Festivals Friday, Glastonbury 2022 24th June 2022
From The Libertines to Phoebe Bridgers, it’s a glorious patchwork as ever at Worthy Farm.
Tradition dictates that Friday’s Other Stage opener should be an artist technically far too large for the spot, and so whilst it’s a bizarre sight to see the infamously not-that-punctual Libertines rocking up promptly for 11.30am, there’s a quintessentially Glastonbury type of jolly idiosyncrasy to the whole affair. Crucially (and not a given), the band still sound genuinely tight and brilliant; say what you will about the various members’ extra-curricular activities over the years, but ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, ‘Horror Show’, ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ et al remain some of ‘00s indie’s highest highs. It’s Pete that actually seems to be ageing somewhat more gracefully these days too; if the flat cap and hoody combo of today isn’t quite as it was back in the day then maybe that’s better than Carl’s braces and trilby-cum-top-hat that won’t let the 2003 Camden dream die. Either way, the field is rammed and there’s still something particularly emotional about seeing a band who’ve truly ridden life’s rollercoaster being greeted with such love still.
Over on The Park stage, the rise and rise of Wet Leg shows no sign of abating. With the field packed to the point of ridiculousness, it’s impossible to hear let alone see the band from the vantage point of 60% of the crowd but that doesn’t stop a final ‘Chaise Longue’ becoming likely one of the biggest sing-alongs of the weekend.
Meanwhile, the award for most stressful road to Glastonbury surely goes to Wolf Alice, who’ve spent the past 24 hours desperately updating the internet whilst being stuck in LA. Praise be to the Glastonbury gods for delivering the band in time for their Pyramid stage set, however, as the Londoners are on the form of their lives, the additional wares of chart-topping third LP ‘Blue Weekend’ endowing them with a set that thrashes one moment (‘Play The Greatest Hits’ is augmented by a cheeky flashing graphic of ‘It is isn’t loud enough’ throughout) and swells with emotion the next. The quartet are masters of the lot, Ellie Rowsell’s Grecian wedding dress aesthetic at perfect odds with the snarl of ‘Giant Peach’ or an opening, heavy-riffing ‘Smile’. Slowly climbing their way up the bill, on LP4 you’d hope they’d be tickling the edges of some of the top spots.
Over on William’s Green, Yard Act might only be on their first Glastonbury but they more than know how to play to their audience. Whether instigating chants of “Somerset!” or spending the last part of ‘Land of the Blind’ attempting to collect cash from the front row and fielding off offers of pills, James Smith is a frontman with the emphasis on entertainment. Of course, they have the material to ensure the edges are kept in still, and early tracks ‘Fixer Upper’ and ‘Dark Days’ are greeted like old classics from a crowd that laps it up.
Using her set to lead a chant of “Fuck the Supreme Court” in response to the overturning of women’s rights to abortions in America, Phoebe Bridgers’ set is a charged affair over on the John Peel stage. Yet between the rightful anger, there are moments of levity and even a guest spot from Arlo Parks, who pops up for a rendition of ‘Graceland Too’. Over on the Pyramid, meanwhile, Sam Fender is greeted like a future headliner and looks visibly taken aback by the reception, pausing to acknowledge the moment before ‘Seventeen Going Under’ rallies the field in a way that feels history-making. Socially-charged and ringing with pain and defiance, to see a crowd of this size bellowing these sentiments in unison feels like the exact point of a festival like Glastonbury, where politics and community sit as important bedfellows.
Having released a two full LPs since they last graced Worthy Farm’s stages, Foals’ Other Stage headline set could be twice the length and barely touch the sides of their now-hefty catalogue. Cherry-picking through seven albums in a far-too-short 1hr15, they opt for a set of two halves; an early run of ‘My Number’, ‘In Degrees’ (complete with confetti canon) and ‘2001’ delivering the party before the band sledgehammer into a five-for-five end game that feel gargantuan in its weighty riffs and cathartic, moshing peaks. Professional festival slayers, Foals always understand the assignment.
Grumps look away now; there’s a sea of mobile phones held aloft as the screens switch off in anticipation of Billie Eilish’s arrival. Much has been made of the singer being the festival’s youngest-ever headliner - and the jump from her early-evening Other Stage appearance (itself a necessary upgrade from her booked John Peel Stage slot) is a mighty big one, to say the least.
Still, let’s not forget: the pressure on any artist to headline this festival is bigger than ever, a seemingly never-ending list of reasons constantly at hand to dismiss them as unsuitable. And yet you don’t even need to have been born within a few years of Billie to fail to recognise names on posters from even the last few decades. The mythology that propels Glastonbury’s continued status is also able to work against it, if allowed to run rampant.
So, it’s visibly clear from the off; the youngest headliner has reduced the average age of the crowd in front of the Pyramid Stage too. Proof enough the festival isn’t content to be a mere nostalgia fest, recycling the same old, same old.
The set does crib mostly from Billie’s current arena show - the staging an adapted version, the setlist a streamlined take. The risk is run, a few songs in, that either the occasion is proving too much for the still 20-year-old to take on, or it’s little more than a ticked-off stop on her round-the-world trip. The impact of album tracks is lost on the far-reaches of the crowd, the glitchy visual effects used on the giant screens obscuring any real view of her through the endless sea of flags.
Then, a giggle. A pause in the meticulously-rehearsed sequence, inciting deafening screams and a visibly-overwhelmed Billie taking stock, and it’s game on. Fireworks ping across the Pyramid, 3D triangular shapes of their own are formed by a series of lasers around her. ‘Oxytocin’ comes via crowd participation as way of therapy (it’s only Friday night, and Glastonbury is already in need of feral screams), and creates a rave-like atmosphere with its EDM-nodding synths and thunderous drums. ‘Your Power’, for which Billie is joined at the front by brother Finneas, is introduced with an emotionally-exhausted reference to the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade earlier in the day. A funkier ‘Lost Cause’ puts forth the melodramatic side of the song, while ‘when the party’s over’ makes for a true festival people-on-shoulders moment. “You guys are fucking troopers with your tents and shit,” she laughs, before starting the final one-two of ‘bad guy’ and ‘Happier Than Ever’, the former a riotous party, the latter crashing into the kind of crescendo most fully-realised rock bands - Billie’s live band comprising of Finneas, plus drummer Andrew Marshall - would be envious of. There’s no encore, and there may not have been any of the much-rumoured special guests, but being Glastonbury’s youngest headliner ever? No problem at all.
Visit our Glastonbury hub across the weekend for all of our Glastonbury 2022 coverage.
Top photo: Anna Barclay
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