Alternate scene, 1 p.m.
Rising Nigerian singer Tems is serious: until a few days ago it was unclear if she would be able to perform at Glasto all. “It’s special that I can do this because for the past two weeks I’ve had vocal issues,” she told the large crowd, having already had to cancel a string of live dates. But now, she says, “I’m back.” No backing tracks here – she brings with her a full, stylish live band, who packs a punch and plumps up her stories of heartbreak and empowerment, and performs in a skin-tight red outfit and blush matching red eyeshadow. You wouldn’t know she’d had setbacks – her voice is sublime and powerful, low in register but able to float in falsetto, as she rips through her emotional pop songs.
Tems is one of many artists – but a rare woman – who is big in her home country and now gaining worldwide recognition, via co-signatures of Justin Bieber, Adele and Drake, as the genre umbrella known as Afrobeats continues to dominate. You can see why Adele is a fan: Tems’ delivery also comes from the gut, her strong but polished style. Unlike many of her male peers (Davido, WizKid – sorry guys), she can really sing. And while it could be grouped with Afrobeats, its style is much broader, drawing on jazz, rock and even a bit of gospel amid the syncopated rhythm and trills of highlife guitars.
Honestly, I half expected shimmering intimacy in the bedroom, but from a few minutes it’s clear that while Tems has become famous for her cruelty of the heart on the sleeve, she can also bring the party. The suns go down, the bums twirl and the geezers in the crowd – one of the most diverse at the festival so far – make their most fluid moves. Screaming fans know every word of her groundbreaking track with WizKid, Essence, which she follows up with her own song in an equally classy style, Crazy Tings, where the guitarist comes to the front to shred. She is an elegant waist-high breath of fresh air and surely a huge star in the making. Rihanna better watch her throne.
Legends of the 90s unite!
All weekend we’ve been asking festival-goers to tell us where in Glastonbury they’d take Paul McCartney if they had the chance (he’s pretty elusive, it turns out!). Here are the superfans of Macca, Lorraine, Ruth and Jo:
Ruth: It would have to be something suitable for a gentleman!
Lorraine: I’d take her out for a nice cream tea, so I could tell her about the early days – I’d love that! I would even take it for two cream teas, that would make my day.
John Peel, 2:30 p.m.
The rise of Black Midi has been nothing short of staggering: here’s a band that emerged from playing tiny, seedy venues in Brixton, whose ungodly noise flies its bizarre flag high, whose free-form songs follow their own set bananas with no rules, always with a propensity to sting in a prog-metal breakdown, and who, with the exception of their masked brass player, dress like accountants during their lunch break.
And yet the quintet are nominated for Mercury, three albums (the new one, Hellfire, will be released next month) and will perform to their biggest audience yet on West Holts this afternoon. The weirdos won. They’ve gone since 2017 from trio to five-man skronk-off, a sound rooted in free jazz but changing genres faster than you’d say”psalmody(the sing-speak under-loved by bands like Dry Cleaning and Gen-Z vocalist Mark R Smith of Noon, Geordie Greep).
Even if you don’t understand the sonic maelstrom of Black Midi, funk-metal one minute, country-rock honky-tonk the next; even if it’s like looking at the fridge’s alphabet upside down and upside down, their musicality is so alarming that it transcends bizarre inaccessibility – you just have to buckle up and go where it takes you. And it’ll always get you somewhere, even if it’s for another beer.
Their music may at first seem like it could fall apart, but it’s densely orchestrated and even when they’re knowingly bolshy, they’re not out of sync. Still, you get the sense that tempers are fried across the pitch: a track with a deranged brass fantasy is so searing it elicits “farking hell” from nearby dads. You have to give it to them: they have totally created their own way.
The closest to what you might call songs seems to be their new material. There’s one where bassist Cameron Picton takes center stage, acoustic guitar in hand, to sing a frenzied country number that sounds a bit like their rockers’ Maccabees. Or at the end when the infinitely charismatic Greep (guitarist), although he never takes off his sunglasses, opts for a real 70s Elvis-y belter on another new track, The Defence. They can do it, you see – they’re just better than that. “This is the kind of music I expect to hear when I walk through the gates of hell,” whispers one viewer to another. And that’s exactly what Black Midi wants.
British Breakout rapper AJ Tracey hits the Pyramid, backed by a very chunky-sounding live band.
Another scene, 2 p.m.
Walking to the other stage in a stunning glowing neon costume with CLIT ROCK on the back, wearing a child’s black inflatable spiked headpiece and elaborate emerald green Disney eye makeup, Skunk Anansie’s legendary frontwoman Skin resurrects a Saturday afternoon crowd weary with his presence. After opening with Stoosh’s furious first track, Yes It’s Fucking Political, by the second song, she has already broken through the barrier and entered the crowd. It’s a much more welcome throwback to the 90s than the regrettable fluffy bucket hats that are now everywhere again.
We’re looking at veteran artists here, who headlined the Pyramid in 1999, but they don’t look tired. “We love writing brand new songs, otherwise we’d just be a 90s band traveling the planet,” Skin jokes, before launching into their new track Can’t Take You Anywhere. “In this new world order, we have people that we love who have views that are opposed to us, but at the same time, you have to get over it, keep your views and love them anyway,” Skin believes. before specifying: “If they ‘ With regard to the anti-abortion, on the other hand, they can be done fout.
These are songs with huge riffs and huge emotions, and Skin can still seemingly carry them all effortlessly with his powerful, soaring vocals. The band doesn’t falter once, and while it’s Weak which, predictably, has the crowd singing enthusiastically as Skin holds his mic aloft, this set doesn’t lean too much. on past successes. They’re a band that have taken their rightful place in British rock history, but they still have something to say, and an inimitable voice to say it. And again: this OUTFIT. Candidate for the best obscene of the festival, that’s for sure.
Self Esteem becomes the latest artist to talk about Roe v Wade:
“It’s a song called Three Four Five, for our sisters in America… damn it! ” she says.
Laura Snapes reports that Self Esteem has just dedicated a song to renowned artist and gig-goer Big Jeff Johns from Bristol, who was recently hospitalized following a fire. “I want to see you back in the crowd soon,” she said.
Learn more about Jeff here:
I just flipped through Self-Esteem on the iPlayer and can confirm that the outfit is really something. What a performance too: she just received a huge ovation from the audience – after a thrilling performance of How Can I Help You – and it wasn’t until the middle of the set!
Shaad D’Souza is on the park stage where rapper Sampa the Great performs and history is made. “I’m standing on this stage with the first Zambian band to perform at Coachella,” she says. “The first Zambian band to perform at the Sydney Opera House…and the first Zambian band to perform at Glastonbury! »