Last year, Dolly Parton raised the annual Sunday afternoon ‘legends’ slot’ into a new league, drawing one of the biggest crowds in Glastonbury history for a trawl through the hits and a slightly bizarre ditty about mud. The buzz around last year’s set seems to have spilled over into 2015 and, as a beaming Lionel Richie strolls on stage at 4pm, the field is busier than for any other act on the bill so far. In a line up that stretches from Kanye West to Motorhead to Florence, Lionel is its cheesy, charming and often inadvertently hilarious king.
He opens with ‘Running With The Night’, before telling the crowd he’s brought “the California sunshine” as grey clouds float over the sky. The rest of the set is similarly – but pleasantly – quirky. When the singer – immortalized elsewhere on the site at Shangri La’s ‘Shrinel Richie’ bar – is greeted by a gargantuan sing-along to ‘Three Times A Lady’, he makes out it’s comes as a surprise, reacting like he’s in a Christmas panto. When he brings out ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’, Lionel busts a set of moves that have the aura of a joyful, unselfconscious toddler who hasn’t quite mastered control of his limbs. After the track, he swigs a cranberry drink that we’re led to believe is particularly boozy and then necks the rest in one as the whole field chants for him to down it. It all combines to the kind of feel-good, light-hearted fun that keeps the good vibes rolling despite a general fug of Sunday exhaustion.
There are a few lags in the set – ‘Lady (You Bring Me Up)’ and ‘My Destiny’ get everyone swaying and not much more – but, as a whole, Lionel knows that his job is to bring the crowd-pleasers. Going into the climax, we get ‘Hello’, ‘All Night Long’ and ‘We Are The World’ – the charity single he co-write with Michael Jackson. Each is sung back word for word and, even beneath his ever-professional entertainer polish, Lionel’s overwhelmed cries of “what the hell is going on?” seem genuine. Cheesy it may be, but his set will be one of Glastonbury 2015’s biggest moments.