U2, Coldplay, Beyonce lead line-up at Glastonbury

Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:33am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - The Glastonbury festival opened its gates on Wednesday to 150,000 fans ignoring forecasts for rain and muddy fields to hear U2 and Beyonce alongside a bewildering choice of smaller acts from Spliff Richard to punk poet Attila the Stockbroker.

Now in its fifth decade, the event has grown from a humble gathering of 1,500 people on Michael Eavis's Worthy dairy farm in 1970, each paying one pound ($1.60) and receiving free milk, to a giant five-day celebration of music costing 195 pounds for a basic ticket.

The main talking point in the build-up to the festival, held most years on a sprawling site set in picturesque southwest England, is the weather, and the outlook this year looks more mixed than the sun-baked 2010 edition.

Heavy rain means shin-deep mud, leaking tents and sodden crowds, but Britain's Met Office is predicting sunshine, clouds and light rain at the event which ends on Sunday night, and punters are advised to pack sun cream as well as raincoats.

The biggest shows kick off on Friday, when the main Pyramid stage will host blues guitar legend B.B. King and contrarian Manchester singer Morrissey in the lead up to Irish rockers U2, the opening headline act.

The band had been scheduled to perform in 2010, but were forced to cancel when lead singer Bono injured his back.

Drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. said the set, before a crowd of some 100,000 standing on a grass slope leading down to the stage, posed a new challenge for the group, which has honed its live act on a record-breaking world tour that is still ongoing.

"It's not the 360 Degree show, we're out of our comfort zone and that's important for us," he told BBC Radio.   Continued...