Holly Humberstone made her first major UK festival appearance just over 11 months ago at Hertfordshire’s Standon Calling. It was a promising performance that provided the Grantham singer-songwriter with an overdue opportunity to air material from her immaculate 2020 EP, ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’, and lay a trail of tantalising evidence that would go on to prove that Humberstone was a talent deserving of the early hype – but also left the impression that we had so much more to hear from her.
In the near-year that’s followed, Humberstone’s star has duly risen. The pace has been nothing short of meteoric, too: after she won the BRITs Rising Star award in February (previous winners include Adele and Florence + The Machine), she scooped an NME Award a month later and has since hit the road with both Olivia Rodrigo and Girl In Red. With her debut album now in progress, the 22-year-old is still ready to reach for the highest stars – and this afternoon’s show at the John Peel Stage (June 25) proves that all of this groundwork to get to Glastonbury has paid off.
Humberstone seems genuinely delighted when admirers lining the front row raise ‘We love you Holly’ banners the second she walks on stage, yet the most meaningful fan endorsement is a tent full of people gustily singing along to each big chorus. She loops her voice into a choir of beautiful, delicate sighs on opener ‘Vanilla’, before she suddenly stops multiple times – “I’m so nervous, Glastonbury!” – and takes a deep breath. The audience cheers in support.
This endearing humility continues throughout a breezy 45 minutes in which Humberstone packs in her biggest songs to date. She headbangs along to the gentle grunge of ‘Sleep Tight’, and the synth-driven title track of Humberstone’s latest project – last year’s ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’ EP – sounds richer than on record, while an intricate piano part underpins ‘Drop Dead’.
The energy transferred between Humberstone and her crowd eventually proves transformative. The anxiety has clearly melted away by the time we reach ‘Scarlett’, her voice carrying on sweetly over a mighty chorus while the eponymous muse of the song – and Humberstone’s best friend – offers a reassuring nod from the side of stage.
It’s the arrestingly beautiful ‘Deep End’, however, that provides the most impactful moment. “Throw me in the deep end,” she pointedly sings, “I’m ready now to swim.” Mid-gig butterflies banished, it’s a fitting and commanding proclamation from an artist who is clearly ready to go on to experience even bigger and better things.
Holly Humberstone played:
‘Please Don’t Leave Just Yet’
‘London Is Lonely’
‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’
‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’
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