Live Review

Arctic Monkeys close Friday of Glastonbury 2023 with a near-flawless setlist

23rd June 2023

Carly Rae Jepsen, Warpaint and Foo Fighters’ (not so) surprise set were also highlights of the festival’s first full day.

“When you were at home in the pandemic, feeling bored and thinking about Glastonbury, isn’t this exactly what you were waiting for?” questions The Hives’ endlessly charismatic leader Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist midway through their sun-soaked Other Stage set, kicking off Glastonbury’s first proper afternoon. It may be one of a series of entirely unserious brags that the singer populates their show with (others include the “news” that “a record 900,000 people have come to watch The Hives!”), but actually, he’s completely right. The quintessential festival band, who crack the balance of hits, wit and co-ordinated outfits like no others - even two decades in - the Swedes are masters of their craft. Who cares that we’ve all heard ‘Main Offender’ and ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’ a gazillion times over the years; the bangers still bang hard, and Almqvist is a showman in the greatest sense of the word. That a member of the crowd has prepared enough to bring their own confetti canon, timing it to explode at the peak of ‘Tick Tick Boom’ is the cherry on the top of a truly entertaining cake.

Making their Glastonbury debut to a full to bursting Woodsies (the tent fka John Peel), there’s not a hint of nerves as FLO take to the stage. The vocal talents of the London trio have never been in doubt but now, having played a handful more shows and with a wind machine, some on-point chair-ography and matching outfits all amping up the classic pop girl group aesthetic, the rest of the package is becoming more fully realised. Unreleased song ‘Control Freak’ is a sassy highlight and possibly their best track yet, while recent Missy Elliot-featuring single ‘Fly Girl’ hits like a lost ‘00s R&B classic. Understandably for a new band, the production is still minimal but you can already imagine what a FLO arena show might look like; give them a little longer and all the ingredients are there for the three-piece to join pop’s big leagues.

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Over on the Other Stage, human ray of sunshine Carly Rae Jepsen has come dressed as Barbie IRL and has the utterly lovable, effervescent persona to match. Bounding around the shimmer curtained stage and breaking into some kitsch choreography with her backing singers for ‘Beach House’, it’s impossible not to get sucked in to the singer’s heart-on-sleeve canon; whether uniting the crowd with the tentative excitement of ‘Call Me Maybe’ and ‘I Really Like You’ or declaring ‘I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance’ “not just a pick up song but a life mantra”, Jepsen’s set feels like a romcom come to life. New song ‘Shy Boy’, meanwhile, gets its live debut - a disco-tinged bop with a funk bass line born for dancing.

The weekend’s worst kept secret, when The Churnups take to the Pyramid Stage and reveal themselves to be the Foo Fighters there’s barely a person in the crowd who seems surprised. But nonetheless, it feels like a classy way for the headlining stalwarts to make their return following the passing of Taylor Hawkins. Understated but undeniably ‘a moment’, the band power through a one hour hits set of ‘Best of You’, ‘The Pretender’ and more, with Dave’s daughter Violet Grohl joining for an impressive duet of new song ‘Show Me How’. Only at the end, as they begin a closing ‘Everlong’, does Grohl call out for the crowd to sing it loud for his old band mate; the emotions in the field are tangible but it’s a positive energy in the air, a collective sense of good will for a band who’ve weathered a storm and come out choosing positivity.

Tucked over on the Woodsies stage just before the headliners, it’s a smaller crowd that comes out for Warpaint but the band are on sublime form. There’s a softness and magnetism to the quartet that’s always been their calling card; intricate yet warm and inviting, the likes of ‘Champion’ and ‘Bees’ weave their magic like a spell, Emily Kokal conducting from centre stage with a voodoo stripe drawn across her face. ‘Undertow’, meanwhile, remains the tenderest of bangers, its energy steadily ramping up to a cathartic climax.

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After a will they-won’t they few days of worry following a cancelled show due to laryngitis, there’s an even greater sense of celebration when Arctic Monkeys step out to headline the Pyramid Stage for the third time. Where their debut was as young whip-smart prodigies and its follow up marked the first steps into their ‘AM’ imperial phase, this time around Alex Turner is a bona fide rockstar from the off. Starting the set with the subtle, moody stalk of ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’, it’s the ultimate marker of confidence, luring the crowd in before exploding into ‘Brianstorm’ and kicking off a near flawless setlist.

Arctic Monkeys can headline a festival in their sleep by this point, but there’s still something intrinsically special about seeing a band so tied to Glastonbury, who’ve grown up with the festival and marked the major milestones in their career on this very stage, come back all grown up and taking it so smoothly in their stride. By the time they conclude with ‘I Bet You look Good on the Dancefloor’ and ‘R U Mine?’, via a setlist that cements their once-in-a-generation status, it’s hard to imagine that there were ever any doubts to whether they’d make tonight’s show.

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