Two weeks ago, Afro-R&B rising queen Tems cancelled two solo UK dates in London and Birmingham after contracting laryngitis. It wasn’t the best timing, given her then-impending first Glastonbury appearance today (June 25) – an extra layer of stress added to an already pressure-filled occasion.
The Nigerian singer walks out on the Other Stage in her stylish red and black activewear to a crowd who are appreciative from the off, whistling and applauding while she greets us with a bunch of “thank you”s. You can tell she’s somewhat nervous, and unsurprisingly so; there’s the chance her vocals could fail her (spoiler: they didn’t), while this is also her biggest UK performance so far.
She opens with the mellow ‘Higher’ – recently popularised by Future who sampled it on ‘WAIT FOR U’ – and the audience sing it back in awe. Tems’ nerves do get the better of her when she pushes for the chorus’ impassioned power notes though – her voice cracks a little but she quickly resolves it by going into her head voice and delivering some beautiful, effortless riffs.
It’s a joyous return to the stage for the star, although she seems a bit sceptical that it could remain OK. “In the past almost two weeks now, I’ve been having vocal issues, and I’m back,” she says at one point. “But if, by chance, something happens, just take it. Please don’t play with me.”
After her jokey statement, she gets right back into her “special” set with ‘Avoid Things’. Tems punches out, with her mic stand in clutch before flinging her hips side-by-side, enthralled by her talent. Right here you realise that, after being on vocal rest for two weeks, she doesn’t need any help from her backing singers except a few “Ohs” and “Ahs”.
The crowd doubles in size by the time she plays her first UK Number One, ‘Essence’. Starting the track off slow and sultry with an acoustic version, it kicks up a gear and the crowd responds wildly, fans flinging themselves closer to the barriers so Tems can glimpse their enjoyment.
When she plays penultimate track ‘Crazy Tings’, all hell breaks loose. It’s a contest between her audience and her guitarist Francois for who lives up to the song’s title the most, the latter knee-sliding onto the floor, shredding his guitar strings. Tems fans him, cheering him on: “You’re too hot! you’re too hot!”. Closing out with her viral ‘Free Mind’, her UK comeback performance is flawless without any major hitches and you can’t help but walk away feeling proud of her resilience.