Neneh Cherry at Glastonbury: a restless hitmaker who refuses to rely on old glories

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After a few technical and pacing issues initially, Neneh Cherry's Glastonbury set ends with an aplomb

Neneh Cherry’s set at Glastonbury’s West Holts stage is something of a mixed bag – but one which nonetheless reflects her status as a largely unsung icon.

Entering to rapturous applause from the modest crowd at the front of the stage, the Swedish-born, London-based artist kicks off her set with the slow and soulful ’80s hit ‘Manchild’, flying into the rap verse with verve and enthusiasm.

After a crowd-pleasing start, her set is slow to build, and has an early lull that threatens to lose a dawdling crowd to the late afternoon sun. Some hits draw them back, particularly ‘Seven Seconds’, the 1996 hit that took the nascent trip hop scene to the charts, and which packs a strong message of tolerance and equality. But this is no exercise in nostalgia; the modern-day Cherry deals in pulsating rhythms and a forward looking fusion of funk, jass, hip hop and soul, often with a heavy dose of politics.

 

 

 

“Blessed is those who struggle / depression is worse than the grave / better to die for a noble cause / than to live and die a slave,” she recites repeatedly, allowing the crowd to absorb her words.

At this point, her set picks up and her cult following sing along to every word while those being introduced to her music stand around transfixed. Neneh Cherry is a refresher, a breather in a day of high-octane energy, a balm for the weary and the tired.

Though she started off on an unsure footing, Cherry’s vocals and confidence within herself as a seasoned performer allowed her to retain a stranglehold of the crowd. She ends the set by bringing out the eight-piece Mangrove steel band for the 2018 track ‘Natural Skin Deep’, then concludes on 1988 smash ‘Buffalo Stance’, given a thoroughly modern makeover, but still recognisable enough for a crowd sing-along.