Pop, politics and Pyramid Stage record-breakers come to the fore at Glastonbury 2024

Glastonbury 2024 drew to a close on Sunday night, after a packed weekend of live performances and debates ahead of this week’s general election.

The annual festival at Worthy Farm seemed to end on a high note despite the annual grumbles, as organiser Emily Eavis defended what many deemed to be an underwhelming lineup.

Some argued that booking Coldplay, returning to headline for a record-breaking fifth time, was a cop-out. Others scratched their heads over SZA, arguably a much bigger star in her native US than here in the UK. Dua Lipa’s latest album, meanwhile, had failed to produce the kind of megawatt hit that promised to get the Pyramid Stage crowd energised.

The Independent’s critics disagreed with that consensus. Covering the 28-year-old Lipa’s set, Jazz Monroe praised the pop singer for her moments of “cheeky theatricality” and a celebration of alternative culture that saw her bring out a “comically low-key guest”, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, who produced her latest record Radical Optimism.

Mark Beaumont gave Coldplay’s Saturday night show five stars, moved by a surprise appearance by Back to the Future star Michael J Fox during a poignant rendition of “Fix You”, as well as guest performances from Laura Mvula and rapper Little Simz.

Some sets were blighted by sound issues. Glastonbury did a disservice to two of its veteran performers, Shania Twain and Cyndi Lauper, as both artists appeared to be affected by technical difficulties during their own performances on the Pyramid Stage.

Shania Twain performing on the Pyramid Stage (PA Wire)
Shania Twain performing on the Pyramid Stage (PA Wire)

In the Legends Slot on Sunday, country-pop star Twain was seen fiddling with her mic box and in-ears, as she gestured repeatedly to the sound crew. However, this was resolved when she was practically drowned out by the euphoric singalong to “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” as the closing song in her set.

Critics also complained that Glastonbury organisers had failed to spot the true crowd-pleasers on its lineup, with pop-punk queen Avril Lavigne and Nineties trio Sugababes drawing huge numbers on the smaller stages. “This is a brilliant show, but Glastonbury must learn lessons from a year that has vastly underestimated the appeal of pop nostalgia, and overestimated the interest in many performing over at the Pyramid,” Adam White wrote of Lavigne’s slot.

Avril Lavigne kicks up a storm on the Other Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2024 (Getty Images)
Avril Lavigne kicks up a storm on the Other Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2024 (Getty Images)

The famously left-leaning festival didn’t shy away from politics over its five days. Despite MPs being forced to pull out ahead of the general election on 4 July, stars engaged in debates about everything from the climate crisis to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Musicians were more succinct: rock band Idles raised eyebrows as they led their audience in chants of “F*** the King” while a small boat with models depicting young refugees – later revealed to be the work of enigmatic street artist Banksy – was floated over the crowd. Damon Albarn appeared to swipe at both Joe Biden and Donald Trump after their dismal CNN performance, as well as calling on his audience to express their support for Palestine.

A Banksy work appeared in the crowd during IDLES’s Glastonbury 2024 set (X/Twitter/ @MrCarb1)
A Banksy work appeared in the crowd during IDLES’s Glastonbury 2024 set (X/Twitter/ @MrCarb1)

On Sunday, under grey skies, One Direction star Louis Tomlinson became the festival’s unlikely hero, as he brought a TV to the fields so football fans could tune into England’s Euro 2024 game against Slovakia. “You are the god of this festival,” an enthusiastic BBC reporter told him.

The festival came to a close as US R&B star SZA took to the Pyramid Stage, performing to an unusually sparse audience for a headliner, as she was faced with a number of other major sets on other stages around Worthy Farm. The Grammy winner seemed undeterred, putting on a dazzling show and only pausing to help rescue fans who needed help in the crowd.

“Though not yet a household name in the UK, she is the perfect conduit for our heightened empathy,” critic Jazz Monroe wrote in his review. “Too cerebral to raise the Pyramid roof but potent enough to eke out our last reserves of euphoria.”