The word on the ground Saturday at Glastonbury? That Amy Winehouse would be a no-show because she’d died in the hospital that afternoon. It’s a ghoulish rumor, to be sure, but after all the reports of crack pipes, missed gigs, and her questionable health (mental and otherwise), it’s an understandable lack of faith. After all, this is the 24-year-old who might have early signs of emphysema — a condition usually suffered after a considerable lifetime of smoking.
But she appears on stage at 9:10 p.m., on time. Entering to a prizefight drum roll, Winehouse is looking good in a sequined blue number, her Cleopatra eye makeup in bold effect. The crowd quickly responds to the jazz-wise soul of a song called…”Addicted.”
This will be an appearance of two distinct forces, both running concurrently. She’s a magnetic and unique entertainer, with outstanding material and a still-great voice. But occasionally the latter sounds dry, and some high notes elude her. Nuanced readings of Back to Black tracks — plus covers of songs by U.K. ska godfathers the Specials and a sunny version of Sam Cooke’s ”Cupid” — display her keen aptitude for turning turmoil and heartbreak into songs you can groove to and feel.
However, there’s also loopiness present in the form of her between-song blather, often about her imprisoned husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. ”I’d never loved a white man before,” she says before launching into ”Wake Up Alone.” ”Then he came and hit me over the head with a cricket bat…not literally, obviously.” She rearranges her bra and hairpiece a lot, and at one point refers to Kanye West as a ”c–t.” During the mangled but barnstorming closer, ”Rehab,” she presses flesh with faithful crowd members, and after a mix-up over a thrown hat, elbows a fan. But she doesn’t miss a beat.
While this performance didn’t match the mighty impact of Winehouse’s Grammy appearance — and the crowd reserved its real acclaim for follow-up act Jay-Z (read about his performance here) — it was enough of a success to prove that reports of her demise have been exaggerated. And yet, true to form, the rumor mill decreed she was driven back to the hospital, in an ambulance, immediately after finishing her show.