Seemingly, Lana Del Rey has turned a blind eye to Glastonbury’s ‘do not pack’ list. Clenching a disposable vape in her hand – the devices are banned across the site due to their single-use nature – the LA-based artist is psyching herself up to break into rousing ballad ‘Bartender’, anxiously tapping her acrylic nails against the grand piano behind her. As a sumptuous arrangement swells into life, she attempts to sneakily slot the vape pen into her mic stand, grinning all the while. Here stands an artist indulging her impish side, even if at a slight remove.
Given her outsized impact on modern pop, the gravity of Del Rey’s appearance on The Other Stage tonight feels palpable. Her UK shows over the past decade have been painfully rare: before her 2019 performance at Latitude Festival, she has sporadically played one-off headline gigs at Liverpool Arena and London’s O2 Academy Brixton, and last appeared at Glastonbury in 2014. A short run of arena dates booked for February 2020 were cancelled at the last minute due to illness – only for Del Rey to be spotted at Disneyland California the next day, of course. And even just a few months ago, the idea of Del Rey returning to Worthy Farm seemed like it was in limbo, after she revealed in an interview that she had repeatedly turned down offers for the past three years.
With the lofty place she occupies in the minds of her adoring, fiercely committed fanbase, this performance might have been a stately affair – but Del Rey beams as she takes the stage, 30 minutes late, before breathlessly launching into the breakdown of recent single ‘A&W’. She admits to nerves throughout, but a minute into ‘Blue Jeans’ and she’s away, skipping around barefoot and counting in measures as she dances, having discarded a pair of diamanté-encrusted platform sandals. Rather than a slick routine, this is exactly what people want at this precise moment in Del Rey’s history: a live show that’s deliberately playful and patchy, and deviates from the enigmatic quality of her public persona.
There are occasionally moments tonight (June 24) where Del Rey seems to be grasping for something that’s not quite there. Backed by a troupe who brush her hair and hold her as she sings, the mid-section is weighted towards extended, ambling versions of ‘Arcadia’ and ‘White Mustang’; in contrast, a confident rendition of early hit ‘Ride’ is delivered before a montage of Del Rey’s music videos. It’s here where the set really picks up momentum – Del Rey’s distinctive voice may be quiet, but it hasn’t lost its sublime power.
“I’m so fucking late they may cut my set,” she exclaims, quickly approaching her midnight stage curfew. “I’m sorry, my hair takes so long. If they cut the power, let’s keep going!” Well, not quite. Del Rey’s mic and video screens are suddenly switched off, and she falls to her knees and removes her in-ears. Even for Glastonbury standards, this feels surreal: watching a revered, generational artist frantically pace along the barrier in order to carry on singing with her fans, while a team of roadies pack up her entire stage set. It makes for an aptly communal – if painfully sad – 45 minutes of pure, messy, unfiltered melodrama.
Lana Del Rey played:
‘Young & Beautiful’
‘Pretty When You Cry’
‘Born To Die’
‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’