Sunday, 26 June 2011

Glastonbury 2001 - U2 and Coldplay: The Rights and The Wrongs

The big headliners at this year’s Glastonbury festival U2 and Coldplay have now performed and as predicted they have both satisfied and divided audiences. But it was U2 that came out on top in the battle of bands no one likes admitting they like.

Glastonbury is all about the right approach. A Glastonbury set is a greatest hits showcase, the best of the back catalogue and the cream of your musical achievement. This immediately put U2 ahead as they have more to draw upon. So why, in their Friday night headline set, did they pad the end with weak recent-era single like Vertigo, Elevation and worse Get On Your Boots? A festival set has to have momentum and this slowed things to a crawl.

It all started so well with five of the best from Achtung Baby then Where The Streets Have No Name (always good to throw in an obvious ‘encore’ song early on) and I Will Follow. Bono threw in some odd cover snippets which aren’t worth mentioning and finished the main set with Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bad (a personal favourite) and Pride. But the encore was a wasted opportunity just as the set was building momentum again. Blues legend and one-time U2 collaborator B.B. King was at the festival this year and the stage was set for When Love Comes To Town. Alas it never happened. And the encore was a rousing With Or Without You followed by the very dull Moment Of Surrender (another recent song) and a spirited Out of Control from debut album Boy.

So a hits-packed set from U2 with nothing new and only two from the new album. Complete with a live feed from the International Space Station, this was a solid set (in spite of falling flat) from a band trying to hold on to their prime. And just about succeeding). Bono is still an enigmatic showman and The Edge is a supreme guitarist.

Pretenders to the U2 throne, Coldplay, have much more to prove (and judging by the Saturday night set, a lot to learn). Five new songs from Chris Martin and the boys – not new as in from the latest album, but new as in not yet released. He even apologised to the masses as if they had some obligation to plug their new album. “One Day they’ll be your favourites”, Martin declared optimistically. And they opened with a brand new song. Yes most of the crowd had probably heard it before but still, it all comes back to momentum. This was followed by the mighty Yellow and probably the smartest move of the night (again, get your obvious encore song in early – and it doesn’t get much bigger that this). As In My Place started, it looked as if everything was back on track after the opening stumble but the set ambled along littered with new songs, the disjointed early single Shiver and the best from Viva La Vida up against the brilliance of A Rush Of Blood To The Head. X&Y was haplessly neglected; the album is filled with songs that are just made for big crowds so when only include Fix You, for the encore. They had to.

But the final nail in the Coldplay coffin was during Us Against The World – the best of the new songs – Martin messed up. Instead of bimbling on and getting through it (no one would have noticed) he stopped the song and started again. Genuine blunder or misjudged publicity stunt? He then made a joke about the set being an open rehearsal and “let’s forget this is a festival and we’re supposed to be professional headliners”. What happened to respect and taking this seriously? If you can’t get through new songs live then don’t attempt them, especially if you’re top billing on Saturday at Glastonbury. It was embarrassing and disrespectful. Then they closed with new single Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall that is still a terrible song.

This was a night to forget from Coldplay and a fitting Glastonbury swansong for U2.

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