Almost definitely the biggest stage production of the weekend so far, Pharrell’s show kicks off like a lost scene from a tropical version of Guys and Dolls, with the man himself sporting a tight leather jacket, even tighter blue jeans, floral shirt and a teeny-tiny sailor hat. It’s a slick pop spectacle for sure, but the whole thing seems so rehearsed that there’s little room for any kind of danger – though playing the most controversial song of the past decade, ‘Blurred Lines’, in such a left leaning, right-on festival, can certainly be considered living on the edge. Yet he’s such a huge star – and it’s such a huge crowd – that he really doesn’t care about little things like political correctness.
In fact, the number of time he offers slightly sleazy shout-outs to the “English girls” soon becomes overwhelming. “The thing about when you come to England, you see the most beautiful girls,” he says, but you get the feeling he says the same thing every night, wherever in the world he is.
When his female backing dancers, The Baes, come on later, he offers his own skewed version of sexual equality. “Here are five girls,” he says, before editing himself, “…women! Who all have incredible minds that control incredible bodies.”
Of course, it’s hard to deny the heft of Pharrell’s tunes and he crams in his own solo material alongside collaborations, production jams and guest spots in endless medleys, like he’s showing off his CV to prospective employers who might be in the audience. During the NERD segment of the show, he welcomes a gang of men from the crowd on to dance during ‘Rock Star’, and then waves on some women during ‘Lapdance’. The men are then duly chucked off the stage and Pharrell saunters into the middle of the group while women grind up against him and frolik by his side. It’s more retro Butlins stage show than Glastonbury: cringey, cheesy but strangely popular.