Glastonbury : Pyramid Stage (Friday afternoon)

Day one on the Pyramid Stage sees the weather and the performances up and down throughout, with everything from The Darkness' screeching old-metal to Mogwai's dopey drift-rocking...

[a]Music[/a] have the best slot of the day, just as the sun’s going down and making everything look golden and epic, so it’s a shame they don’t quite pull off the show-stopping set that could have bumped them up to the premier league. Partly this is because few people know they’re on (they’re last-minute replacements for Zwan, who pulled out because of family problems), but mostly it’s down to the band’s lack of stage presence, a perennial problem that’s worsened by their evident nerves at playing such a big gig. It’s a shame, because their epic set (particularly ‘Getaway’, ‘The People’ and harder, heavier newie ‘Come What May’) under different circumstances could have been the stuff of Glastonbury legend.

Mogwai come on mid-afternoon in blazing sunshine just as the depressive effects of all-day boozing and smoking kick in. Their meandering, wordless post-rock is exactly right for this dozy, post-lunch slump and there’s a mass outbreak of Having A Nice Lie Down. They’re trying out the new stuff from ‘Happy Songs For Happy People’ but it’s fair to say the majority of the crowd don’t notice. Most people are content to lie back and watch Little Stuart fiddling with his effects pedals as Mogwai’s music drifts round the field with the dope smoke.

[a]Echo & The Bunnymen[/a], who’ve spent the last ten years distancing themselves from the “daisy age” hippy personas they adopted for ‘3 Feet High And Rising’, might be expected to deliberately sabotage the Glastonbury spirit but they’re in a playful mood. In old-skool fashion, they turn their 1988 classics ‘Eye Know’ and ‘Me, Myself and I’ into crowd-pleasing call-and-response joints and spend a good five minutes slowly reciting the alphabet. Helped along by the sun’s first appearance all day, they get 20,000 people waving their hands in the air for the Pyramid stage’s first real festival moment.

[a][/a]’s Ian McCulloch famously hates festivals. In fact, the last time he was here we saw him struggling through the mud with bin bags tied round each leg, swearing loudly. Today, despite the drizzle that persists throughout their set, he seems remarkably chipper. Possibly an early morning sharpener or five has helped take the edge off. Whatever, he chats (mostly incomprehensibly) before, after and during every song in their greatest hits set to the slight chagrin of the rest of the Bunnymen who aren’t quite as merry. During ‘Killing Moon’ he burbles on about how much he enjoyed the song appearing in ‘Donnie Darko’, which at least has the advantage for the younger crowd members of reminding them where they’ve heard it before.

Remember The Inspiral Carpets? Essentially an entire band of Boneheads with a bloke called Clint at the back tootling away on a Farfisa organ, they lightened the tone of the Madchester years with their retro pop and obsession with cows. Accordingly, they come on to the sound of mooing and lead with ‘Joe’, played with surprising aggressing as if they’ve got something to prove. Which they have, at first, because the ten years since they last toured have left them looking like the slightly out-of-puff dads they probably are. Still, organs are in again, luckily, so they come off sounding quite cutting edge. “This is the best fucking gig we’ve ever done,” says vocalist Tom. Glastonbury feels like it’s made some old men very happy. Nice.

Talking of happy, bounding onstage at 10.15 am are a band who clearly cannot believe their luck. With a screechy old-metal single at 11 in the charts and a (for this time of morning) huge audience here to satisfy their curiosity, The Darkness are definitely the band of the moment – albeit a very brief one. They bash through singles ‘Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman’, ‘Growing On Me’ and ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ and a truly jaw-dropping cover of Radiohead‘s ‘Street Spirit’ to equal parts applause and laughter.

Sadly, the rest of their material suggests their fifteen minutes is nearly up but in terms of showmanship, good humour and general effort they outdo pretty much everyone else on today’s bill. You know, fair play to Michael Stipe and that, but does he play his guitar behind his head, do handstands and change into a white tassled leotard halfway through the set? He does not.