Primavera Sound: the 12 best acts we caught at the Spanish festival’s groundbreaking 2019 edition

Score

The Barcelona festival leads the charge with a gender-equal lineup for a thrilling, sunshine-filled weekend of eclectic music

Thursday, May 30

Christine and the Queens

Leading the vanguard for the festival’s new 50:50 gender split manifesto, Christine and the Queens’ set was the first unequivocal triumph of Primavera Sound 2019, delivering an hour of funk-flecked synth-pop that was one part Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to two parts musical theatre. Alongside material from last year’s excellent ‘Chris’, we were treated to a blast of Luniz classic ‘I Got 5 On It’, an a capella cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, and a rendition of ‘Chaleur Humaine’ so startling that suddenly an awful lot of the audience seemed to have something in their eyes. Not even a rapidly-plunging, sporadically-sparking lighting rig could derail what was, ultimately, a classic set. (Gemma Samways)

Christine and the Queens performs in concert during Primavera Sound Festival on May 30, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MAY 30: Christine and the Queens performs in concert during Primavera Sound Festival on May 30, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain.

Charli XCX

Providing a much-needed shot in the arm for anyone who’d peaked too early, Charli XCX’s 2am set was a feast of neon perspex, chaotic lighting and mixtape-style sequencing. Eschewing material pre-2016’s ‘Vroom Vroom’ – with the exception of Icona Pop uberhit ‘I Love It’ – the emphasis was on the new, including the ‘Wannabe’-interpolating Diplo-collaboration ‘Spicy’ she’d dropped earlier in the week. Best of all was the live link-up with Christine and the Queens on the live debut of forthcoming album-track ‘Gone’. A blissfully-brief set cementing Charli’s status as the hedonist’s pop star of choice. (Gemma Samways)

Charli XCX performs at Primavera Sound

Charli XCX performs at Primavera Sound festival, Barcelona, Spain – 30 May 2019

Celeste

An intimate enclave of the festival site overlooking the shimmering bay provided the perfect setting for a spellbinding set from Celeste. Resplendent in silver sequins, the Dagenham-born, Brighton-based soul singer showcased a voice like crushed velvet, that caressed a succession of jazz-tinged instrumentals with seemingly effortless ease. Next year she’ll be on a much, much bigger stage. (Gemma Samways)

Read more highlights from Day 1 of Primavera Sound here

Friday, May 31

Pond

Aussie psych-rockers Pond quickly made up for a flat rendition of Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’ on day 2 of the festival with a feral performance of their riff monster, ‘Giant Tortoise’. Performing on the Adidas Originals stage that hugs the festival site’s shoreline, frontman Nick Allbrook was at the centre of a predominantly no-frills set, jerking about the stage like a young Robert Plant. “Take care of the ocean out there,” Allbrook said in a rousing call to action at the set’s close, climate change being the thematic core of the band’s latest album ‘Tasmania’. A not-so-subtle plug, perhaps, but one that was important to make.

Nick Allbrook of Pond performing at Primavera Sound festival

Nick Allbrook of Pond performing at Primavera Sound festival, Barcelona, Spain – 31 May 2019

Just Mustard

These musicians from Dundalk, Ireland do a roaring trade in beautifully gloomy music that congeals elements of punk, shoegaze, noise rock, and dreampop. Friday’s early set (we say early, but things don’t kick off at Prima until 6pm on most days) found the five-piece on the Pitchfork stage nestled beneath the festival site’s landmark Photovoltaic Panel building. The shadowy retreat suited these proprietors of doom: screeching, feedback-addled guitars, sinewy basslines, and singer Katie Ball’s breathy, celtic wails made for an engrossing 45 minute set. ‘Pigs’ and new single ‘Frank’ were the standouts.

Katie Ball of Just Mustard performs at Primavera Sound

Katie Ball of Just Mustard performs at Primavera Sound

Janelle Monae

The Electric Lady’s Friday night set was Primavera’s surefire showstopper: an hour and a half of propulsive P-Funk jams, dazzling costumes, polemics, and pussy power. The Kansas-born artist can sing as well as she can rap, dance as she can tap, and brings people from all walks of life for an expertly crafted, feel-good fiesta. Muffled sound may have frustrated parts of the set but Monae is such an enthralling onstage presence that she found theatrical ways to cut through the noise. ‘Make Me Feel’, ‘Pynk’, ‘Electric Lady’ were brilliant live.

Read the full review of Janelle Monae’s gig here

Janelle Monae performs at Primavera Sound 2019

Janelle Monae performs in concert during Primavera Sound on May 31, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain

Miley Cyrus

The biggest surprise of the weekend was Miley Cyrus’ headline Friday night set at SEAT. All too often the singer’s Disney pop princess past – and her provocative public personas – make it easy to dismiss her as a sub-par star churning out uninspired music. But Cyrus is in fact a force to be reckoned with. Songs from her new EP ‘She Is Coming’ translated live immediately – all boisterous beats, dirgy synths and Cyrus’ impressively powerful vocals. But it was ‘We Can’t Stop’, ‘Party In The USA’ and closer ‘Wrecking Ball’ that had the crowd practically worshipping the artist strutting before them.

Read the full review of Miley Cyrus’ gig here

Saturday, June 1

Pusha T

Rosalia may have pulled in what looked like an unprecedented number of revellers to her set on Saturday, but disciples of King Push could be found elsewhere. Nothing was going to get in the way of experiencing ‘Daytona’, the rapper’s incredible 2019 album, live. Despite a 15 minute delay, Pusha T made up for the sluggish wait instantly with a loud, proud performance of the anthemic, ‘If You Know You Know’. Pacing the stage in a multicoloured bomber jacket, snarl permanently etched on his face, T was in total command of his audience for numbers including ‘Grindin” and ‘Mercy’.

Lizzo

Lizzo is finally having her moment. Saturday’s set at the sandy Lotus stage was the near-perfect beach party in which to celebrate it (we’d have loved some screens to properly see the soul and rap queen in action). Cuts from ‘Cuz I Love You’, Lizzo’s third – and best – record that brims with bangers were the highlights, particularly her thudding, bass-thick collaboration with Missy Elliott, ‘Tempo’, which touches on the body positivity Lizzo so advocates. Her unbelievably taut and infectious funk jam, ‘Juice’, was the real crowd-pleaser, complete with synchronised dancers, sass aplenty, and Lizzo whipping out her flute to gleeful cheers by her fans.

James Blake

James Blake’s fourth record, ‘Assume Form’, has been the most welcome about-turn of an artist in recent memory. The album hears a vastly more confident Blake produce gushing, joyous songs to the tune of being, well, madly in love. Saturday’s headline set at SEAT reflected much of the album: a bolder sound, major key experiments, and Blake peeling himself from behind his piano and synth kit to sing directly to the crowd. It was a shame that he didn’t bring Rosalia onstage to perform ‘Barefoot In The Park’ but all was forgiven when the ‘Assume Form’ single morphed into a decaying, industrial electronic beast. It left hairs firmly stood on end.

James Blake performs on stage at Rosalia concert during Primavera Sound

BARCELONA, SPAIN – JUNE 01: James Blake performs on stage at Rosalia concert during Primavera Sound on June 1, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Xavi Torrent/WireImage)

Tierra Whack

Some of Tierra Whack’s shapeshifting sounds and ideas became lost in a swamp during her Saturday night set at Lotus, but these were thankfully fleeting instances. ‘Fruit Salad’ and ‘Unemployed’ were the songs that allowed you to best grip and grasp the parameters of Whack’s imaginative world, which borders on both the mundane and the insane. Brash, bold, colourful screen projections behind her and her sidekick Zach helped connect fans with her world. Really, Whack’s precise and impassioned delivery bar after bar, and her bountiful onstage energy, was enough to satisfy the crowd.

Slowthai

The Brexit Bandit was in no mood to have Saturday’s stragglers nod their gormless faces along to his firebrand rap. The Northampton star ensured that his untamed set was wild enough to jerk tired bodies into wild abandon before sunrise. ‘T N Biscuits’ and ‘Doorman’ were the most splintering performances, where slowthai trashed the stage with hype man/producer Kwes Darko. It was like they were facing off in a blistering, live boxing match. A superb end to the weekend.

Read the full review of slowthai’s performance here

Slowthai performs live

Slowthai performs onstage