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Glastonbury Festival reviews: our verdict on Metallica, Pixies, Manic Street Preachers, Robert Plant and Royal Blood

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: June 30, 2014

Glastonbury Festival reviews: our verdict on Metallica, Pixies, Manic Street Preachers, Robert Plant and Royal Blood

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A squadron of gun-wielding bears wipe out a group of English fox hunters. The first bear rips its head off to reveal a grinning James Hetfield, followed by Kirk, Lars and Robert. ARE YOU READY FOR GLASTALLICA? The screens flash out.

And as the first chords of Creeping Death rings out, it turns out – shock, horror – despite everyone having an opinion about whether or not heavy metal was in keeping with the spirit of the festival – Glastonbury is absolutely ready for Metallica, above. Creeping Death is a relentless, unforgiving opener, and it sets the pace of the entire show. Through the speakers, Lars' bass drums are like a machine gun to the gut, the guitars a steam-roller of sound. Metallica have nothing to prove.

The band have sold over 120 million records, played together for 33 years, and yet for some reason people thought they'd have problems playing a show. They dedicate the show to the crowd, and to all the British heavy metal bands who had dreamed of playing Glastonbury. The songs come thick and fast – For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sad But True, Anywhere I Roam, One, Fade to Black, The Memory Remains, Master of Puppets and a blistering Enter Sandman. The band are called back for an encore – their cover of Whiskey in the Jar from Garage Inc, and finished on Seek and Destroy, spitting dozens of black Metallica beach balls into the crowd for a blistering, frantic finale. The band leave the stage looking delighted, and who can blame them? It's been years since any of their performances were so closely scrutinised. An absolute, unmitigated triumph. Metallica hit Glastonbury harder than the thunder, the lightning and the rainstorms, silenced the critics and hopefully ushered in a new era where the world's most diverse and eclectic festival can open its arms to anyone. Even metalheads.


One of the most anticipated sets at Glastonbury this year, Pixies (the 'The' is optional, apparently) came to Glastonbury amid less-than-emphatic reviews of their summer festival season so far around Europe. And for the crowd filling the mud at the Other Stage on Saturday, there were, in truth, moments when the set sagged: when the normally iconic screeching of singer and indie-rock legend Black Francis appeared a bit over-indulgent, or when the Hendrix-esque antics of guitarist Joey Santiago seemed cliché.

But, hey, they are the Pixies – America's first proper punk band, and pretty much the inventors of grunge – even though they were never grunge. They were the John the Baptist to Nirvana's Jesus, clearing a path in the late 80s, and emerging from the US college rock scene with belting tunes and a unique sound. They were overtaken by events in 1993 and split. But by the time they reformed in 2004, their status as music legends who were ahead of their time was sealed.

Bassist Kim Deal left a year ago, and this was the biggest gig yet for the band's second replacement, the quirky Paz Lenchantin. She was just as cool, maybe cooler, and looked like she was loving it. For Black Francis it appeared an effort – but then, it always does, shrieking out in his inimitable style. But the star of the show was drummer David Lovering. Balding, with a neat grey beard, he looked older than his 52 years, but was absolutely incredible – easily the best drumming performance at the festival for many a year. His appearance is a cross between veteran TV weatherman, kindly uncle and physics teacher – indeed, during Pixies hiatus, he pursued a career as a magician doing physics experiments.

The highlight of the whole gig was when Pixies rolled out one of their classics – La, La, Love You – and Lovering has to sing the chorus line. Black Francis kept playing it, which meant his drummer had to keep singing it, on and on, to much mirth in the crowd. Eventually Lovering, desperate but smiling, gave a cut-throat gesture, pleading with his band leader to stop. They were legends, 'tis true, but for a band that are legends for their back catalogue, it wasn't explored enough at a huge Glastonbury gig. The crowd wanted the hits, and got just a few, which is of course, the band's prerogative. They were still legends, though.

Manic Street Preachers

If you are looking for an emotional experience there's not much to top the Manic Street Preachers.

The band are masters of their particular trade, with a back catalogue that bears hearing again and again, and they are never at their better than in a field bedecked with flags. They know what their audience wants, and that's one old school message laden anthem after another.

It's 20 years since their stand out album The Holy Bible, and from the first chords of Motorcycle Emptiness to the closing call and response chorus of You Love Us, it is perfectly clear why they remain as popular as ever.

And they remain as wrapped in integrity as ever, passionate about people, passionate about unity, passionate about Europe and it's future. And passionate about their own past, calling on the crowd to salute Richey Edwards, the lost band member who vanished 20 years ago.

Royal Blood

Three blistering songs into their first ever Glastonbury appearance, and Royal Blood's singer/bassist Mike Kerr comes over all stadium-rock. "Let me introduce you to the rest of the band…" The huge crowd that has spilled out of the John Peel Stage further than any other all weekend laughs. For it is an ironic statement. The only other member of the band is Ben Thatcher on drums.

For those at the back, or the side in this case, who can't see the stage, this is a surprise. For the huge bluesy, rocky, metallic sound they've been wigging out to for a quarter of an hour already is being created by a drummer and a bass guitar. Not even a six-string electric, but a bass.

Royal Blood were one of the most talked about bands at last year's Glastonbury, even though they'd only been formed a few months and weren't even here. Arctic Monkeys' drummer Matt Helders wore their T-shirt, giving endorsement to some proper unknowns. Since then their rise has been meteoric – even making the Top 20 'must-see' acts of the Western Daily Press Glastonbury list. An appearance on Later with Jools Holland was staggering, and here it was too. To explain, Mike Kerr plays bass like a bass, and the top two bass strings like Hendrix's electric guitar. He somehow manages, and people were visibly scratching their heads at this, to make a simple bass sound like a full rock band, with bass, rhythm and lead guitar.

Their sound? Well, people will compare it to Muse, or maybe – given the meaty rawness – to White Stripes. Muse manage this sound but with a bass and lead guitar. Mike Kerr is a musical miracle. And he's got the songs too – to a point. Come On Over is the poppiest, filling your head with a catchy hook and searing vocals. They've got blues at their core, but garage band roots. They maybe need more songs to fill a set and keep the ascendency going, to make the transition from cool newbies to mainstream greatness. If they do, watch them rise

Robert Plant

Diehard fans braved the deluge to wait in the muddy mosh pit for Robert Plant to appear on the Pyramid stage on Saturday afternoon.

The former Led Zeppelin singer kicked off with Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You, from the band's 1969 debut album, Led Zeppelin, with a voice as good as ever. It was definitely worth getting soaking wet for.

Robert Plant still rocks and it was great to hear Led Zeppelin classic tracks like Going To California and What Is And What Should Never Be floating out across the Pyramid stage field. His solo career has taken him in different musical directions.

Plant has collaborated with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss and many other talented musicians in recent years. The set was much more than old Led Zeppelin favourites – a fantastic world music/Led Zep blend, with a good mix of the old and the new. Performing with his band the Sensational Space Shifters, Plant gave Led Zeppelin's Black Dog a new twist with the help of West African musician Juldeh Camara. They didn't let them go without an encore and went wild for Rock and Roll. Hardly surprising, after all we were in the presence of greatness.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters play Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza on August 9.

The Bad Shepherds

His oppo Rik Mayall recently departed to the Comedy Store in the sky, so it was a subdued Ade Edmondson that took the stage with his punk-folk covers band The Bad Shepherds on Saturday. But lifted by the encouraging crowd, and by musical partner and hairy cuddly thing Troy Donockley, Edmondson warmed up and enjoyed his little stint on the Avalon Stage.

Halfway through the set, and largely missed by the crowd who were still cheering the end of the last song, Edmondson mentioned for the first and only time, the devastating death of Mayall earlier this month. "My buddy Rik died a week and a half ago and bizarrely the chorus line of this song was in the funeral service: 'may the road rise with you'," he said, before starting up a folk version of Public Image Ltd's punk classic Rise.

It was emotional stuff, he's normally fairly deadpan at the best of times, but you could see he was struggling to keep it together, playing in a whirl of emotions. A quick word of encouragement from Troy to move on to the next number, and he's was off, the road rising with him again.

Bad Shepherds is Edmondson's love.

What they do is fairly straightforward: play classic punk numbers from the 1970s and 80s, but with the modern folk sounds. It sounds like Seth Lakeman or any of the other new wave of folk acts, but they are playing Anarchy in the UK, White Riot or Talking Heads. Does it work? Yes, although not how you would think.

Initial reaction is that it's funny – it's a joke, a laugh to play such angry, spiky songs in a gentle, organic folky way. But then it starts messing with your head. Why does it work? Does it work at all? They are chaps in their 50s that look like a bunch of embarrassing dads at a back garden barbecue. But taking the punk songs and folking them up works because it's done with love.

The aim, it seems, is to show the beauty of many punk songs, and the poetry of the lyrics of the likes of The Jam's Down in the Tube Station at Midnight. It might be a joke, but it isn't a good enough joke to last a whole set, really. But over-thinking such a genre-mashing band as The Bad Shepherds is not worth doing. Just sit back and enjoy the road rising with you

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