“Look, stop all the pain… how do you stop all the pain, huh?” he asks the crowd. It’s a mirrored introduction to his recent Number One album, ‘Psychodrama’. “And to my fans, the reason I could get to this… you’re my drug, the instrumental, my therapist,” he continues, a capella. Opening with an admission of his own mental health issues while delving deep into his emotional vulnerability, Dave takes the stage at Glastonbury to speak the truth. Rather than just run through his gamut of party anthems — which he instead saves for the end of the set — he brings the crowd into exactly how he’s been feeling.
With a dynamic and energetic performance throughout, Dave goes through a deep selection of his tunes. Rapping ‘100M’s’ after the laid-back introspection of ‘Streatham’, he then delves into his oeuvre for the 2017 single ‘Tequila’, before cutting the music to address the crowd. It’s the first of many monologues this evening, but each one of them serves a specific purpose. Praising Glastonbury in one speech (“The people that come to Glastonbury are here for the music”) while addressing the deeper meanings behind ‘Psychodrama’ in another (“It’s about my mental health and emotions”), Dave’s speeches end up being equally as important as his music itself.
There’s an urgent message that courses through the veins of the opening half of his set. “Too many yutes are dying / and I’m sick of it,” he pronounces exasperatedly at the end of ‘Hangman’, in which he seemingly raps to a younger version of himself. Powerful visuals of barbershops (and Dave getting haircuts in them) and old family photos grace the background as he allows his words to carry the weight required to arrest the attention of thousands of people. Taking the time to acknowledge where he is, Dave launches into a powerful freestyle which ends with the lines “Disappointed the most the people I wanted to please”. Preaching to the crowd about how powerful each one of them is, he decides he wants to share a very real moment with one of them.
And this is where the set flips on its head.
He selects Alex, a young lad wearing a Thiago Silva-printed PSG football shirt in honour of Dave and AJ Tracey’s party anthem ‘Thiago Silva’. Alex, initially unable to comprehend where he is and what he’s doing, seems incapable of matching Dave’s requests of whether he can rap the lines. Then the beat kicks in and Alex starts spitting bars so quick, Dave is left speechless. Matching Dave word-for-word, Alex starts going faster than the south London rapper and is cheered on by a crowd who are going absolutely mental.
Alex you absolute legend ?
— BBC Radio 1Xtra (@1Xtra) June 30, 2019
The DJ reloads the tune part in appreciation of Alex’s brilliant first effort, and part so that Dave can give him a bit of a constructive pep talk. The next time they do it right, allowing Dave to control the pace while highlighting Alex’s evident abilities as a rapper. The entire crowd starts chanting Alex’s name while pyrotechnics go off, and this unlikely but brilliant onstage collaboration comes to a close.
With the sun having firmly disappeared over the horizon, the infectious beat for ‘Location’ kicks in and Nigerian pop sensation Burna Boy’s guttural voice booms out across Worthy Farm. Dave then finishes his defining set with his and Fredo’s Number One single ‘Funky Friday’, and of course Fredo joins him on stage to complete the evening.
Dave went about his Glastonbury performance with seemingly effortless ease. It was as if he seemed unfazed of playing on his biggest stage yet, which added to the recognition that this was one of the more memorable major sets of the weekend.