After a 50 minute slurry delay, on “a gloomy morning for several reasons”, Michael Eavis cuts the stage-wide ribbon on the first day of the most shocked and sunken Glastonbury since Jacko. Lies, hatred and ignorance have won the day and Worthy Farm feels it more than most. The ethos of unity which this wonderful place encapsulates has been spat in the eye by the outside world; we feel alone, set adrift, a little hopeless, wondering if the Glastonbury spirit is just a weekend figment, an outsiders’ dream in the process of being irreversibly crushed.
Not even Tim Booth is in the mood to dance like a mad drug guru. For two minutes, anyway. In a buttoned-down blue blazer he cuts a solemn figure, singing of global catastrophe – “earthquake, avalanche and landslide” – on ponderous, epic opener ‘Nothing But Love’ and giving us the best message of hope he can, “love is the drug of healing”, as stirring horns march us into the coming storm. But the groove soon gets hold of him and by the time dancefloor stomp ‘To My Surprise’ arrives he’s lost in his trademark rubber-limbed reverie. With the synth siren riff of ‘Come Home’ lifting spirits, Tim’s out at the barrier, holding hands, roaring “the way I feel just makes me want to scream” as if sharing our frustration and falling into the crowd at the start of an on-going battle with security. Tim wants to commune and crowd-surf; they, like very butch over-protective parents, want to hold onto his leg so he doesn’t go out too far, and barge out into the crowd to rescue him when he manages to shake them off and tries to float all the way to the sound desk.
As the coveted Other Stage opening slot now demands, James deliver a set balancing hits (‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’, an awe-inspiring ‘Sometimes’, paranoid wonder-tune ‘Out To Get You’) with the cream of the recent material that’s seen their umpteenth chart rejuvenation, hitting Number Two with new album ‘Girl At The End Of The World’. There are playful advances here; ‘Attention’ (“our favourite new song”) builds from piano elegy to a prog synth climax redolent of Jean Michel Jarre while ‘Bitch’ and ‘Surfer’s Song’ rest on motorik swells. Digging only as far back as previous album ‘La Petite Mort’ proves they’re still writing classics – ‘Moving On’ is as celebratory and uplifting as any song about the singer’s mother dying will ever be, while the EDM-flecked ‘Tequila’ sends Booth back into the crowd to give himself a mud fringe.
It’s not until ‘Tomorrow’ that guitarist Saul Davies confronts the Farage in the field. “This is dedicated to all the beautiful, brilliant people who voted remain,” he says, declaring the band “united in sadness that our country has turned on people.” The song billows with hope and glory and, as it gives way to the lust riot of ‘Laid’ the rain stops, hands raise, golden confetti drifts across the arena. Despite Britain, it’s going to be a glorious day.