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Every track has a vocal (of sorts) — Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Diana Ross at Glastonbury 2022

Glastonbury 2022 was a curious affair, wasn’t it?

The vast bulk of the performers were held over from 2020 thanks to that pesky COVID — though Diana Ross, bless her, told the crowd she’s been waiting three years, though it certainly felt like it, admittedly.

Alas, although I caught snippets of Supergrass, Sugababes, Blossoms (including the Mel C duet on a postmodern Spice Up Your Life) and Noel Gallagher’s Flying Turds (he doesn’t get any prettier does he?), I’m only going to concentrate my potted review on the four acts I’ve witnessed on screen in their entirety. None of them were perfect but they certainly got people talking. And how.

The festival’s youngest headliner, Billie Elish rose from the bowels of the Pyramid Stage and almost immediately the Bad Girl’s rapport with the huge Friday night audience was as endearing as it was remarkable.

Almost as remarkable as her reliance on a plethora of pre-recorded vocal tracks while stomping around in her collage shirt sporting the words Satanic, Demonic, Surrender, Lucifer and Farewell, all tied together with the indelible image of one David Bowie — dressed as arch satanist Aleister Crowley — from 1971, the year he first played the festival.

This is the girl wot did her homework.

The supremely confident 20 year-old’s accomplished set was notable for one other slightly less pleasing thing: the puzzling omission of the most recent James Bond theme. 

But not only any old Bond theme but the Oscar and Grammy-winning No Time To Die, a chart-topper on the shores she’s parading on. 

I mean, it’s not like 007 is a British institution or anything. 

In other words, a bit like the national treasure that followed her on the Pyramid Stage 24 hours later.

At the other end of the evolutionary scale, Paul McCartney — the one that was in The Beatles — had no qualms about dashing off a pyrotechnical Live And Let Die or performing a massive crowd-pleasing set without any vocal crutches except for a trio of star-studded support acts: one imagined — a virtual John Lennon — and two in the flesh: Dave Grohl wearing ABBA, and, crikey, an actual alternative living legend that could have totally upstaged Macca had he not kept his ego firmly in check, Mr Bruce bloody Springsteen.

McCartney has just turned 80. Let that just sink in for a minute. 

The oldest soloist to headline at Worthy Farm, it was also the last night of his Got Back tour – its title a nod to Get Back, Disney’s recent Peter Jackson documentary that reconfirmed his genius – and Macca squeezes magic from every single moment, shouting out the “magnetic ley lines of Glastonbury”.

I saw numerous online catcalls like “Come back Macca’s voice, all is forgiven”. Well, he pulled off a pretty epic two and three quarter-hour set, so what he now lacks in vocal prowess my favourite Beatle more than makes up for in stamina.

What was thoroughly heart-warming was not only how much Macca was in his element banging out bangers galore – whether that’s Fab Four sing-a-longs like Love Me Do and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, or ‘solo’ anthems like Band On The Run – but that he gleefully ran over his allotted time by a good half-hour. 

Let me put that into context. If that incurred a fine for breaking the local curfew then Paul McCartney clearly didn’t care, he was having the time of his life and, well, let’s face it, he can afford whatever charge is thrown at him. Mendip District Council fined Glasto organiser the first time Macca played in 2004 and the musician paid him straight back.

Contrast that with the great Dame, David Bowie, who headlined the Pyramid Stage in 2000 and was economical enough to trundle off at one minute to midnight. Why do I remember this? Because I was there, and at the stroke of midnight the date mutated from June 25 to 26, so I can safely say I never got to see Bowie live on my birthday, the rotter.

To compensate, in a lovely circular twist of fate 22 years after the event, owing a controversially delayed BBC transmission and the one hour time difference here in France, by the time the tellybox showed McCartney revving up the intro Get Back it had just become June 26.

The song that was No.1 on the day I was born just happened to be the very same Beatles rocker (outside of Blighty at least), so indulge me, thank you please.

Playing the coveted afternoon Legends slot, Diana Ross was a vision on stage in an angelic diamante-covered gown with a large white tulle overlay, and a feathered headdress which she later removed.

Unfortunately, she was another one showing signs of considerable epiglottal strain, but, although the queen of Supreme is still the very epitome of showbiz chutzpah with her own glorious half-century of back catalogue, even the most ardent admirer has to concede Miss Ross never been renowned for big-lunged vocals. Shrill and in a range tailored to the best of her abilities perhaps. 

And now she can add slightly off-key to the list too, with one of the best online barbs claiming “There’s a locksmith in Somerset still frantically looking for the key Diana Ross was singing in.”

Mia-ow.

Still, some truly outstanding pop 45s were dusted off to varying degrees of success, including Chain Reaction, Upside Down, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and a slightly iffy I’m Still Waiting.

And of course, there’s always a magical frisson to being in the presence of such a supernaturally famous and universally beloved pop icon, and Glastonbury’s perm-wigged masses are not letting this diva get away without a fight, and Ross would go on to bag the most telly viewers of any performer at the festival.

Me? I went out halfway through for birthday drinks at a beach bar and came back to find the Pet Shop Boys had seemingly become the Pet Shop Boy.

I tried watching through cowering eyes, hot and feverish and more than a little fearful.

To be continued…

Steve Pafford

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