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Glastonbury 2005: Sunday Other Stage

29 June 2005

The terrain at the Other Stage has barely improved since Friday’s armageddon-style downpour and strangely, despite thousands of their band stickers everywhere, only a couple of hundred battle the swamps to catch inventive cockneys, Red Hand Band.

Please click on a photo to enlarge it...

It’s a shame really because they are mightily impressive, mixing slow-burning organ swirlers with the kind of hornpipe-inducing merriment the Coral should still be knocking out. They leave the small but appreciative crowd, which by the end includes a digger and a tractor, asking for more.

The tempo is turned down considerably for Martha Wainwright whose heartfelt, satin-wreathed voice is coaxing people from their tents. From strong musical lineage, the Montreal songstress isn’t the most cheerful lyrically, but her brave approach lifts her well above the vast majority of those jostling for position in the overcrowded ‘serious’ female singer-songwriter markets. Even hangover-hindered, Wainwright exudes warmth and a toe-tapping Warren Zevon cover is just one of the highlights of an edgy and reflective set.

Brendan Benson’s timing couldn’t be better. The sun is reddening the flesh, the ground is drying and once his suitably summery medium paced compositions hover across the drowned campsite, all seems right. There’s an air of triumph around the Other Stage, a sense that the elements have tried but failed to defeat the majority and that celebratory atmosphere is thanks in part to a set that brings cheer to more than just Benson’s trusty and obsessive fanbase.

The numbers have pretty much halved by the time Thirteen Senses confirm their status as the forgotten men of epic-pop. Billed, like a billion others, as ‘the new Coldplay’ some time ago, their piano-led balladry sweeps enchantingly across the gluey wasteland. However, the Cornish quartet have so far evaded the mainstream radar and, despite their potentially chart-bothering anthems being aired passionately here, the feeling that their explosion would have happened by now were it going to, constantly nags.

The world needs novelty rock like it needs an agitated North Korea and when Ambulance Ltd announce that they have replaced Cake it’s like manna from heaven. However, the laid-back New Yorker’s remain mostly anonymous after a blustering instrumental introduction and only the dreamy glide of Britpop-alike single ‘Heavy Lifting’ emerges above the parapet of a lumpen and forgettable set.

Despite the welcome bake of the sun, Belgian beat-rockers Soulwax have chosen to dress entirely in black which could explain why their sleazy electro-clatter is really turning up the heat this afternoon. On stage, they are virtually on top of each other, tampering with a host of confusing, button-covered machinery, but they nevertheless find space enough to generate a relentless thunder, reminiscent of Friday morning and the hands of those in attendance match the beat of the bass thuds almost throughout.

Morrissey obsessed Canadians The Dears are delighted to be here apparently, although frontman Murray Lightburn is having trouble articulating his pleasure. The feeling is clearly reciprocated though, the hearty approval they receive in return direct proof that their multi-layered post-rock is striking a chord. Fuzz-driven walls of noise puncture the soul-melting fragility, creating an awesome cocophony that, were there any justice, would be being witnessed by many, many more people.

Slick new wave rockers The Bravery, currently embroiled in a spat with The Killers, hope to induce a similar level of hysteria to their rivals as they strut about with undeniable style. Unfortunately there’s a distinctly weak response as vocalist Sam Endicott invites underwear onstage, and even the removal of bassist Mike H.’s apparel leaves few in a fluster. It’s a disappointing performance from the New York five-piece, despite the extraordinary hype surrounding them.

Rufus Wainwright isn’t in the mood for a quiet show. Almost drowned in a magnificent full floral suit, he thunders out emotionally charged, operatic tunes with an impressive troupe of backing musicians. His cover of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ is an especially poignan tribute to the late and much respected singer. Sister Martha joins him onstage for the beautiful ‘In My Arms’ to round off her hectic weekend schedule, before the set is brought to a resounding close. Fantastic.

Lately reformed scousers The La’s are, let’s be honest, only really famous for their highly successful late 80’s single ‘There She Goes’. Indeed, the crowd noticeably thins following the classic pop anthem’s appearance, and performance starts to flag as the music becomes increasingly repetetive. With their extensive lineup changes throughout the 90’s and the vast number of re-releases of that song, this set really exposes the weaknesses in the band’s back catalogue, making for a very disappointing show.

With exciting rumours of a Stone Roses reformation circulating, it’s no wonder the throng of Mancunians making up most of the crowd are ecstatic when Ian Brown belts out a mix of classic Roses tunes ('I Wanna Be Adored', 'Sally Cinamon' and 'Elephant Stone' kick off the show) alongside his own work. Despite many doubting his musical integrity after departing the famous Madchester pioneers, there’s no denying “King Monkey” brings in a massive audience and the vast majority of ardent fans won’t hear a bad word said about him. However, everyone's left totally gutted when Mani comes on stage with Brown for an 'encore' only to leave instantly, with Brown returning to the stage to glare at the audience and demand 'What are you all fookin' staring at?'. You sensed throughout it was too good to be true.



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Article by: Alex Gadsby, Chris Hutcheon

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