Yof there was any doubt about its unofficial title of “World’s Greatest Music Festival”, Glastonbury 2022 put it to rest. The glorious and long-awaited return to Worthy Farm proved to be one of the most colourful, eclectic and apparently crime-free events we’d ever seen. From the moment founder Michael Eavis unlocked the gates to the festival, a significant proportion of the public mood was palpably lifted.
Of course, it helped that the briefest smattering of thunderstorms cleared almost as quickly as they arrived. The wellies and raincoats came out on Friday, then by Saturday afternoon appeared to vanish, stowed away in tents and replaced by suncream and shades. The Libertines kicked things off in typically raucous style, followed by the visceral poetry of Kae Tempest and Wet Leg’s thrilling, sardonic indie-rock. There was a joyful set from Australian/New Zealand band Crowded House on the Pyramid Stage, before Wolf Alice – who made it to Glastonbury by the skin of their teeth due to a canceled flight from LA – delivered a pummeling rock show built around frontwoman Ellie Rowsell’s sublime vocals and lyrical candidness.
“It’s when Wolf Alice slow things down – allowing the nuances of Rowsell’s gossamer voice to be fully appreciated – that they are at their most potent,” The Independent‘s Patrick Smith said in his review. “’Lipstick on the Glass’, from 2021’s Blue Weekend, sits gorgeously next to the intoxicating rush of ‘Bros’. Moments later, bathed in orange light, she sings ‘you f***ed with my feelings’ on ‘Safe from Heartbreak’. Arms sway in unison, as the soothing strains of ‘How Can I Make This OK?’ wash over a swooning crowd.”
In her Glastonbury debut, Phoebe Bridgers performed lovely renditions of songs such as “Motion Sickness”, inspired by her past relationship with problematic musician Ryan Adams, and “Sidelines”, which she dedicates to her decidedly unproblematic boyfriend, the lovely Irish actor Paul Mescal . She’s joined after by Mercury Prize-winner Arlo Parks to close the set, not long after Parks performed on her own, sunflower-filled gig over at the fittingly named Park Stage. Other highlights come from the always excellent St Vincent, Little Simz, and Sam Fender who provided his future-headliner status over at the Pyramid.
Then it was time for Billie Eilish, who took her history-making slot as the youngest-ever Glastonbury headliner (aged 20 years and six months) in her stride. In a five-star review, The Independent’s critic Mark Beaumont hailed the Gen-Z icon for music that “speaks far closer to the actual teenage experience of 2022… fame is wrought with insecurities, sex is regretful and drugs, when any are mentioned, are generally prescribed for anxiety.”
The sun rose on Saturday, bathing Worthy Farm in a golden haze, just in time for Joy Crookes to make her Glastonbury debut on the Pyramid Stage (no pressure), followed by a riotous gig at John Peel from Self Esteem and her fabulous, feminist back-up dancers. On the Other Stage, Metronomy doled out sweet summery pop, followed by indie band Glass Animals and their indefatigable frontman, Dave Bayley. Celeste soothed everyone’s hangovers with her sultry, jazz-inflected pop on West Holts. Those over at the Pyramid Stage, meanwhile, were treated to a resplendent set from returning Glastonbury favourites, Haim, who dealt out their sun-drenched Californian pop with confidence and wit.
Immediately after, it was Gen-Z pop star Olivia Rodrigo’s time to shine, and shine she did. Dressed in gleaming laced up boots, she stormed the Other Stage armed with nothing more than a purple microphone and an album of pop-punk hits. “This is the most people I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said, gazing out in awe at the thousands-strong crowd. Yet she took this unfamiliar territory in her stride, covering her idol Avril Lavigne’s hit 2003 single “Complicated” then bringing out UK star Lily Allen as a surprise guest.
In one of many moments at Glastonbury where artists – including Phoebe Bridgers, rock band IDLES and headliner Eilish – called out the Supreme Court for overturning Roe vs Wade, Rodrigo and Allen launched into an uninhibited and pertinent rendition of Allen’s 2009 single “F** * You”.
“I’m devastated and terrified [by the recent ruling] and so many women and girls are going to die because of this and I wanted to dedicate this next song to the five members of the Supreme Court who showed us at the end of the day they truly don’t give as*** about freedom ,” Rodrigo announced. “This song goes out to the justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Brett Kavanaugh. We hate you guys!”
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Glastonbury is always an opportune time for celebrity-spotting, and this year was no exception. Jessie Buckley was spotted dancing away at the Park backstage bar, while the Haim sisters hung out with Alexa Chung. Noel Gallagher held court down the Rabbit Hole, while film star Sienna Miller was seen chatting away with friends in hospitality behind the Pyramid Stage. Previous headliner Chris Martin was out and about with his longtime partner, Hollywood star Dakota Johnson, and One Direction fans went wild over sightings of former members Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan.
Ahead of Paul McCartney’s headline spot, Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds took over the Pyramid Stage for a raucous singalong to some of the biggest and best Oasis hits. Then it was time for the man himself: the Beatles legend, Wings frontman, solo artist. Two epic guest stars emerged in quick succession: Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. “Literally in tears. Best gig I’ve ever seen. Not even drunk,” read the emotional email from Mark Beaumont, before he filed his considerably more lucid, wonderfully written review.
Then, suddenly, it was Sunday at Worthy Farm. Jazz-fusion legend Herbie Hancock provided the perfect early afternoon set at the Pyramid, while at the same time – in possibly the least-secret secret set Glastonbury has ever seen, George Ezra turned up to the John Peel stage for an uplifting singalong. Critic Mark Beaumont described Diana Ross’s Legends slot at the Pyramid as “a set that’s as much a 100,000-strong support group as celebratory sing-along”, due in part to Ross struggling to hit the right notes.
“There’s still a magical frisson to being in the presence of such a supernaturally famous and universally beloved pop icon, and Glastonbury’s perm-wigged masses are not letting this one get away without a fight,” I observed. “They help carry her from her initial rush of Supremes hits – ‘Baby Love’, ‘Stop! In The Name of Love’ and ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ – which are chucked away early like a Legends slot death-wish. They even will on Ross’s failed attempt to start a singalong coda to gentle soul ballad ‘I’m Still Waiting’. The star and her songs of her get all the love; the performance itself is of secondary concern.”
Irish band Fontaines DC tore up the Other Stage with mosh pits galore then, back at the Pyramid, Manchester heroes Elbow put on a crowd-pleasing set comprising their biggest hits, from “One Day Like This” to “Grounds for Divorce” and “ My Sad Captains”. There was much to be enjoyed in the nostalgia stakes, whether at Sugababes’ triumphant reunion and US trio TLC on the Friday, indie landfill favorites Scouting for Girls on Saturday, or Noughties teen pop idols McFly on Sunday. Lorde worshiped solar power on the Pyramid Stage, until the sun dipped, and before long it was time for Kendrick Lamar’s closing headline set.
And what a show. Wearing a glittering crown of silver thorns, the DAMN rapper walked calmly to the main stage, before propelling himself into one of the most dynamic, thrilling and virtuosic headline shows Glastonbury has ever seen. Flanked alternately by a troupe of male dancers and ballerinas in red chiffon dresses, he didn’t miss a beat amid the slick choreography that ensured seamless transitions between every song. He was merciless on “Humble”. Mysterious on “LUST”. Irrepressible on “King Kunta”. By the time he came to reference the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, furiously repeating “Godspeed for women’s rights”, it seemed safe to assume that the hairs on everyone’s necks were standing up. What a spectacular and incendiary way to close out the night.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.