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Review: Glastonbury Festival 2019


Glastonbury Festival 2019


GLASTONBURY’S first black British solo headliner AND its youngest ever headliner — the burden of history was certainly on Stormzy’s shoulders before his Friday night prime slot, but he responded magnificently with an extraordinary two-hour set. It was a joyous one-man Olympic opening ceremony, complete with pyrotechnics, dance troupes, BMX riders, a guest slot from Chris Martin and a gospel choir. As Stormzy graciously acknowledged, this was about more than him — not just a triumph for the grime scene that birthed him but for the black British experience.

If Stormzy was the sound of the festival successfully jumping a generation or two, there was still plenty to satisfy all demographics. The Sunday afternoon ‘legends’ slot was occupied by an icily imperious Kylie (featuring Nick Cave and a Bowie mashup), while seemingly ageless Janet Jackson and Sheryl Crow aced afternoon slots.

But Glastonbury isn’t really about the Pyramid Stage. It’s about a man balancing a lawnmower on his chin in the Circus Field, surrounded by clowns on stilts riding 20ft-high bicycles. It’s about treetop performances of Shakespeare; about a Balkan brass band playing Cure songs; about Johnny Marr and the Pet Shop Boys guesting with the Killers; about Loyle Carner joining afrojazzers the Ezra Collective; about surprise sets from Mark Ronson, Fatboy Slim, Bananarama, Keane, Lewis Capaldi, Faithless and Foals in marquees that aren’t even among Glastonbury’s 20 biggest stages.

And, as a godlike Sir David Attenborough announced on the Pyramid Stage, this year was also about banning the sale of plastic bottles and containers (something of a triumph in a mini-city of 200,000) and about four days of sustained heat. ‘Look at you,’ says comedian Jonathan Pie, in a packed cabaret tent. ‘You’re filthy, you’re hot, you’ve barely got any water and you’re living in ramshackle tents. Glastonbury is like the apocalypse has happened… and it’s actually fine.’