The announcement of Stormzy as headliner caught many off-guard – myself included. My immediate reaction after the surprise was genuinely “oh, cool!”. This stems from both an open mind when it comes to the headliners and the view that Glasto should be better leveraging its position in the market to push the boundaries and challenge assumptions as to what makes a headline act.
The 25-year-old South Londoner is bright, aware and astute, he knew how lucky he is to be there and is seeking to use it for good. He knows not many acts get to headline after only 1 album with or without the second hot on the heels of the show. He went straight to the top and met with Jay Z for advice on the show. An interaction used in a video to open the set (echoing Jay-Z’s own 2008 set) before launching into a ferociously energetic opening set of songs.
Wearing a Banksy designed stab vest, on staging designed by Coldplay’s guy, with fireworks and 50-foot pyrotechnics, Stormzy came out fighting. Sure enough, he had the field and most of the TV audience in the palm of his hand within moments. Musically he navigated deftly from the heavy grime beats, for which he is best known, to the more gospel/soul numbers, which differentiate him from acts like Boy Better Know and Dizzee Rascal.
It was a shame he felt it necessary to have guests as he easily carried the show on his own. Chris Martin joined for a tender version of Blinded By Your Grace (Part I) and later by Dave and Fredo to cover Dave’s Funky Friday. A notable moment in the show came when Stormzy took to the smaller stage near the crowd to list an almost endlessly the up and coming grime artists who he was up there for.
It was clear from opening video to breathless closing with Big for Your Boots, that Stormzy was doing it for his musical family and culture; for young black kids in their bedroom seeing this representation for the first time on the biggest stage in music; and for the underground scene and community often sidelined from the mainstream. This show was a flag in the ground: grime has arrived, and it isn’t going to be disappearing any time soon.
(Originally published on Instagram on 3 July 2019)