Glastonbury : Other Stage (Saturday Evening)

It's loonies-R-us over on the Other Stage, as the Super Furries battle it out with Love, The Coral and a Pete Doherty-less Libertines...

“Anyone here hate Radiohead?” enquires Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys cheerfully. You’d be forgiven for taking the Welsh madman seriously. After all, Old Wonky Eyes on the Pyramid Stage has stolen the vast majority of his audience, and seemingly all of his thunder.

However, if there’s one thing we know about the Super Furry Animals, it’s that you can never keep a good loony down, and that old adage rings true tonight as Gruff and the boys run through a show-stealing set.

Coming on to an orchestral intro that sounds not unlike a Hovis ad being played backwards, things start off slow but soon pick up momentum. ‘Rings Around The World”s Quo-esque cock-rock boogie perks things up a treat, while not even “technical difficulties” (“Ladies and gentlemen, our projector is fucked!”) can spoil the electro-lounge sleaze of ‘Juxstaposed With U’.

However, being the Super Furry Animals, nothing is ever so simple as a handy greatest hits compendium – no, no, no. Shit, why not disappear from the stage for vast swathes of the set and let Yetis bang kettle drums over some naff techno? And why not indeed, for it works a treat. They’re wheeled out again at the end for a truly breathtaking version of quasi-classic ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’. Somewhere, in a distant field, a man whines openly to 100,000 people. But here, in a small pocket of defiant resistance, the chant goes long into the night: “They don’t give a fuck about anybody else…” Thom, consider yourself upstaged.

It very nearly wasn’t to be, though. [a]Libertines[/a] put in a spectacular day at the office, showcasing forthcoming new album ‘Magic And Medicine’. They come snarling out of the traps with the now-obligatory ‘Spanish Main’ but it’s the new stuff that really shines today, from new single ‘Pass It On’ to the stunning ‘Secret Kiss’. “Elvis leg” in full flow, James Skelly and his troupe of Scouserdelic nutters show no signs of flagging after last week’s huge homecoming gig, but what is evident is that [a]Libertines[/a] are no longer the comedy pirates of old. The new songs show growing depth and maturity, or as much as any song with a psych-Cossack breakdown can, at any rate.

Naturally, they chip in with a few crowd-pleasing favourites, before ending with a mind-boggling extended jam of ‘Goodbye’, which, as we write this, is possibly still going on somewhere. They’ll do the countdown bit any time now, we’re almost certain of it…

Love’s Arthur Lee, however, is the unquestionable star of the show. Looking, frankly, cool as fuck, his few years in chokey back in the mid-90s only lend gravitas to his psychedelic outlaw legend. Unlike his contemporaries [a]Libertines[/a] (no, Paul, you can’t sing any more) and [a][/a] (let’s not even go there), Lee acquits himself brilliantly, singing ‘Forever Changes’ in its entirety in a voice that must be heard to be believed. Shit, he’s so good, he comes back for an encore – a climactic run-through of ‘Seven And Seven Is’.

No encores for [a][/a], though, who navigate their way through a stormy but triumphant set, and straight into lingering uncertainty. “Where’s Pete?” demand the wildly uninformed, as [a][/a] take the stage minus the currently missing-in-action Mr Doherty. You have to feel, then, for Carl Barat, chucked in at the deep end and holding the fort alongside what’s left of his band. There’s no doubt that [a][/a] sound better without their squawking Cherie Blair lookalike stumbling his way through songs, but something is undoubtedly not right – their heart is in the right place, but the soul is posted missing. NME.COM has to wonder, during a positively vitriolic ‘What A Waster’ – just who could Carl be singing to?

Barry Nicolson