Review of Dua Lipa, Glastonbury 2024: more than just a pop show

Dua Lipa saw it coming. The fireworks, the flags and flashing purple lights, the tiptoe teenagers scowling at strange adults as they throw their arms in the air like money. As a child, the 28-year-old, born to Kosovo Albanian parents, tells us that halfway through her Glastonbury headline debut, she wrote it down – “I’m headlining Glastonbury” – manifesting the unexpected hits and critical acclaim, and now routine awards and No. 1s that made this moment inevitable.

“I was very specific,” she adds after a sheepish laugh. “I said I wanted to headline the Pyramid Stage on a Friday night, because then I knew I could have fun for the next two days.” Her voice cracks as she describes the magic – “the power” – of commanding this seemingly endless crowd. “Little old me would be beside herself right now.”

Dua Lipa’s growing empire – now encompassing an acting career, a book club, a thriving media platform and a podcast with high and low culture giants – shows no signs of slowing down, particularly now that she has bought back the rights to her music catalogue. Yet behind the cultural dominance, Dua Lipa is as enigmatic as she is omnipresent. Her surprisingly vague persona (coupled, perhaps, with her admirable support for geopolitical causes) has prevented her fame from transcending and bankable into becoming a nation’s true sweetheart.

That may be just what she likes. Rather than a pure pop show, Lipa intersperses tonight’s set with nods to underground culture. As a martial drum solo opens the show, leather-clad dancers dart across a pair of metal bridges, like a Swat team sent undercover into a 1970s New York meatpacking district. Wearing a leather dress lined with chains, Lipa glides to center stage as if propelled by the roller skates she wore on her last stadium tour, launching into a “training season” that kicks off the party.

Although the performance is well planned – even the confetti display seems studied – the passion resonates in moments of unabashed theatricality. Halfway through the second verse, he throws his head back in disgust at the former inepts he has made into his muse.

Dua Lipa performs one of her many hits on the Pyramid stage
Dua Lipa performs one of her many hits on the Pyramid Stage (Pennsylvania)

It’s no contradiction that many of those boyfriends are no doubt in this camp shouting at the top of their voices: Dua’s gospel holds that, while guys are often useless, that’s usually okay and a little fun. His mastery is combining these stories of misfortune and self-redemption with music that sounds like you’re accidentally having the best night of your life at the worst club in your hometown.

Her celebration of alternative culture is most evident on “One Kiss,” featuring a house breakdown worthy of Glastonbury’s wonderfully scabrous queer nightlife venue NYC Downlow, and “Pretty Please,” revitalized with deliciously dirty funk swing and a breakdance interlude that compresses homages to her house, disco, and rave roots into two stunning minutes of messy beat changes.

Amidst all this, she finds time to stage a low-key, comical appearance: not one of her famous friends, but an unassuming Kevin Parker, better known as Australian psych-rock darling Tame Impala, who looks exactly like the slacker boyfriend she brought home to disappointed parents after their beloved daughter’s sabbatical. In honor of his contributions to her latest album, Radical optimismParker steps out in a T-shirt and jeans for an endearingly awkward duet of her song “The Less I Know the Better.”

Dream come true for the singer-songwriter on Friday night
The dream came true for the singer-songwriter on Friday night (AP)

Aside from the electrifying opener, new album tracks like “These Walls” and “Falling Forever” feel like dull, almost defensive inclusions; even the closer, “Houdini,” can’t help but feel anticlimactic after a sensational one-two punch of “Physical” and “Don’t Start Now.” I can believe, even hope, that Dua Lipa will hold on to headline Glastonbury again, but it’s harder to imagine these songs surviving as setlist staples.

“You guys are making my dreams come true,” she declares during “Be the One,” a cliché that, despite the dips in her pace, makes it clear that Lipa understood the task: Glastonbury is not just another show, just another festival, It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for, all day, all year, maybe all our lives. The best headliners make this a reality, even among the skeptics. Dua Lipa does something almost as special: by making her childhood premonition come true, she makes us witnesses to her own sweetest fantasy.

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