PILTON, England (Reuters) - British band Gorillaz brought Arabic flutes, heavy rap and veteran rocker Lou Reed to the Glastonbury music festival on Friday in an eclectic set played before tens of thousands of revelers.
The group fronted by Damon Albarn of Blur fame was recruited at the last moment for one of the music world’s biggest events after Irish rockers U2 pulled out when lead singer Bono had emergency surgery on his back.
Around 150,000 people gathered on a dairy farm in southwest England to see Gorillaz and the likes of Shakira, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder, Muse and Kylie Minogue, who were all expected to take the stage by the close on Sunday night.
Sweltering temperatures meant that 2010 has not featured the rain and mud baths for which Glastonbury is famous. Instead it is bare chests and bikinis as revelers soak up the sun, atmosphere and plenty of beer.
Albarn, who has headlined at Glastonbury twice before with Blur, was joined on the main Pyramid stage by Bobby Womack, Reed and Shaun Ryder, as well as a female string section and an Arabic orchestra.
Giant screens beamed images from the stage interspersed with video footage featuring Gorillaz and their cartoon alter egos.
Albarn told Reuters backstage before the performance that his collaboration with so many artists in making Gorillaz’s latest album “Plastic Beach” had been particularly rewarding.
“That’s the nice thing. You sort of get these friendships going and everybody just piles into these places all over the world. It’s a really nice carnival atmosphere offstage and onstage.”
British hip-hop artist Dizzee Rascal wowed the crowd earlier in the day with hits including “Bonkers,” “Holiday” and “Dirtee Disco,” and he was joined on stage by Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine to perform “You Got the Dirtee Love.”
Kicking off the first main day of the festival, 80-year-old Australian singer and artist Rolf Harris had the fans singing along to old hits including “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport,” which he wrote more than 50 years ago.
During his performance, which also included “The Court of King Caractacus,” Harris was accompanied by a didgeridoo.
Smaller venues opened on Thursday, and Vanilla Ice and Boy George were among the better-known acts to perform.
Other bands appearing on Friday included The Stranglers, The Magic Numbers and Vampire Weekend.
The festival, which caters for every musical taste across dozens of stages, celebrates its 40th year in 2010, and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles visited the sprawling site covered in a colorful sea of tents on Thursday.
In 1970, founder and dairy farmer Michael Eavis decided to hold a music event and booked the Kinks for 500 pounds ($750) but, when they failed to show, got Marc Bolan instead.
That year 1,500 people showed up when the event was known as the “Pilton Pop Festival.” They each paid one pound and were given free milk from Eavis’ Worthy Farm.
This year up to 180,000 festival goers are pay 185 pounds to get in to an area surrounded by a high fence to stop gate crashers.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Charles Dick