High excitement as a knight of the realm visited Glastonbury on Sunday. No, not Sir Mick Jagger – it was Strictly Come Dancing host Sir Bruce Forsyth, playing a packed Avalon tent.
Chants of “Brucie, Brucie” rang out as the 85-year-old twinkle-toed on stage to sing a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. OK, not quite – instead show tunes and creaky gags were the order of the day from the Methuselah of light entertainment, the only person on site who felt sorry for Jagger: “After all these years he still can’t get no satisfaction.”
The Rolling Stones’ barn-storming show the previous night was Glastonbury at its best. In contrast, Sunday felt anti-climactic. The sun still shone but a stiff breeze had picked up. The usual impressive variety of acts appeared, from reggae veterans The Congos to country star Kenny Rogers, but none seized the day.
Vampire Weekend came to the Pyramid Stage on the back of a superb new album, Modern Vampires of the City. Their musicianship was as neat as singer Ezra Koenig’s laundered white shirt, a defiant expression of the preppiness the band’s critics carp about. Yet their set was uncertain, caught between the novel slow charms of “Step” and the fidgety energy of older numbers.
It was a day for the fringes. At the Park ex-Beta Band singer Steve Mason located a deep indie groove while in the Left Field tent Kate Nash marked her radical transformation from diaristic ingenue into leader of a ferociously tight all-woman punk band.
Sunday’s headliners were Mumford & Sons, playing their first gig since bassist Ted Dwane was treated for a blood clot on the brain. It gave the booking an emotional heft but their music was unable to do much with it. Their songs’ callow habit of careering along at the same tempo robbed the set of distinctiveness while Marcus Mumford’s lyrics sounded even more orotund in the huge open-air setting.
The last straw came when the quartet lined up to intone “You are not alone in this/As brothers we will stand/And we’ll hold your hand”. Wrenching myself from the Mumfordian grasp, I headed to the Other Stage where The xx were belying their introverted reputation with an immense display of stagecraft. Poised riffs, whispered boy-girl duets and sinuous beats reached a peak on “Infinity” as lights created a huge “X” on the stage. It marked the end of Glastonbury 2013.
To read a report on Glastonbury’s first two days, go to www.ft.com/arts