A powerful, politically-charged, historic performance.
Just three songs into his set at Glasonbury 2019, and Stormzy had already claimed that it was the greatest night of his entire life – and it’s not hard to see why. The set was nothing less than legendary, and made history as he became the first black British solo artist to headline the festival.
To some, the decision to have him headline was shocking. With an artist so young and with such a short discography at the time, he may have seemed under-prepared to fill the giant Pyramid stage compared to previous headliners. But Stormzy defied all expectations, and delivered an incredible performance that wowed audiences both watching at home and in the crowd.
This was clearly a moment Stormzy and his team had been planning for a while, as the production was incredible. The stage was taken over by a tall scaffold structure, on which DJs, singers, and dancers performed on. Pyrotechnics and fireworks were used throughout the show, not just saved for the end, showing right from the beginning that this was to be an explosive performance. The lighting was beautiful and well chosen, as dramatic spotlights were used on tracks like ‘Crown’ and ‘Blinded By Your Grace, Pt. 2’ in order to work around the performers and emphasize emotions.
But his performance was not only enjoyable to watch; it was also an important moment in Britain’s cultural history. Stormzy made sure to celebrate black British culture during the show, as well as bring attention to Britain’s institutionalized racism. Before ‘First Things First’, a portion of Labour MP David Lammy’s speech on the disproportionate number of black men in the criminal justice system was played, and many noted the stab-proof vest that Stormzy wore which was designed by Banksy. The performance was politically charged in a way that you could not ignore.
Stormzy made sure to recognise those who had helped British grime music to get where it was today, too, shouting out artists like Wiley, Skepta, Chip, and Giggs to name a few. He then went on to mention those who were rising up with him, like AJ Tracey, J Hus, Little Simz, and Hardy Caprio, as well as bringing out Dave and Fredo to perform their number one hit ‘Funky Friday’ – which, he reminded people, was the “first pure British rap song to go number one in the UK”.
Overall, the show was powerful and energetic, and showcased Stormzy’s talents as a musician and a performer. It was clear from his energy and gratitude that it meant a lot to him to be given a platform such as this, to celebrate his talent and the music that he loves. His performance highlighted the best of British grime, and put it in the spotlight for the whole nation to see.
You can watch Stormzy’s performance of ‘Vossi Bop’ at Glastonbury 2019 here: