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29 June 2024updated 01 Jul 2024 9:50am

Dua Lipa’s spectacular Glastonbury set

The pop star won the diverse festival crowd over by giving her usually light as air, candy floss pop songs new weight and edge.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

At last year’s Glastonbury, an audible groan ran through the crowd when it became clear that Elton John would not be bringing Dua Lipa on stage for their Rocket Man remix, “Cold Heart”. (When she posted a picture of herself enjoying a meal with friends during his set, tabloids ran outraged articles asking “What could be more important?!”) It was a sign of the British-Albanian singer’s popularity: you have ascended into a rare space in pop if your absence is noticeable while Elton John is on stage. 

Now, a year later, she is headlining the Friday night slot with a spectacular performance that demonstrates just how many taut, infectious hits the 28-year-old has released in a short career spanning just three albums. In her hour and 45 minute long set, she won the diverse festival crowd over by giving her usually light as air, candy floss pop songs new weight and edge, with courser textures: adding heavier drum lines, club remixes, leather outfits, dance breaks, and a generous helping of moody, fuzzy bass.

Amid dancers in leather vests, the sound of military marching drums and the voice of Peter Fonda in The Wild Angels declaring “We wanna get loaded” (famously sampled by Primal Scream), Lipa appeared on stage in a slinky studded black leather mini dress and matching thigh high boots. Her opening tracks, the Abba-inflected disco-pop song “Training Season”, from her new album Radical Optimism, and her tropical house floor-filler with Calvin Harris, “One Touch”, inspire instant singalong sessions from the crowd; both sound a little dirtier and messier than their cool, controlled radio edits, and Lipa performs them while being lifted into the air by her shirtless male dancers, stepping over one lying prostrate on the stage. These are the first of many energetic dance breaks to come: a pointed display of ability and commitment from a star who has been much-memed for some less passionate performances (sparking the viral phrase “Go girl, give us nothing”).

She is barely five songs in when she performs the ethereal, irresistible “Levitating”: a perfect pop song with multiple catchy choruses that sounds as buoyant as ever. Lipa treats the crowd to some TikTok-friendly choreography and the magic of glittery streams of fireworks shooting from the stage on cue at the point of her finger. It’s a stand-out moment that should end the set, but Lipa is confident enough to lead with it. 

Lipa has a reputation for coolness, or aloofness, in her performances. She is a poised, controlled figure on stage, even as she speaks to the crowd with emotion. “I’ve written this moment down, I’ve dreamt of it… When I wrote it down I was very specific: I said I wanted to headline Glastonbury on the Pyramid stage on the Friday night because I knew then I could party for the next two nights in the best place on earth,” she said. “And I know some of you won’t believe in manifestation… But one thing that’s undeniable is magic.”

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She disappears and reappears in a wide variety of nostalgic Noughties-inspired grungy outfits: a flouncy silver dress with a black lace bralette; red and black snakeskin hot pants with black leather gloves and a baby tee; a black glittery halter top; and a number of very, very chunky belts. She brings out one guest – Tame Imapala’s Kevin Parker, for their big song “The Less I Know The Better” – but barely needs to: the crowd just want more of her own hits. As the set progresses, the choreography becomes increasingly frenetic and sexy, with body rolls, rippling floor moves in silhouette, and even break dancing and vogueing sequences from her dance troupe. 

Some of the performance’s best choreography is given to her mega-hit “New Rules”, which receives a pulsing club treatment, with low grumbly bass; the euphoric “Hallucinate”; and “Don’t Start Now”, accompanied by crashing cymbals and confetti explosions. 

Her third-last song “Physical”, with its big-hair aerobics aesthetic, is a feverish dose of the Eighties. And she closes with her recent single “Houdini”, and more thrilling on-beat fireworks. It’s a slick but intense, impassioned and unexpected set from a pop artist with a point to prove, who earns her headline spot. 

[See also: Taylor Swift’s Eras tour conquers London]

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