Primavera Sound Barcelona 2022 review: logistical gaffes can’t dampen the spirit

Parc del Fòrum, June 9 - 12: confusion and miscommunication reigns, but with a line-up this stellar (Megan Thee Stallion! The Strokes), the music wins out

We’ve been waiting for Barcelona’s buzziest festival to return since July 2019: COVID and cancellations mean that the 2022 edition, split across two successive weekends, welcomes back thousands of fans both old and new, alongside artists hungry to perform. In fact, it feels at times as though there are almost too many world-class acts with two years’ worth of energy to give the crowds.

On weekend two, Interpol command the headline stage with a robust set and pretty much perfect Spanish as they chat between the hits (‘Narc’ is a highlight) as the band basks in a simple, smoky staging while the sun sets over the first evening. It’s then time for Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz to inject some colour into the night with a genre-splicing, head-turning set: ‘19-2000’ gets a sea of thousands of hands in the air and Mos Def brings the house down with ‘Stylo’, before Hypnotic Brass Ensemble impress with their second-ever live performance of ‘Broken’ and Albarn dedicates the playful ‘Pirate Jet’ to everyone’s worst nightmare to get to and from this festival: easyJet.

Well-oiled pop super-machine Dua Lipa then takes centre stage as the singer bursts onto the scene in a haze of purple glitter with the enormous ‘Physical’, setting the tone for a show defined by the best Strictly Come Dancing-esque choreography and plenty of singalongs – despite songs from 2020 album ‘Future Nostalgia’ featuring most heavily, it’s 2017’s ‘Be The One’ that captures the hearts of the crowd.

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But the champion of the first day – and the whole festival – is undoubtedly the final headliner, as Tyler, The Creator bounds onto utopian hills of grass and trees on a breathtaking set inspired by the constant evolution of nature. His playful side sees him frolic through the apple-green trees for cuts from his most recent album ‘Call Me If You Get Lost’ including the flirty ‘WUSYANAME’, before moving into atmospheric romance in shades of pink for ‘See You Again’ and embracing his horrorcore origins with crackling thunderstorms for ‘Tamale’ and later ‘IFHY’. But it’s the double bill of ‘I THINK’ into ‘EARFQUAKE’ that cement Tyler’s status as a bonafide genius – peerless crowdpleaser and one of the most charismatic performers of a generation.

The next day, Lorde reminds us just how precious these moments can be, with a blissed-out headline set as the sun goes down over her “favourite country to play in”. It’s finally time for last year’s ‘Solar Power’ to be played in its natural habitat, the New Zealand singer more confident and grateful than ever as she and her David Byrne-style band run through album cuts including ‘Mood Ring’ and ‘Secrets From A Girl Who’s Seen It All’, before debuting a fitting cover of Banarama’s ‘Cruel Summer’. But the most beloved songs the pop star has been playing for a decade now hit the hardest: the crowd erupts for ‘Ribs’ and screams until there was nothing left for ‘Green Light’ – before we end up where we knew we always would, with a warm, inviting, utterly grateful-for-all-we-have singalong to ‘Solar Power’’s title track.

The Strokes to make up for lost time in more ways than one, after cancelling their set last weekend over a COVID-19 case. Frontman Julian Casablancas bounces back with feverish energy; he delivers small talk and jokes and frequent rambles (“do animals think we’re cute?”). Still, the power of the set is undeniable, a celebration old and new of the most infectious hits – opening with relative ‘Bad Decisions’ into the classic ‘Hard to Explain’. ‘Reptilia’ later sends the crowd into a rowdy ‘Chelsea Dagger’-style singalong. Casablancas’ puzzling behaviour still leaves room for an impressive performance music-wise – despite the baffling decision to swap the obvious closing choice ‘Last Nite’ in favour of 2016’s tepid ‘Threat of Joy’.

The final night of the festival gets off to a rocky start as Sky Ferreira’s show is marred by technical and logistical issues that see her start 15 minutes late (after the set was pushed back two hours at the last minute) and skip several songs (though she does manage to squeeze in ‘Everything is Embarrassing’). But things turn around with an electrifying show from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who treat fans to new music including the propulsive ‘Burning’ from their forthcoming album as well as inescapable bangers including ‘Zero’ and the peerless ‘Heads Will Roll’. Frontwoman Karen O questions whether this whole thing was “just a fucking dream come true” and as ‘Maps’ sends us all into a romantic haze, it’s hard to disagree.

The mood mellows further as Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala take to the stage (“Saturday night in Barcelona! It is Saturday, right? I don’t fucking know”) for a soothing yet awe-inspiring light show as he calmly runs through hits and lets it all wash over the crowd. ‘Elephant’ kicks things up a notch while an extended version of ‘Let It Happen’ is welcomed by a crowd who clearly weren’t done dancing.

Closing out the night, and the headline run of Primavera Sound 2022, is the original hot girl herself, Megan Thee Stallion. It’s no mean feat to ask the crowd between every song “where my hotties at?” and to be met with the same level of feral enthusiasm (that’s hot girl shit), but such is the Texas rapper’s power. ‘Body’ fills the festival park with more dizzy energy than there had been all weekend, while a mid-set performance of ‘WAP’ was just as delicious as you’d hope. A highlight was an unexpected rendition of her Dua Lipa collaboration ‘Sweetie Pie’ before, of course, she sent us home with the louche ‘Savage’.

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The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas at Primavera Sound Barcelona 2022. Credit: Getty

Primavera 2022 was undoubtedly plagued by overcrowding issues, dropouts, miscommunication and confusion in terms of organisation, but the artists who do turn up (other worthy mentions go to the dynamic Phoenix and Angèle) go above and beyond to remind us why, in spite of it all, it is still worth coming back. It’s a relief, an exhausting good time, and – as Karen O knows and everyone echoes – a strange fucking dream come true to be here.

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