As the dust settles on the penultimate Glasto before the 50th anniversary next year, and more importantly, all the friendships severed between FOMO-furious friends and smug attendees can start to mend, we look back on what we call the 11 takeaway moments from Glastonbury 2019. What a bumper year it was. In no particular order then (drum roll, please):
1. Janet Jackson in Mime-gate
The microphone was strapped to the face like a Direct Line advert from a bygone era. The hair was wild, and dancers flanked her boisterously like they were at a Smash Hits Poll Winners Party. The band, meanwhile, were pinned to the stage rear, anonymous in the way that youd find at a West End musical. In fact, the whole thing was plonked on the Pyramid like a time. It felt incongruent and peculiar – the latter so often an adjective that clings to the Jackson family name like a bad odour.
That is not to say that Jacksons performance wasnt keenly anticipated. It may have partly been out of a nebby for the carnivalesque roadshow of reputation. Still, within her catalogue stands some decent tunes, so it was frustrating to be let down by something more suited to a 1993 episode of Top of the Pops. The thing is, Janet, theres nowhere to hide in 2019. You cannot mime and not be seen by someone, somehow. Technology has evolved. Cameras are everywhere. Theory and consensus can be instantly formed on social media. To mime on stage at the hallowed Glastonbury festival of all places? Unacceptable. Unacceptable. We are not necessarily angry, were just very, very disappointed. Actually, scrap that: were angry too. Dont descend upon Worthy Farm again if you peddle that nonsense.
2. Stormzy Storms the Palace
Much has been made of this stellar performance (not least here), but it really needs emphasising: this was the single moment that transcended mere musical resonance during the 2019 edition. It was a barrier-busting, lapel-shaking wake up call to the mainstream. An announcement that a counter culture that has long been bubbling just beneath the surface is ready to come up and take over. In time, Stormzys set at Glastonbury will be seen as that watershed. After all, he found time to mix ballet, theatre and politics in and amongst rhymes and bars spat straight from the street. It was a sight to behold and an experience to witness. And it was a signpost for our immediate future.
3. Robert Smith Does the Dance
Ill probably regret it, said genial Goth Robert Smith during the encore of The Cures closing headline set on Sunday evening. After thumbing the depths of their estimable cannon for the best part of an hour and a half, by time the encore came around he had certainly earned the right to let his hair down (but lets be honest, that was only ever going to be thing of metaphor for this back-combed icon) and indulge in as much fun as the crowd were having during their hits-heavy concluding thirty minutes. Stalking the two edges of the stage, mic placed in his hand, he gyrated gently, shimmied and shook like an uncle pushed onto the dancefloor with not enough beers inside of them. It was fun. It was harmless. He shouldnt regret it. He shared in the enjoyment everyone else was experiencing. Thanks for the music, Rob.
4. Loyle Carner Oversees a Marriage Proposal
Mid-way through his pulsating set, the acclaimed South London hip hopper, who had moved on from celebrating his mum and her influence in his life (everything I do is for her, he opined. Aww), he ushered two of his closest friends onto the stage. No one knew what would come next. As they bounded onto the stage, the boy grabbed the mic. The girl looked awkward. Boy then proposed. The crowd erupted. Girl said yes. Smiles, cheers, beers flung up in the air and elation washed over the field in the glare of the late afternoon sun. Carner tried to top that with the remainder of his set. We dont know if he did that, but he certainly matched it with his melodious, thoughtful and brilliant material.
5. Lauryn Hill vs the Sound Tech
The gigantic crowd greeting the enigmatic soulstress came for the music. If they stayed, it might have been partly down to the relentless arm-waving to the side of the stage by Hill towards her sound technician. She wasnt happy. And that was not made a secret. If we thought that dissatisfaction might resolve after one or two songs, it didnt. It went on and on and on. In fact, it went on for the whole ruddy set. The arms gesticulated so wildly it was as though some sinister bugger was gleefully tasering the New Jerseyite without let up. Considering her vocals werent quite the thing of old and she reworked all of her tunes, it ended up being the most compelling sight of the whole (slightly) sorry saga.
6. Liam Gallagher: a Tale of Two Catalogues
Everyones favourite antsy rocker, Liam Gallagher, bowled onto the Pyramid stage prior to the Killers with solo songs to present and a collection of classics to reclaim. Whilst the likes of Morning Glory, Slide Away, Roll With It and Wonderwall were greeted like long lost siblings and deafening vocal accompaniment from the gathered, relative tumbleweed blew any time the Manc dusted down a newbie. It was awkward and eerie. LG finds himself in a strange place right now. Where does he go from here? Who knows, but at this rate hes at risk of being a touring tribute act. It is a pity: Wall of Glass and For What Its Worth are decent fare, but the people appear to have spoken. Or not, as the case may be.
7. Attenborough Addresses the Masses
Institution. National treasure. A champion for the natural world, humanity and the humane. There are many, many superlatives that can be bestowed upon this wonderful nonagenarian, but none probably speak so clearly as the sound of a field of around 90,000 cheering and whooping as he treaded upon the main stage on Sunday afternoon. He congratulated the festival for banning single-use plastics. He also plugged his upcoming BBC series. He fluffed the title as he did so. We didnt care. He is a magnificent being and if there was one huge consensus that run throughout those in attendance, it was exactly that.
8. The Gerry Cinnamon Phenomenon
In the information saturation of the internet age, it is heartening to catch wind of a word-of-mouth phenomenon that throws you back in time. And with Scottish troubadour Gerry Cinnamon, who has been plugging away and doing the rounds since 2005, the antiquated feel is not limited to the development of his career. It is also present in the musical wares he is dishing out. The John Peel tent is heaving in the middle of a baking hot Saturday. The tent is full not by people who wish to have a break from the blistering sun, but from disciples to this scruffy singer song writer. This is evident in the fact that the mass of flesh spills out from the canopy of the tent and into the field around. The simple riffs are hollered and the air is full of bonhomie and the kind of goodwill normally reserved for a best mans speech. Gerry Cinnamon is on the ascent, so this plucky acoustic popster had better get used to this sort of attention.
9. Alex Mann Grabs the Headlines
By now youve probably seen the viral video and read the post-performance interviews. Alex Mann wore a Thiago Silva PSG shirt in the crowd during Daves set. And he hovered near the front of the crowd looking in hindsight like a plant to proceedings. Dave asked Mann to join him up on stage for, inevitably, the song Thiago Silva. Mann knocked it out of the park with a frenetic, perfect rendition. Since the vid spread like wildfire hes become a star of the Silva-screen (sorry, we just had to). A moment.
10. Best Encore The Killers
There was history to rewrite (sound problems marred their 2007 headline performance). There was a staggering headliner to follow from the previous night (Stormzy). And there was an air of anticipation as to how they could surmount it all. Well, if there is sheen and polish to the Killers that feels oh-so-Vegas, they also have a clutch of festival bangers. Brandon Flowers relentlessly stalked the stage and summoned the sort of glitzy driving rock and synth-indie like a sequin-suited musical shaman. It was relentless, and through its relentlessness it became infectious. But they saved the very best for last. As they departed the stage after the main set, Jimmy Carr came out amongst the roadies (surreal for sure) and the band re-emerged with the Pet Shop Boys in tow. They belted out their number one cover of Elvis Presleys Always on My Mind and were followed and topped by the appearance of Johnny Marr for a rollicking This Charming Man, before Marr helped the band unleash Mr Brightside. It was a crazy 15 minutes. It was the best encore of the fest (yes, even nudging out the Cure, even if the Cure were, based on the entirety of their set, better value).
11. Emotional Kylie
Everyones favourite Pop Princess finally descended upon the Eavis festival after the cancer diagnosis that prevented her from performing back in 2005. This was a spectacle of elegant glamour and tongue-in-cheek fun that suited the legends slot. She whisked through a series of songs so familiar that they are etched on the British publics collective consciousness like a cattle marked with a branding iron. She had time for guests too: Nick Cave and, unsurprisingly for the Glasto ever-present, Chris Martin accompanied Minogue. They couldnt upstage her. But it was the look of awe that she repeatedly had at the sight before her when looking out into the crowd that hit home hardest – often derailed by the enormity of it all. She was almost speechless. And yet, she touched upon her triumph over what could have been tragedy in the form of that cancer. It was an emotional moment for her and everyone shared it with her in that moment. Lovely.
By Greg Wetherall
And that is that. If you have any alternatives to what weve plucked out, comment, message or send a note by carrier pigeon. Were all ears. As for Glastonbury, well see you for your big 5-0.