The phrase future headliner gets bandied about a lot, but occasionally you witness a show that absolutely lives up to that accolade. It’s a rare and special thing, and one that inhabitants of the John Peel witnessed this afternoon when Rosalia put on the show of a lifetime at Glastonbury 2019.
It’s been a big twelve months for the woman who’s brought flamenco to thee masses. After she released her debut album ‘Los ángeles’ in 2017 the buzz started to build; but it was when she released her stunning follow-up ‘El mal querer’ that international acclaim started to roll in, and the past year has been filled with award ceremony performances, Times Square billboards and a string of huge, raved about festival shows. Her Glastonbury set is no exception.
Before Rosalia even walks on stage the production kicks in. Flashing lights spell out her name and six perfectly choreographed dancers twist and gyrate to pumping flamenco pop. Bursting on stage in a purple boiler suit, she launches into the R&B-flecked ‘Pienso en tu mirá’. From then on it’s an effervescent hour of slick, vocal gymnastics accompanied by Beyonce-level dance routines.
The entire set is full of flamenco rhythms, Spanish guitars and accompanying handclaps, and apart from her cover of James Blake collab ‘Barefoot in the Park’ she sings entirely in Spanish. “I feel so proud of the music I made back home and that I can bring it to you,” she tells the crowd, adding: “it means so much to us!” And you believe it. Although she does speak to the crowd in English, this is an artist who isn’t trying to adapt her sound and performance to appeal to a none-Spanish speaking audience. And the crowd are completely won over.
Flicking between upbeat numbers accompanied by exhilarating dance routines, and stripped back tunes that put the full focus on her trilling, vibrato inflected vocals, the entire set is a perfectly rehearsed performance, with not a note or step out of place. In fact, the only time you see Rosalia break her cool is when she thanks the crowd for watching, telling us “I always dreamed of coming here, it’s such an honour to play.”
The slinky ‘Di mi nombre’ sees the whole crowd sing a long, dancehall-laced ‘Con Altura’ sees Rosalia and her dancers moving as one across the entire length of the stage and for set closer ‘Malamente’ Rosalia reappears on stage after a brief absence fan in hand, looking like total badass.
This wasn’t just somebody pulling out all the stops to make sure their anticipated Glastonbury set was well received. This was an arena pop show plonked in a muggy tent, and a glimpse of Rosalia’s festival headline sets to come. You can take your Killers or The Cure, as those of us in the John Peel know we saw what could have been the set of the weekend.