Arctic Monkeys expected to make Glastonbury despite illnesson June 23, 2023 at 3:36 am

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An organiser says she’s “sure” the band will play their headline set, despite Alex Turner’s laryngitis.

Arctic MonkeysImage source, EPA

Arctic Monkeys are expected to play their headline set at Glastonbury on Friday, despite frontman Alex Turner being struck down with laryngitis.

The band cancelled a gig in Dublin earlier this week, casting doubt on whether they’d be fit for the festival.

But Emily Eavis told the BBC she was confident Turner would pull through. “He’s recovering, I’m sure we’re going to be all right,” she said.

“We’ve got a couple of back-up plans if not,” she added.

“We’ve always got back-up plans for everything.”

If the gig goes ahead, it will be the Sheffield band’s third time at the top of the bill, after 2008 and 2013.

That puts them in a select group of triple headliners alongside Radiohead, The Cure, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello.

Only Coldplay have gone further, with headline appearances in 2002, 2005, 2011 and 2016.

“Hopefully it gets easier every time, in terms of nerves,” Arctics drummer Matt Helders told BBC News.

Speaking before Turner fell ill, he said the band were the most prepared they’d ever been for the festival,

“The first time, obviously, we really felt the pressure. Then the second time, it was at the beginning of a tour – so it was fun, but we hadn’t been playing in the lead-up.

“This time, we’re on it. We’re in a good place, in the middle of a tour. We’re firing on all cylinders.” (Scroll down to read more of the interview with Matt Helders.)

Foo Fighters at Glastonbury

Image source, Ian Gavan

If the band do have to pull out, there are several potential replacements.

Chief among them are the “mystery band” who’ve been given a slot on the Pyramid Stage on Friday evening.

They’re billed as The ChurnUps, a group who have no social media footprint or music on streaming services.

Fans have speculated that they are actually US rock band Foo Fighters, after frontman Dave Grohl posted a social media statement in which he talked about “churning up” emotions as the band tour without late drummer Taylor Hawkins for the first time.

Other rumours have included Britpop heroes Pulp and Blur, both former headliners, who are on the reunion trail this summer.

Quizzed about the rumours, Eavis remained tight-lipped.

“I wouldn’t like to give anything away,” she said. “You’ve got to allow the surprise to happen. It’s all about the surprise.”

Festival-goers using parasols to protect them from the sun at Glastonbury

Image source, PA Media

Eavis was speaking as Glastonbury opened its gates on Wednesday morning, with 200,000 fans expected to take in sets by Sir Elton John, Lana Del Rey, Guns N’ Roses, Wizkid and ChristineaAnd the Queens.

Forecasters have issued a weather warning for the festival, with temperatures expected to reach 27 degrees over the weekend.

Free water is available throughout the site, which is being entirely powered by renewable energy for the first time, in line with its long-standing commitment to sustainability.

The on-stage action slowly got into gear on Thursday, with DJ sets by Faithless, Mike Skinner, Nia Archives and Ewan McVicar and Arielle Free warming up the dozens of smaller stages that are dotted around the site.

And 88-year-old festival founder Michael Eavis even played a surprise mid-afternoon set with his band on The Park Stage, covering old standards like My Way, Always On My Mind and Send In The Clowns.

Friday highlights

Singer-songwriter Ben Howard will kick off the music on the main stages, when he opens The Other Stage at 11:30 on Friday morning.

Other artists on Friday’s line-up include Scottish rockers Texas (Pyramid Stage, 16:15), Afrobeats star Wizkid (Other Stage, 22:30), psychedelic jazz band The Comet Is coming (Park Stage, 1815) and US R&B star Kelis (West Holts, 22:15).

And 16-year-old Eli Crossley will become one of Glastonbury’s youngest-ever performers, along with his band Askew, when they play the Rabbit Hole at 17:30 BST.

The band were extended an invitation by Emily Eavis after Eli spoke to the BBC about the genetic condition he lives with, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and mentioned his dream of playing the festival.

The BBC will broadcast full sets and highlights from around the festival on TV, radio, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds.

Matt Helders on the Arctics’ hat trick

Matt Helders

Image source, Getty Images

This is your third time on the Pyramid Stage. Are you looking forward to it?

It’s good! Hopefully it gets easier every time, in terms of nerves. Where we are in the touring cycle, it means we’ll be better at playing than we have been before, which is always good.

And it’s 10 years since we last did it, so it’ll feel like a full circle celebration.

In previous years, you’ve had Dizzee Rascal as a special guest, and played with a string quartet. Any surprises this time?

There’s a tradition of getting a guest on, or doing something extra special at Glastonbury, but I also think there’s a lot to be said about just doing a really good show.

Your new album [The Car] has had such a great reception. The NME made it their album of the year. How confident were you before it was released?

We actually sat on it for a while before it came out and there were certain songs that I had a lot of faith in. I knew [There’d Better Be A] Mirrorball was going to be special, and Sculptures Of Anything Goes. We’d spent a lot of time making sure it was what we wanted. So if at that point we weren’t sure, we’d have felt like we’d done something wrong.

Alex said he’d meant to write an album that would fit with rockier songs like Brianstorm and RU Mine. How come it ended up going a different way?

We often go in [to the studio] with that intention because, when we’re playing live, those songs stand out so much. We’re like, “That was fun to play. We should get some more songs that feel like that”.

But then it doesn’t always come naturally with the songwriting. You can write the riff but it’s difficult to force it and still be sincere.

Last year, you told Radio 1 that the subtlety of the new songs makes them “trickier” to play than the older material. How’s that been going on tour?

Recording-wise, the restraint is quite difficult – and that spills over to live [shows] too, because you can get a bit excited and want to show off a bit.

But there’s moments in the set where I get to scratch that itch, We’ll play all the action-packed ones and then it chills out for a bit. It’s a good balance.

Arctic Monkeys

What’s your favourite of the new songs to play?

At the moment I’d say Body Paint, because, speaking of dynamics, that one comes to life at the end. We just sort of wig out a little bit and I’m in control of how long it goes and how intense it gets. It’s nice having a bit more fun with it.

The set often closes with RU Mine, which is a real workout on the drums. Do you have to keep some energy in reserve?

It’s funny you mention that because we put it in halfway through the set last night and it felt strange to play it there. A lot of the time, I’m relying on adrenalin by the end of the show, but also I would struggle if that [song] was the beginning – because I warm up as it goes on.

Otherwise, there’s a danger you’ll tear a muscle…

Exactly. We often play Brianstorm near the beginning and I have to try not to tense up too much for that very reason. I do try and do a little bit of drumming backstage and stretch a bit. But I’ve never been good or disciplined about making myself do that. I want to be around everybody.

Final question: Is it true you bought a pub?

I contributed. It’s called Fagan’s in Sheffield and now I’m like a part of it. [Matt was one of nine investors who came to the rescue when it was threatened with closure last year].

But can you pull a pint?

I’ve tried! I want to learn how to do the shapes in a pint of Guinness.

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