It’s 2.45pm and David Attenborough has popped up on the Pyramid Stage for a surprise appearance. As he walks out, the crowds go predictably wild, but actually – much as it pains us to admit it – the icon doesn’t actually say much. Save for a nod to Glastonbury’s new commitment to going plastic-free and a push for his forthcoming show, it feels like a slightly wasted opportunity.
That feeling is only exacerbated by what’s come directly before. Playing the Pyramid for the first time, Years & Years’ set is a lesson in not letting a moment go to waste; pulling out every stop and then going even further, they use their platform in the most perfect way possible – partly to dance it out with as many whistles and bangs as you can get, partly to talk to as many people as they can about the things that matter.
Kicking off with ‘Sanctify’, they flash up a series of homophobic tweets as Olly Alexander writhes gloriously in a bondage-inspired outfit and fishnet vest; from there on in, the set is a wonderful celebration of freedom and LGBTQ+ positivity. It all comes to a head when the screen glitches, flashing up statistics about hate crimes and archaic laws. As a troupe of male ballet dancers grace the stage, Olly begins an impassioned speech. “I talk about being gay a lot because I spent a lot of time wishing I wasn’t gay so it’s like making up for lost time. But what I want to say is the only reason I am able to be up here being my gay self is because of all the people that have come before me.”
“This week we celebrate 50 years since Stonewall, and since then the world has changed so much but our history is what shapes us and we make more every day. The reality is the lives of LGBT+ people are as varied and complex as everyone else’s but they’re also under threat. The future is not fixed and our histories cannot predict what tomorrow might bring and what we might do with it. Everyone here can change history and it’s up to us if we want to change the world. I don’t know how we get there but I know we can only get there if we help each other out.”
Greeted with huge cheers throughout, it’s a genuinely powerful moment that goes to show just what you can do in these situations. Then, they get back to the music and, from contortionists to vogueing dancers to a podium that rises Olly up into the air, it’s a smorgasbord of thrills, the band throwing everything at the opportunity and coming up triumphant. They finish with ‘King’ as a burst of rainbow confetti explodes into the crowd. Fun, celebratory and important, this is how you do a main stage set.