Eilish lollops down her custom Glastonbury catwalk for Therefore I Am. And, four tracks in, finally has a chance to take a breath and say hello to the crowd. What a pulsating opening!
NDA next – it’s pretty striking just how up for it the crowd are here, belting back every last lyric.
Next up I Didn’t Change My Number, Billie now bathed in a pulsing strobe. This might be the literally darkest Glastonbury set ever – it looks stylish as heck though.
Bathed in a moody red light, Eilish bounces around the stage, prompting wild screams from the audience. She arches her back in a manner that would absolutely end me if I ever attempted it.
Here we go then: Billie Eilish becomes the youngest ever Pyramid stage headliner, arriving to the minimalist whomps of Bury a Friend!
Billie Eilish not your thing? There are some very decent alternative headliners to watch instead. Over on the Other stage at 10.30pm you’ve got the muscular math of Foals, West Holts (10.15pm) has the brilliant Little Simz, there’s Four Tet over at The Park (11pm) and John Peel has Primal Scream (10.30pm).
The Other stage
St Vincent – the NYC-based musician Annie Clark – is undeniably one of the biggest stars working in indie rock today. She’s been papped in the tabloids with her friends and girlfriends, and wrote and starred in The Nowhere Inn, a psychological horror film she made with Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein. And ye on Friday night, minutes before she’s set to take the stage at Glastonbury’s Other Stage, a comparatively small crowd is waiting to see her. Where Blossoms, who played on the stage a few hours earlier, practically filled the field, Clark’s fans leave a gaping space behind them.
Still, Clark’s charisma is undeniable as she saunters into the centre of the stage after her band: clad in a custom version of a jumpsuit from the recent Adidas x Gucci collaboration, she is an imperious, magnetic presence. After a slightly soulless, funkified version of 2014’s Digital Witness, she finds her groove, running through a slick version of Down before launching right into Birth in Reverse. It’s always remarkable to see Clark shred and this show is no exception: my colleague Elle Hunt says Clark is one of the few performers who has ever made her want to learn guitar.
On her Masseduction tour, Clark often performed solo. Here she is backed by a seven-piece band, and at times this new formation offers transcendent variations on her catalogue. New York, a spare piano ballad on record, is turned into a rousing, full-band affair, and is all the better for it. Similarly the story of moral bankruptcy and emotional corruption Clark tells on Los Ageless hits harder when backed by a loud, emphatic live band. And towards the set’s end, when she launches into the devastating ballad Cheerleader, the new chorus of voices behind her evoke a new sense of pathos.
By the time Clark kicks into Fast Slow Disco, a Robyn-ified version of her song Slow Disco, it’s clear that she’s in crowd-pleasing mode. Despite the thin crowd she is in fine form, dancing with and embracing her band and strutting back and forth across stage. By the time she gets to Pay Your Way in Pain – the lead single from her latest album, Daddy’s Home, and the first portion of her set closer – it’s clear she’s fully in her element, mugging and twirling for the crowd. For us, it’s nothing but pleasure. Shaad D’Souza
John Peel stage
It is the unlikeliest of sounds. During the brassy, breezy refrain of Phoebe Bridgers’ song Kyoto, the crowd sings along as if it were Seven Nation Army or a football terrace anthem. The moment reflects the strange journey of the 27-year-old songwriter’s second album, Punisher. An intensely insular and hermetic record, it was released in June 2020 and became a gigantic lockdown hit, Bridgers’ songs about social anxiety and depression resonating with the pandemic mindset. Two years on, she is finally getting to tour the record in the UK – next week, she does four sold-out nights at London’s Brixton Academy – and meeting its massive faithful in person, first of all in Glastonbury’s John Peel tent.
While there’s a specific pleasure in the deeply personal experience of loving a record in this way, so is there in finally getting to share in it with strangers, to feel the difference in the music as it hits a room and thousands of ears. The stage set is subtly beautiful, with different illustrated backdrops for each song and small mountain formations lit up around Bridgers and her band, who are clad in skeleton outfits. By the end of Bridgers’ first song, Motion Sickness, the crowd is roaring “Phoebe! Phoebe!” Her voice is richer than the gorgeous silvery wisp on record, and although she is known for the dissonance between her sad songs and goofy persona, she evidently remains quite deeply connected to her lyrics, looking quite possessed by songs such as Punisher, with its lovely slumping arrangement and lightly fizzing drums.
Although it transpires there may be another reason for her preoccupation. Recently, in response to the leaked news that the US Supreme Court planned to overturn Roe v Wade, Bridgers shared that she had had an abortion on tour last year; a situation she detailed in a new interview with the Guardian’s Saturday magazine. Today, the news broke that the court had officially overturned federal constitutional protection of abortion rights. “This is my first time here,” Bridgers tells the crowd of her Glastonbury debut. “It’s super surreal. But in all honesty, I’ve been having the shittiest time. Are there any Americans here?” The crowd boos. “Who wants to say, ‘Fuck the supreme court’? One, two, three…” Everyone howls it back. “Fuck that shit. Fuck America and all these irrelevant old motherfuckers trying to tell us what to do with our fucking bodies. Fuck it.”
That communal feeling suddenly starts to feel fiercer, and resonates with a shift in the setlist towards songs in which Bridgers admits to her reliance on other people. “This one’s about taking stuff for granted,” she says before I See You, a love song as rousing as the best of early Arcade Fire. She holds her arms over her head in a pose of defeat and vulnerability at the start of Sidelines, a song about letting down your guard, which she introduces via a chat with her drummer and the song’s co-writer, Marshall Vore: “I think it’s about not trusting people who like you,” she says. He responds ironically: “It’s when someone criticises criticises you and you’re like, ‘Damn, this is a straight shooter.’” Then she dedicates it to her partner, actor Paul Mescal.
As lovely as the intentions are, the somewhat static song is a little bit tepid compared to the highs of the set, which are yet to come: Bridgers brings out Arlo Parks to sing on Graceland Too – which she introduces as “a love song – happy pride!” – and their wonderful harmonies elicit another fierce cheer. Parks sticks around, and before the Punisher closer The End Is Here, Bridgers returns to the day’s news. “It’s definitely not the darkest day in American history but it’s definitely up there, so fuck you, Supreme Court,” she says, before listing organisations – the Mariposa Fund, Lilith Fund, Planned Parenthood – for people to donate to if they’re “feeling hopeless”. The apocalyptic song has never felt so resonant: the crowd starts clapping along as soon as the drums double down, Bridgers goes ham on her guitar, her backdrop suddenly turns into burning flames, the mountain formations light up red and furious and Bridgers clings to Parks. If the end is coming, at least we’re going down together.
In the Guardian cabin, we’re currently being treated to a lilting and surprisingly pretty Spanish guitar rendition of Blue by Eiffel 65.
SPOTTED (by the Guardian’s Josh Halliday): Jarvis Cocker at Khruangbin in a green velvet blazer and a nice scarf.
Back to Billie Eilish, who is taking to the Pyramid at 10.15pm: I think we can safely expect her to follow Phoebe Bridgers’ lead and say something about the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade, given that when she played Austin City Limits last year she took aim at Texas legislators for their stringent abortion laws: “I’m sick and tired of old men. Shut the fuck up about our bodies.”
Expect a similarly forthright statement tonight – and what a huge platform to air it.
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