Stormzy pulled out all the stops to deliver a dynamic headlining performance and bring the first day of Glastonbury to a close with a bang on Friday night (June 28).
The first black British solo artist to headline the main Pyramid Stage in the festival’s 49-year history, the rapper’s set opened with a video featuring Jay-Z — who headlined Glastonbury in 2008 — offering encouragement and telling him “culture moves the world.”
It’s advice that Stormzy, real name Michael Omari Owuo, Jr., evidently took to heart, incorporating political and social messages into a thrilling, raucous and highly confident performance that saw him bound onstage wearing a Union Jack stab vest (designed by street art juggernaut Banksy) accompanied by huge pyrotechnic explosions.
Opening with an incendiary version of “Know Me From,” the 25-year-old rapper was soon dripping in sweat as he led the Glastonbury crowd through his relatively small back catalog (2017 debut album Gang Signs & Prayer and a handful of EP and single releases) with charismatic swagger and authority.
Highlights included his recent U.K. number one single “Vossi Bop" (where he was joined by circling BMX riders), a hard-hitting, Boris Johnson-baiting “Cold,” the scathing “Shut Up” and stirring, soulful “Blinded By Your Grace Pt. II,” which was backed by a gospel choir.
Coldplay singer Chris Martin made a previously unannounced guest appearance, duetting with Stormzy on “Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 1,” while fellow British rap stars Dave and Fredo later joined him for a lively run through of their U.K. chart topping single “Funky Friday.”
An earlier interlude, meanwhile, saw two ballet dancers gracefully take to the stage as onscreen messages informed the crowd that ballet shoes have only recently become available in different skin tones.
“This is the greatest night of my entire life,” a visibly moved Stormzy, by then topless, told the crowd on more than one occasion before ending his set with a bombastic “Big For Your Boots.”
Last night I headlined Glastonbury in a stab-proof vest custom made by the greatest, most iconic living artist on planet earth, the one and only BANKSY. I opened my set with words of encouragement from my hero and ultimate inspiration and the greatest rapper to ever grace planet Earth Jay-Z. I got to sing with the most incredible and legendary man I know – Chris Martin – a man who’s genius I am so in awe of that it makes me go to studio and try to emulate him. Raleigh Ritchie – one of our country’s greatest musical talents thank you my brother. Dave & Fredo – I love you my brothers, UK’s finest rappers, thank you from my heart for helping me light up the stage and making one of the most beautiful moments our culture has seen. Thank you to my lil brother @djtiiny theres no way in hell I could do this without you you have my back always and I’m so proud of you – you are my brother in arms we go to war together I appreciate you. To Bronski, Amber, Misty, Trev, Kojo & my whole tour/creative/production team I appreciate you all and I’m forever grateful. To my band and to my amazing choir who have worked tireless and given this their everything all whilst sounding flawless, effortless and amazing I appreciate you all very much I can’t do this without you. To the W.A.R dance crew you lot are now my brothers thank you for bringing a God-sent energy that I truly needed. To Princess K – you are a superstar, the crowd went absolutely crazy for you and I’m so excited to watch you take the world by storm. To Ballet Black, the grace, beauty and feeling you blessed the world with yesterday was felt in the hearts of millions. To Mac, Trizzy, Bobby, C1, Flipz my BikeStormz family I’m so happy the world got to see you lots talent and skills – you just showed the world about bikelife – be very fucking proud. To the whole of my #MERKY team – my family who hold me down and have my back till the end. THANK YOU GUYS, THANK YOU GOD. I am proud of myself and I feel blessed and fulfilled and purposeful. Your Glastonbury 2019 headliner, over and out. –❤️
Preceding Stormzy on the main stage was British singer-songwriter George Ezra, who was forced to perform seated on a stool having sprained his ankle while out running a few weeks ago. It didn’t stop him from producing an energetic, crowd-pleasing show, with Ezra’s chirpy upbeat tunes and constant mile-wide grin providing the perfect soundtrack for the blazing sunshine and 28-degree heat beating down on Glastonbury.
“Here I am off my head on anti-inflammatories, so throughout this set I might have to rely on you for the dancing and the moving,” he told the audience before performing a selection of his best known tracks, including “Barcelona,” “Budapest,” “Paradise,” “Blame It On Me” and the inevitable set closer, a rousing “Shotgun.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Lauryn Hill celebrated the 21st anniversary of her classic debut album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill with a slick, occasionally stirring run through her greatest hits, including “Lost Ones,” a gospel style “Superstar,” “Forgive Them Father” and “Doo Wop (That Thing),” despite battling with persistent sound issues. A closing version of “Killing Me Softly” provided the mass singalong moment the audience craved.
Other performers on the Pyramid Stage included an effervescent Bastille and Sheryl Crow. Playing at Worthy Farm for the first time since 1997, she dedicated “Soak Up The Sun” to teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
Other acts who played Glastonbury on Friday included The Charlatans (filling in for Snow Patrol, who canceled a few days prior due to illness), Idles, Mac DeMarco, The Lumineers, Jorja Smith, Michael Kiwanuka and Cat Power, among countless others.
The festival continues on Saturday (June 29) with performances from Carrie Underwood, Hozier, Janet Jackson, Liam Gallagher, The Killers and The Chemical Brothers.