What a weekend of TV it was, with the World Cup and Glastonbury festival vying for attention. Not to mention Wimbledon, though I tend to steer clear of that these days. Have to find some time for writing!
I’ve never been to Glastonbury for the festival, though I know the area well, having spent quite a few New Years in place nearby, with lots of walks up to the Tor and treks around the local countryside. It is THE festival, at least in the UK, and the variety of music and experiences always looks astounding. This year was no exception: from the country nostalgia of Dolly Parton, to the thunderous riffing of new band Royal Blood. From the pop/dance/ classical mash ups of Clean Bandit, to the strutting, pounding electro-rock of Kasabian, there was so much to enjoy. And with the BBC live-streaming most of the top bands on the iPlayer, you could choose what to watch at home like never before.
So what was all the fuss over Metallica all about? First metal band ever to headline Glastonbury. Lots of prominent people suggesting they weren’t right for Glasto’s mild-mannered folk. Now it’s true that the default options for the Pyramid Stage headliners are white indie guitar rock and rock nostalgia, but Beyonce and Jay Z have both done their bit in recent years, and the essence of the festival is that there is room for anything and everything. Except metal, it seems. Royal Blood and Drenge, banging out riffs straight from the school of hard rock, OK. But add a bit of humour, or big hair, or lyrics about warriors and wizards, or hard loving’ women, or piercing solos from Gibson flying Vs, and you are off the menu. Reading or Sonisphere or Donington is for you.
So of course I had to watch Metallica live, out of solidarity, as much as anything else. I even turned over from Colombia v Uruguay for the privilege. And yes they rocked. In a crunching, power-driving way that just doesn’t exist in any other genre. They seemed to triumph, though I’m not sure the crowd reaction was as spontaneous as it will be at Sonisphere, or as it would be in the Maracana, Rio de Janeiro. They played a set of old favourites – hits would be the wrong word – which could not be faulted. They omitted “The Day That Never Comes”, but did delight us with their cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Whisky In The Jar”. That one reminded me that my favourite Metallica album remains the double CD of covers, “Garage Inc”. Strange perhaps, but I love the variety, the awesome takes on familiar songs, and the demonstration of their roots, which lie in punk and 70s rock as well as metal. I sometimes find straight-out Metallica a bit hard to take after a few songs, so relentless is the riffing. There was a little bit of that at Glasto: melodies were in snatches, maybe in an opening guitar solo, before the piledriver kicked in again.
But Metallica did the job. The greatest metal band (I’m not defining Led Zep as metal here) brought their sound to Glastonbury and showed they have a place in the family. Next year, Black Sabbath? That would hit the 70s nostalgia button too…
In complete contrast – the wonder of Glastonbury – the other performance I watched all the way through was the closer on the John Peel stage on Sunday night, London Grammar. Their album, “If You Wait”, was one of my favourites from 2013, the song “Strong” the absolute highlight in a collection of hauntingly beautiful ballads, embellished by an element of electronica, but often with just a simple piano. Above all the amazing voice of Hannah Reid. All of those things captivated the crowd at Glastonbury and made the concert a real celebration. It felt spiritual. I watched it on the computer in a fading light. As darkness fell, it felt ever more soulful, ethereal. It was incredibly uplifting, moving. And that was just on the telly! Hannah was dressed in jeans and trainers, as befits Glastonbury, but there was nothing casual about her singing. It sounded like the most important show of her life.
So, if I had to say which performance had the most impact on me, I’d have to say London Grammar. But which had the most impact on Glastonbury: it would have to be Metallica.