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Glastonbury 2023 Review: 'Have no fear of perfection'

Glasto Gazette gives his verdict on the 2023 Glastonbury Festival...

Glastonbury 2023 Review: 'Have no fear of perfection'


SALVADOR Dali once said, 'Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it'.

When the gates open to the Glastonbury Festival, beyond them lie thousands of different possible perfections; one for every single ticket holder, dreaming of a week to beat all others.

While Glastonbury may never quite reach that pinnacle, in a world where so many of us are simply seeking to get by, it gets darn close.

For this is the ultimate experiment in escapism, an unreal world protected from the carnage of Britain in 2023 by a super fence, separating us from news of recessions, interest rates and the cost of living.

Worthy Farm may share a sun with the outside world, but that is where the influence ends, though inside those boundaries it felt like we had stolen it for ourselves, such was the heat.

Make no mistake, temperatures that high can be just as difficult as Somerset's legendary sticky mud. But festival goers are nothing if not resilient.

And so it proved as tens of thousands made the now-traditional trek to The Park for the opening day, excited punters drawn to the giant Glastonbury sign for a selfie and a cider.

The sign is iconic, and Glastonbury 2023 felt like an homage to the icon.

We are told never to meet our idols, but they were here to see and hear aplenty.

From the incredible, understated Yusuf/Cat Stevens, to the extravagant Elton John and Debbie Harry, everywhere you looked you saw a face from the front pages, past and present.

Lizzo was among the biggest crowds this year, destined for the top slot in the future, it seems.

As is Lewis Capaldi, who came through difficult points in his set to create a moment so uplifting it couldn't have been scripted better were it for a BBC movie.

But this year was perhaps best summed up by the role of Grohl. Dave Grohl.

You cannot fault the man's enthusiasm. It, like the Worthy Farm air, is infectious, bringing energy, joy - life - to the stage and to the audience.

His Churnups - Foo Fighters - always take things to the next level. He is the new face of Glastonbury, set to line the pages of the festival's history books alongside the likes of David Bowie, Chris Martin and Michael Eavis himself.

But at Glastonbury, it is not just the faces on the big screens who serve as the sun gods deserving of worship.

The crowd itself is perhaps the biggest star in the clear evening skies.

From fancy dress to flags, the efforts of the pilgrims walking those fields - and the impact they have on the festival as a whole - should not be underestimated.

Their patience at busy times and helping hands when someone needs them are a thing of beauty to rival any Stone Circle sunrise or scene-stealing setlist - another piece of Glastonbury so rare in the real world.

Empathy and care are rife, while so often faltering outside.

Are there problems at Glastonbury? Yes. Perfection can never be reached.

Emily and Michael Eavis' team of organisers does need to look at how capacity is managed in popular areas, particularly at busy times.

However, Glastonbury remains a mammoth example of just how well an event can be run (Lord knows, there are smaller festivals that have far more problems).

The pursuit of perfection is endless.

And when the Pyramid and other main stages are not for you, others fill the gap brilliantly.

The Saw Doctors turned the Acoustic Stage into a backstreet pub in County Clare for their Friday performance, with an Irish contingent seemingly in their thousands flying every provincial flag and singing every word.

Meanwhile, Skindred brought some reggae-infused metal to the Truth Stage on Thursday, once again showing how Glastonbury could do worse than to invest in an area for those with an ear for all things heavy.

Some of the friendliest, most accepting crowds you will find are at metal/rock festivals. Glastonbury would do well to consider such an experiment, rather than a late-night takeover in the south east corner, welcome though it is.

The gods of metal and rock, from Slipknot to Pearl Jam, Iron Maiden to System of a Down, would do the Glastonbury spirit proud.

That said, Guns n' Roses' Saturday-night headline set invoked some true snobbery from the music press and fans alike, perhaps explaining the dearth of down-tuned noise.

But make no mistake, they delivered. Lead singer Axl Rose is 61 years old. He can no longer hold a note or hit the highs he did on songs recorded over 30 years ago, but the tunes stand the test of time, and Glastonbury filled the gaps when needed.

It developed into an anthem-rich singalong in the best Glastonbury traditions. Don't believe the naysayers; the place was rocking.

Alas, misgivings and doubts are for another time, as are most things at Glastonbury.

Our worries, our fears, the pressures of modern life amid rising interest rates and a cost of living crisis, are to be forgotten.

The three-word slogans of politicians instead replaced by messages of hope, of change, of optimism.

Change can happen - and we can all play a part. That is the spirit of Glastonbury.

The event is not afraid of that message, or of change, even of itself.

And in 2023, it was certainly not afraid of perfection.

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