Maybe it’s because there’s a fallow year a-comin’ but Glastonbury 2011 packs in more surprises than a Kinder Egg factory.
Take the weather for starters; there’s biblical rain on Thursday, the type of downpour that has campers awake but sat with their tents firmly zipped up. Noah’s Ark doesn’t bob by like it did in 2005, but it’s enough for mud-diving revellers and a host of floating wreckage down by the John Peel tent.
Then come Sunday, it’s the hottest Glastonbury day in five years and the only ones without sunburn are the bloody Wombles who stay hidden in their enormous furry costumes.
Thanks to a spat with Mikey E, the group have thousands crammed into the Avalon Stage too, for a show that’s ironically, rubbish. The whole thing smacks of PR guff.
Radiohead create their own stink with an unannounced set on The Park stage where much of ‘The King Of Limbs’ gets a scruffy airing. A few ‘In Rainbows’ numbers fare best, in particular ‘Arpeggi’, but on the whole it’s a bit deflating.
If they need help, they could share a char with Pulp whose vintage surprise gig shows maturity and energy in abundance. Reaching his twilight years, Jarvis Cocker may banter like an elder gentleman between songs but he still knows how to wiggle along to brilliant workings of ‘Sorted For Es and Whizz’ and ‘Common People’.
Beyonce adds a little glamour to proceedings with a glitzy headline show. She kicks off with what could be a sparkling finale: a barnstorming ‘Crazy In Love’ and a roar of fireworks.
‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’ and ‘Naughty Girl’ follow with a cameo from Tricky, who doesn’t seem to do much except look like a rabbit blinded by headlights.
It’s the awful run of ballads from her new offering ‘4’ that slows proceedings, but a medley of Destiny’s Child numbers and a smooth Etta James cover closes the curtain in triumphant theatrical style.
Stadium rockers U2 and Coldplay are one and the same: astute and professional with true headline pedigree.
The former feel a little needy wanting to be liked but it’s an outstanding career-spanning dam-buster, while Chris Martin goes chocolate tongued, reworking the lyrics to ‘What A Wonderful World’ to fit with Glastonbury which had (and step over the sick please) “the greatest audience you’ll ever hear”. That aside the band are stunning.
Elsewhere, Wu-Tang Clan ease into Saturday afternoon with plenty of swagger and chunky hip hop tracks and Tinie Tempah shows that UK rappers can rule the Pyramid Stage too with an energetic, hit-packed set.
Mumford and Sons cap their fourth successive Glasto with a charming performance on the Other Stage. They play four new songs among the ‘Sigh No More’ favourites and if they’re an indication of where they’re headed, what price for them to headline in 2013?
Elbow, who are equally as special, might beat them to it. Looking significantly overwhelmed, Guy Garvey leads his bandmates through a set that ticks all the prerequisite boxes for a sunset slot on the Pyramid stage: backing from a mini orchestra, crowd participation, massive singalongs and bizarre chat about phantom poos.
One final surprise Glastonbury 2011 has up its wizard sleeve is a sublime showing from Wild Beasts. It’s hairs on the back of the neck time with a blissed-out selection of ‘Smother’ tracks and the type of quality found only for the most masterful musicians.
Now it’s time to head to Shangri-La before people start queuing in the one-way system for 2013.