I woke up on Saturday knowing it would be the day I finally saw The Boss live, I just knew I’d have to get through a whole day of brilliant music before I saw him though, or so i thought.
I started the day by heading to a small igloo shaped dome in the Shangri-La area of the Glastonbury site to see a poetry set from Itch Fox, which is always an enjoyable experience. He showcased, to a half full tent, his wit and unique grasp on the English language, and was very well received. My favourite poem he performed was called ‘five bottles of shampoo’, a wonderful ode to women. Itch effortlessly articulates everyday life with a just subtle hint of romanticism, leaving me in no doubt that he is one of the best punk poets of his generation.
I then meandered through the Green Fields ending up at the pyramid stage towards the end of the Eagles of Death Metal’s set. They’ve never impressed me as a band before, and still failed to do so at Glastonbury, though they’re clearly very able musicians, and played with passion, they fail to write songs with apparent hooks, so I wasn’t particularly interested. What did interest me however, was to come next, after a brief wait, and being told I had the ‘Second coolest t-shirt at Glastonbury, my experience were about to be turned up to 11 by Spinal Tap, who played a really fun set drawing from their ‘classics’ and some new material, they were on jovial form, though I had to leave before I got to see if they had an epic bass-off, but enjoyed the songs I saw.
After my brief experience with Spinal Tap, I headed to the Avalon stage, to find the tent packed in anticipation of Hackney’s favourite sons, and long term friends of Last Hours, The King Blues. The response was incredible, hundreds of people singing every word, they’ve really come along way from the first time I saw them. They gave a stunning performance despite a few technical faults, Jamie’s guitar broke in the first song, forcing him to play electric, their spray paint ran out, leaving any latecomers to believe they were watching a band called ‘THE KI’ and the singer tripped over a monitor towards the end of the set, They played a fantastic cover of Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’ and a new tune called ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Win’, which has a much punkier vibe than most of their old stuff.
The King Blue’s cover of Dizzee Rascal provided me with motivation to go and watch the real thing, I’ve always rated Dizzee’s ability to write a pop song, his diction and tuning are fantastic, but never really thought much of him as a poet, in this environment it didn’t matter, people ate up his every word, the last part I saw of his set was a medley of Michael Jackson songs which he encouraged the crowd to sing along to. I cant fault his confidence or enthusiasm but was left feeling a little underwhelmed. With no time to lose, I headed towards the John Peel stage, where The Gaslight Anthem were about to take the stage.
Drawing almost entirely from their second full length, ‘The ‘59 Sound’, The Gaslight Anthem breezed through a short, but energetic, enthusiastic and powerful set. I found myself at the very front, screaming along to every line, which put me in a excellent position for the surprise they had planned. Two or three songs into the set, Singer Brian Fallon stopped, saying that he could hear his hometown, and asked rhetorically ‘Who’s back there?’ before, to rapturous applause, Bruce Springsteen took the stage, and plugged in a guitar. They broke into the title track of their second album, with Bruce sharing a microphone for the chorus and playing a solo at the end. This was possibly my ‘Glastonbury moment’ for 2009, a totally unexpected and wonderful experience, the kind of surprise you don’t get at any other festival. It was magical. Bruce left at the end of the song and they continued with their emotive and heartfelt set, barely pausing for breath until the final notes of ‘The Backseat’, which was their set closer.
At this point I was beginning to develop a headache that tasted suspiciously like the cider brandy I’d been drinking all day, so I got some awesome vegan paella and walked back to Shangri-La to see Clayton Blizzard.
People go to Glastonbury to experience new things, and although I had already seen many of the bands I saw that weekend, none of the shows resembled anything like any experience I’d previously had involving any of the bands, so it was refreshing to see Clayton Blizzard in a tiny little bar, being witty, intelligent, a stunning guitarist and fantastic performer. Definitely an experience I’ve had before, and will certainly have again. He was charismatic as ever and although only a few people were there to see him, he was well received. I had to leave early for a pre-arranged meeting time on the other side of the site, and was gutted to miss the end, but time time was ticking ever nearer to 10pm, when Bruce was due to take the stage, and I, for one was getting excited.
We took our places in the crowd and got ready for what was coming next.
After a few frantic conversations with other Springsteen fanatics, some incoherent ramblings aimed roughly in the direction of my friends and a long five minutes or so, the lights dimmed and the boss emerged from the side of the stage holding an acoustic guitar. I had been pondering to myself all day which song he was going to open with, but would never have guessed he’d play ‘Coma Girl’ by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, I went suitably crazy, singing every word and jumping around like a lunatic possessed by the spirit of a drunken rabbit. The tone for the next three hours had been well and truly set.
After the Joe Strummer cover, he launched straight into ‘Badlands’ and proceeded to play a career spanning set, drawing from his latest album ‘Working on a Dream’ for a few songs, including the anthemtic ‘Outlaw Pete’ but the most thunderous applause was extracted from his classics. ‘The River’, in my eyes, was a highlight, almost drawing a tear, whilst ‘No Surrender’, for which he enlisted the help of Brian Fallon, had me screaming along with every line. When the the main set, which included ‘Because the Night’, ‘Johnny 99′ and ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ came to its triumphant close with the crowd pleasing epic ‘Born To Run’, he had people salivating and eagerly awaiting more, and more is exactly what they got.
Coming back on stage to play ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’, followed by the superb ‘Thunder Road’ and later by ‘Glory Days’ which was followed the classic ‘Dancing In The Dark’, Bruce had ensured his fans had got their moneys worth. Almost three hours of massive hits, courtesy of one of the greatest performers rock and roll has ever known. I went to sleep even more in love with his music than I woke up, which is some achievement.