Live Report: The Smile, Live At Worthy Farm

Tech headaches at otherwise-mesmerising showcase...

Last night’s experimental Worthy Farm livestream began in farce. Apparently far-too-many of the nation’s used-to-be-cool kids – clearly not down the pub, you’re allowed back in the pub now lads – were huddled around their devices refreshing Twitter and getting mad at a dud livestream by modishly mis-spelled ‘streaming partner’ Driift.

In our house we made the best of it, stoically flicking between Driift’s bleak computer-says-no landing page and Cyprus' saucy Eurovision effort. A sorry substitute for Idles, but what you gonna do.

Man alive, imagine the mood at Driift HQ this morning. All those skinfades, getting bollocked over Slack. Emily Eavis fuming on Zoom. Bare jokes.

After two excruciating hours Driift got its shit together in time for a frazzled nation to catch Haim channelling Fleetwood Mac under leaden Somerset skies. Coldplay's Chris Martin dutifully dedicated ‘Fix You’ to our brave NHS workers – haven’t they suffered enough? – before craggy tunesmith Damon Albarn bopped up in his swanky new Toni and Guy mullet.

Jorja Smith – glossy and fierce, a luxuriant soundtrack for loading the dishwasher and tucking the kids in – made up for any earlier ill-feeling, at my gaff anyway.

I was right back on the sofa for The Smile, a fresh new Thom Yorke vehicle breathlessly announced that very afternoon. Jonny Greenwood was going to be there! Nigel Godrich too! And, um, Tom Skinner, jazz sticksman off Sons of Kemet!

"Ladies and Gentleman, we are called 'The Smile'," intoned Yorke, in what looked suspiciously like a slaughterhouse.

"Not 'The Smile' as in 'haha!' – more like the guy that lies to you every day."

Yikes. Probably that's a dig at Boris. Or equally plausibly it's a passive-aggressive facebook status. Who knew Thom Yorke is a messy bitch who loves drama.

Still, what joy to behold the foremost rocker of his generation twanging the bass as his wiry old mucker Jonny roughs up a Gibson Les Paul. Yorke’s voice gets better with age, it simply does – oscillating between sublime falsetto and gloomy Jonny Rotten snark. The band's opening salvo was delivered in a decidedly math-rocky 11/8 time signature, but remained uncannily danceable. High art, shifting boundaries, for reals. Guitar music still has plenty more in the tank, god be praised.

Not everybody was smiling. Scrolling Twitter – not quite the same as being in a big crowd, but still fun, and you’re never miles from the bogs – was to marinade in the disappointment of crestfallen dorks hoping he'd play Fake Plastic Trees. My wife, usually a reliable barometer of this sort of thing, dozed off cuddling the dog a solid half-hour before Kano bossed it in the rain.

Maybe you had to be there.

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Words: Andy Hill

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