It is not all that far, in the context of Glastonbury’s many thigh-burning treks between locations, from the Pyramid to The Other Stage. But on a clear, fresh Saturday night, Megan Thee Stallion’s headline set on the latter felt a world away from Paul McCartney’s slow-build, star-packed marathon over on the former. Or even maybe, at times, like a parallel festival, where there were fringed cowboy hats, LED capes and faux fur boob tubes as far as the eye could see. “If you a real hottie, let me hear you say real hot girl sh*t,” purred the Houston rapper (not for the last time), to rapturous screams, not long after first striding onto the stage in fishnet tights, a thonged, faintly S&M bodice and leather cap.
Still, while her presence in this coveted slot – quite the honour for an act making its first appearance at Worthy Farm – is clearly about offering a clear, stylistic counterpoint to McCartney, there is a timelessness to the control, fearlessness and charisma that makes for such an engaging hour. Tightly coiled, hard-edged and thrillingly profane it was a show with transgressive, flesh-jiggling naughtiness and immense star power.
It feels like, even allowing for the scrambled timelines of the post-Covid age, this victory lap has been in the post for a little while. Having first officially pronounced it ‘Hot Girl Summer’ in August 2019 (via a single of the same name), the former Megan Pete probably hasn’t been able to fully celebrate that catchphrase’s growth into a ubiquitous, meme-ready movement. And so, fittingly, if this set – featuring black-clad male and female dancers plus a DJ/hype man – had a theme then it was that of a star making up for lost time.
Freak Nasty (from 2018 concept album Tina Snow was an early high: a scratch-laden, snappingly percussive throwback that offered the first chance for Megan to show off her dextrous, a capella flow. Simon Says – which launched the first of many, gleefully received synchronised twerkathons – was a sort of x-rated Macarena. WAP (the notorious, internet-melting hook-up with Cardi B) and Body, meanwhile, were cleverly rattled off in quick succession to form a devastating, club-ready double hit.
The focus and specificity of the Megan Thee Stallion formula (broadly speaking, Southern-inflected beats and unprintably explicit hymns to female sexual empowerment) is precisely the point. Nonetheless, if you were to be critical then you could maybe make the case that the set suffered from a lack of variation. That rappers at traditionally guitar-oriented festivals no longer feel the need to awkwardly cram in rock covers feels like progress. All the same, it felt – particularly around the time of Don’t Stop’s abrasive, almost industrial beat – that the audience being thrown a melodic bone wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world.
As if sensing this, her final songs (bar an unplanned, crowd-requested encore rendition of the bouncy, old-school Girls In The Hood) were Dua Lipa collaboration Sweetest Pie and the Beyonce-assisted remix of Savage; two pure, uncut bangers that benefit greatly from old-fashioned catchiness and star wattage. Animated by the US abortion ruling, female expression and empowerment have been recurring themes at this year’s Glastonbury. Indomitable and unapologetic, Megan Thee Stallion brought those issues to the fore again. And kicked off a life-affirming, purposeful party in the process.