Glastonbury 2011: the MusicRadar review

It's Monday, kicking-out time at Worthy Farm has passed, so it's time for a quick round-up of some of the things we saw this weekend from the huge gathering of musicians that is Glastonbury Festival.

Friday: U2, Radiohead, Wu-Tang and Mr King (plus some mud)

First of all, of course, there was mud, but we're not going to dwell on that. Instead let's talk about the music. Friday night saw arguably the biggest band in the world, U2, playing their first festival set since the '80s. Bono and co. pulled out a greatest hits set (watch BBC footage), but it was slightly marred by rainstorms that seemingly made it difficult for the band to connect with the crowd. Plus we got an utterly bizarre acapella rendition of Jerusalem from Bono (the first of several bonkers things we spotted at the festival this year).

The other big news on Friday was the not-so-secret set from Radiohead on the Park Stage. Those who actually made it close enough to the stage to see and hear the band amongst the huge crowd were treated to the vast majority of The King Of Limbs, along with a good chunk of In Rainbows. We heard grumbles from some that the band didn't bother playing 'the hits' - with the exception of set-closer Street Spirit - but this is an unannounced Radiohead gig we're talking about, so what did you expect?

More noteworthy, however, is the fact that the set seemed to confirm that second drummer Clive Deamer - who first appeared with the band in a live session video last week - has been added as a full-time live member of the band, for the time being at least.

Friday also saw legendary rap collective Wu-Tang (watch footage) take to the main stage for a chaotic, ramshackle but ultimately very enjoyable set. They were then followed by blues guitar legend B.B. King (watch footage), whose set - which would have been perfect in a smokey New York club - seem a little out of place on the huge stage. Still, it would be hard to deny that the man is something of a genius.

Saturday: Coldplay, Elbow, Souleyman and more

Saturday's headliners Coldplay (watch footage) - despite being somewhat forgotten in the build-up to the festival - seemed to go down very well with the festival crowds. The band, who are now veterans of the Pyramid Stage headlining slot, managed to prove that there's nothing wrong with playing inoffensive rock music to the masses. It was Elbow who really stole the Pyramid Stage on Saturday night though (watch footage), matching humble charm from vocalist Guy Garvey with nicely arranged, sing-along ready live renditions of their songs.

The West Holts stage provided several Saturday highlights too, the first being the brilliantly eccentric performance of Syrian pop musician Omar Souleyman (watch footage). Later in the evening MusicRadar favourite Janelle Monáe (watch footage) brought her killer dance moves and even-better backing band to the stage, before Outkast-famed rapper Big Boi (watch footage) pulled out an excellent headline set.

Saturday saw sets on the John Peel stage from excellent, John Frusciante-produced indie band Warpaint (watch footage) and muso-friendly experimental rockers Battles (watch footage) - the latter of which we'll be bringing you an interview with later this week.

The afternoon also featured the second 'surprise' gig of the weekend, this time from recently reformed indie heroes Pulp. Whereas Radiohead were light on the hits the day before, Pulp were seemingly on a mission to prove just how many classic songs they had. The band closed on a rousing Common People, with Jarvis Cocker demonstrating that he's a more confident, entertaining and all-round likeable frontman now than he's ever been in the band's history.

Sunday: the home stretch

Sunday's traditional 'legends' Pyramid Stage slot was filled this year by Paul Simon (watch footage), making his first ever appearance at the festival. His set lent heavily on his 1986 album Graceland, giving his long-time bass player Bakithi Kumalo plenty of opportunities to show off.

Meanwhile, the Other Stage saw strong sets from New Yorkers TV On The Radio (watch footage), Eels - who proved to be the beardiest band of the festival (watch footage) - and headliners Queens Of The Stone Age (watch footage). The latter were as tight, loud and heavy as ever, opening with the classic one-two of Feel Good Hit Of The Summer and Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret and closing with a storming rendition of Songs For The Dead.

For the most part though, Sunday was all about Beyoncé (watch footage), whose Pyramid Stage headlining set was easily the most all-out pop thing the festival had ever seen. It was also an undeniable success - whatever you think of her music, it's hard to knock the way she works the crowd and puts on a show.

Between opening with a burst of fireworks and rising out of a light-up pyramid, some impressive dance moves and her incredibly tight, all-female backing band, Beyoncé pretty much nailed it. Only the utterly inexplicable and largely pointless guest appearance of former Massive Attack member Tricky and a slightly iffy Kings Of Leon cover stood-out. Still, if you're going to have big-name pop acts at Glastonbury, let's hope they all do it this well…

Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.