“How can he headline Glastonbury?” Stormzy quotes much of the British public to JAY Z in what feels like a secret location, the camera titled at an awkward angle, almost as if it is not supposed to be there. This is how thought through Stormzy’s set was, was that camera angle a coincidence? Definitely not. “It is important for you to take that and say “okay how can I create a culture around this whole thing” because culture moves the world” JAY Z demands of his young counter part. You can see from the conversation, Stormzy is angry about why his talent and ability is being questioned by so many.
Stormzy’s performance is arguably the most important in Glastonbury history, representing a culture, movement and genre that is shunned off by much of the world. Unlike JAY Z and Kanye West before him, Stormzy does not have the depth of musical catalogue to fall back on, headlining the Pyramid Stage at the biggest festival in the world off the back of one album.
However, Stormzy was ready, he had been feeding off the hate and doubters ever since his announcement, and he was ready to go to war, and the thousands in attendance were ready to run in with him.
He emerges out of the back, walking slowly, soaking up the atmosphere before flying into ‘Know Me From’, throughout the song he demands more energy from the crowd and they duly deliver, with a sea of people jumping up and down. Then, as we approach the end of the song, he takes a moment, “Yo Glasto, its only the f*cking beginning”, as if to say to all the doubters and haters, “you thought I was going to be intimidated by you ‘real music fans’?”.
Then without break, ‘Cold’ drops from nowhere to rapturous cheers. Stormzy looks out, arrogance and self assured belief oozing out of him, a smirk appearing on his face, bemused at the reaction of something he finds so simple, before telling “Boris Johnson to suck his mum”, a phrase the next potential Prime Minister has probably been googling to understand.
Next is ‘First Things Firsts’ the track opens with a political statement sampled from David Lammy and each word of the song is delivered with antipathy and venom.
For a second, it feels like Stormzy will take a rest, a moment to soak in the love and a moment for those at home to admit their wrongs, change their opinions and enjoy the rest of the show. How mistaken could they be, Stormzy jumps into an acapella freestyle before bursting and flowing into ‘One Take Freestyle’ effortlessly. He wants to punish those who did not believe for a little while longer.
Next is ‘Mr. Skeng’ and it is getting silly, any doubters in the crowd are suddenly vanquished, everyone is there for him and those haters watching at home, are taking a beating unlike any other. It is done, five songs in, Stormzy has demanded his respect and undoubtedly earned it.
He takes a small break, Rayleigh Ritchie gets into ‘Don’t Cry For Me’ with two ballet dancers performing, as a political statement regarding racism in the ballet world types out in the background.
The man of the moment finally returns in what might as well be the white towels of his prior doubters and haters and performs “Weed and Cush”. Finally it is time for the non-believers to repent, right their wrongs and have a good time.
The rest of the show cruises by, with no let up. Stormzy’s energy and emotion is matched by the crowd’s with both not wanting to let the other down due to the sheer significance of the moment.
The crowd already know, word for word, his latest tunes ‘Vossi Bop’ and ‘Crown’, they marvel at being taken to church with ‘Blinded By Your Grace pt. 1’ and ‘Ultralight Beam’ and dance with no care in the world to ‘Shape Of You’ and ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’.
‘Big For Your Boots’ brings a close to the show, with Stormzy demanding one last push of energy from the crowd. “My name’s been Stormzy, this has been hashtag Merky, south London in the building, your f*ckin’ headliner” before he drops the mic, and the statement was emphatic, ‘don’t ever doubt me again’.
As the years go by, people will talk about the cultural impact of this moment, how a young black man from London, with only one album, took to the Pyramid Stage in a Union Jack stab proof vest designed by Banksy, and performed one of the most iconic sets of all time.
And it will be seriously f*cking cool to say I was there.