With just 24 hours notice, Stormzy replaced ASAP Rocky as the headliner of Open’er – Poland’s blockbuster four-day festival – on Thursday (July 4) after Harlem’s pretty-boy rapper was arrested in Sweden on suspicion of assault.
But, attracting the biggest crowd of the Orange Main Stage so far, and with hysterical chants of ‘STORMZY! STORMZY!’, you would never have guessed the man-of-the-moment wasn’t who everyone was originally here to see.
Earlier in the day, the British invasion starts with The 1975, who bring a sizeable audience of fans. One guy brandishes a banner that reads: ‘ZLA SUKA’ (which translates as ‘BAD BITCH’), and cries during ‘Somebody Else’.
Another wields a sign emblazoned with ‘HEY MATTY, DO YOU WANT A CIGARETTE?’ – and cheers when Matty Healy, who’s such a born frontman, his mother’s ultrasound probably showed him jazz-handing in the womb, ceremoniously lights up a fag, as he dons his bunny-ear hat and rucksack for ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You)’.
Just as The 1975’s zeitgeist-bottling third album – ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships‘ – seems to explain what it’s like to be alive at this precise moment in time, onstage Healy grapples with the complexities of being a modern pop star.
He continually breaks the fourth wall like the Fleabag of Pop. Introducing the Instagram-baiting ‘Love Me’, he says: “This song is about being a rock star and how hard it is being a rock star,” each syllable dripping with sarcasm.
“I don’t even know what a rock star is anymore to be honest and that’s kind of up for debate in this song. Stormzy is coming. He’s definitely a rock star. The modern time tells you what a rock star is. Anybody who’s doing the Mick Jagger thing,” he continues, swivelling his hips to horny approval, “is pretending a bit. So I don’t know how seriously to take myself when I’m doing all of this shit. I don’t know if it’s real. I don’t know if I mean it.”
“Matty Healy continually breaks the fourth wall, like the Fleabag of Pop”
Similarly, when a guy lustily yells ‘I love you!’ at Healy, he stops and says: “It’s a good point actually saying that you like me,” like he’s responding to a point-of-order in the House of Commons. “What we need to do is obviously just love everyone irrespective or their gender or their sexuality or their race.”
As whoops and cheers erupt and a rainbow flag is hoisted aloft in the front row, he realises he might sound like he’s coming down with a bad case of the Bono. “Give it up for me! Yay! Give it up for me for saying something quite obvious!”
“It’s obvious that you have to do that but I’m making the point of if you don’t agree with that on a compassionate level, you’re going to have to do that on a practical one otherwise we’ll all die in a fire because climate-wise, the climate doesn’t give a fuck about your gender or race or anything. It doesn’t care! And if we’re still arguing about all this shit in three years, we’re literally a retarded society. Practically, just be nice so we don’t all fucking die.”
I mean, it beats the usual pop star response of ‘Thank you!’
If we are all going to “fucking die”, then The 1975 are throwing one hell of an end-of-days party. A tried-and-tested festival set sees Healy mimic the dance-steps of his refreshingly non-sexualised dancers, the Jaiy twins, through a set that starts with ‘Give Yourself a Try’ and the Drake-like ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’, and takes in the lurid sax-assisted pop of ‘She’s American’, dreamy electro ballad ‘A Change of Heart’ and the millennial ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ of ‘Love It If We Made It’, before peaking with a blistering version of ‘The Sound’, accompanied by a screen showing negative quotes about them (‘Unconvincing emo lyrics’, ‘Punch-your-TV obnoxious’, ‘Pompous arena synth pop’). Slag him off all you want gammon-dads – he’ll wear the vitriol as a crest.
On the main stage, The Strokes are celebrating Independence Day, looking every inch the revived band-of-brothers, trading fraternal in-jokes. Opening with a propulsive ‘Heart In A Cage’, they blitz their way through a lean, tight set that takes in the likes of ‘Hard To Explain’ and ‘New York City Cops’. Tracks from their game-changing debut ‘Is This It’ – which turns 18 this year – have lost none of their lustre. “Sweet old Gdańsk!,” says Julian Casablancas, confusing the name of the city he’s in, (it’s actually Gdynia) despite having also played here the night before with The Voidz. “Let’s Gdańsk!”, he puns as they launch into ‘Meet Me In The Bathroom’.
Halfway through, he realises: “The problem is we’ve been making Gdańsk jokes all day. Are we human or are we Gdańsker? We don’t have any Gdynia jokes, so we’ll keep things moving along.” He then mic-drops with: Didn’t think you had it Gdynia! (oh no he Gdydin’t!). His comedy continues: “What’s up Poland? You guys like to fucking parrrrrttttyyy?,” he asks before ‘Reptilia’ (still as sharp as his cheekbones), imitating cheesy tried-and-tested banter. “You guys like sarcasssssmmm? I know you like to party Fab [Moretti, drummer]. And by party, I mean sit quietly with a friend and talk. Play chess.” A final encore sprint of ‘Is This It’, ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Last Nite’ is effortlessly transcendent.
After his rapturously received Glastonbury headline set – where he became the first UK rapper to top the Worthy Farm bill – Stormzy has the wind in his sails and comes on to a hero’s welcome. Straight out of the traps with a kinetic ‘First Things First’, the energy crew as mosh-pits open up and the rainy field is transformed into a Jacuzzi of flailing limbs.
“I got the call to come and do this festival 24 hours ago,” he explains. “My manager phoned me and said: ‘Stormz, Poland’. And I said: ‘Fucking hell yeah!’. Short notice but we’re going to make this a very legendary night!” He makes good on that pledge: over minimal production, he lets the force of his talent shine. When things get too frenzied, he calms things down with weed-anthem ‘Cigarettes and Cush’, greeted by a forest of twinkling iPhone lights, and his party-starting cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’ (“As much as we’re going to moshpit and fuck the place up, we’re also going to sing our hearts out and dance!”, he proclaims).
As the chants of ‘STORMZY!’ become more shrill, and a ‘Know Me From’, ‘Big For Your Boots’ and ‘Shut Up’ have the field bouncing like bad cheques, he seems genuinely moved. “This is giving me goosebumps,” he beams at the reaction.
On the basis of tonight, ticket buyers for Wireless – where ASAP was due to headline on Sunday – would be secretly hoping that he’s detained for longer by Swedish authorities.