It’s pissing it down at Glastonbury, but only momentarily. People have the power, according to the opening gambit of Coldplay’s pre-recording played via tannoy, and he’s absolutely correct. Only a band who has pleased the British public incessantly over the course of seven albums can draw a crowd this gargantuan for its fourth record-breaking headline set (on Sunday, June 26) at mate Emily Eavis’s playground. Cat eyes light up the line of the stage’s triangle in red for the first time ever. Optical illusions negate the need for any protestations of “All right, it’s our favorite place in the world!” by Chris Martin before launching into “Yellow" only two songs in. But he enamors us anyway.
Five flares set off around me on the top of the hill while yellow wristbands unite a crowd of 180,000 people. Really, anyone who has not chosen this set for their entertainment tonight is an idiot. "I’m scared about the state of the world but the people of Glastonbury restore my faith in the world, so thank you,” says Chris Martin. “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" joins the crowd in unison, and the flags of countries around the world wave thorough the dark clouds and ominous skies. Only a couple of songs in, thousands of papier-mâché butterflies are soaring into the sky before depositing themselves in the mud. And then "The Scientist" encourages the first site-echoing sing-along around the perimeter. You really believe that Chris Martin can lead Great Britain to a light-infested ring of friendship.
"Paradise" meets the crowd with its first total euphoric moment of the weekend. Among the relentless dirge of muck and rain and grey skies is the first Chris Martin plea. He still sounds like he’s singing "parrot parrot eyes!” but no matter. He admits he’s not good at talking but he’s lying. If you didn’t think Coldplay knew how to rave, you were totally mistaken because tonight the band has brought the Paul Oakenfold, the Danny Rampling and all the people who gave us these times.
A video recording of Muhammad Ali interrupts proceedings as the sun completely disappears before “Clocks," which looks like a Trostkyite revolution all red fire flames. It’s when "Charlie Brown" (from Mylo Xyloto) rings out through Worthy Farn that you know Chris and Co. can overcome any obstacle. The lyrics "We’ll run riot, we’ll run glowing in the dark” is followed by Martin’s observation that “so far” we’ve been so amazing. But really, Coldplay – over the course of 15-plus years – has proven why it will, honestly, be cool in our lifetime.
“I don’t know how you have much energy left, but this is unreal,” says Chris before recalling Coldplay playing the John Peel Stage. Instead of playing a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Coldplay brings on a song by a much lesser known band called Viola Beach, in the true spirit of Glastonbury and – actually – John Peel.
“I know this is hard because of the mud,” he says during “Adventure of a Lifetime” while instructing us to get down in his same dancing, signature primary-school teacher style. And then the chorus of hymnal “Amazing Grace" soars through he crowd inexplicably. ‘We need to try and pull out some special tricks,” he says and looks to Instagram. Michael Eavis comes over the video feed talking up the Bee Gees, and then Barry Gibb of the actual Bee Gees comes out and sings. “Now we’re having a Glastonbury referendum. Should Barry Gibb stay or go?” says Gibb. Again, they vote “stay” and are rewarded with “Stayin' Alive.”
“To the Eavises, to the cows… Wait, you know what, I don’t want this to be the last song. Can we speak to someone in charge?” Chris brings Michael Eavis, owner of Glastonbury festival, onstage to do one last song. It’s Michael Eavis doing a karaoke version of “My Way.” He’s no Frank. But that’s a foregone conclusion. It doesn’t matter. He did it his way, and what a way it was. Glastonbury 2016, goodnight.