastonbury veterans complained that the experience had been sorely dampened by the massive rise in human traffic, and if not looked at properly we could easily see that Glasto spirit diluted into too arduous an experience – if not even the potential for a serious accident.

Even the hedonistic hinterlands of Shangri-La often felt way too hectic, which again is a massive shame as the quality of dance music and electronica was huge. Ravers enjoyed a huge list of superstar DJs like Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Groove Armada, Goldie, Four Tet, Calvin Harris, Bonobo, plau many more. And what better way to bring the biggest bender of them all to an end than heading to West Holts for Northern Irish Ninja Tune signees Bicep?

Building up their arrival with an intro track akin to a wonky Gameboy soundtrack, Bicep are fully loaded and ready to mess with their minds intelligently sinister electronica. It’s not about big drops and slamming beats but creeping excitement and building bursts of euphoria. Tranced out ravers are fascinated by the movement of their own hands, as the synths squelch and booming bass calls like the summoning sound of a cult. It’s a subtle dance sound as heard on their eponymous debut album and last years’ killer LP Isles that feels akin to a transcendental religious experience, a healing of souls and a restoration of serotonin rather than a full-on banging rave. It would be easy to be bored by two blokes staring at screens and drum machines, so thankfully they’ve brought with them the best laser show of the weekend and the sky becomes a radiant oil slick of luminosity and lit up like the best shoot-em-up game ever. I’m never a fan of fake encores as the kill the momentum, but there was no way I was leaving before hearing “Glue” and “Apricots”. Only then can I head off for one last night of unbridled late-night recklessness at Arcadia and the Truth Stage.

I had my reservation about Glastonbury, which has likely been shaped by the comfy, middle-class image as presented by Auntie Beeb. So, after being isolated from mass events for so long it’s a joy to discover that Worthy Farm is wonderfully lawless, a joyful anomie and this riotous revelry is almost too good to be true. Walking dazed and drunk from stage to rave, mosh pit to Healing Fields feels like a lucid dream complete with all the adventure and excitement only the most miraculously insane mind could conjure.


But after nearly a week of camping in a dirty field with 210,000 other shuffling, stinking, bawdy bastards combined with all the endurance tests that comes with the British weather and self-induced excesses, we are too suddenly jolted wide awake by the return journey home to normal life and all the grim realities it entails. It may be mad and messy, but Glastonbury is a dream I can believe in.


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