Lil Nas X wows as CMAT offers up a true moment on the final day of Glastonbury 2023

Elton might be the legend, but there are some future icons coming through too.

Words: Ali Shutler, Jamie Muir.
Photos: Patrick Gunning.

Sunday at Glastonbury only really has one headline take. Elton John is the only name in town – and rightly so. With a crowd so big it looks like the population of a small nation, there’s little denying his headline set is the stuff of legend. But with universal acclaim ringing around Worthy Farm, there’s more happening under the top-billed act.

Sure, Glastonbury may have booked the formidable Blondie and the still brilliant The Chicks to perform before Elton John on the Pyramid Stage today. Still, it’s Lil Nas X that feels most like the Rocket Man’s successor as a future headliner. From the moment he returns to Glasto’s biggest stage and launches straight into the sleek, energetic ‘MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)’, he absolutely owns it. It’s impossible to argue with the hammering ‘Don’t Want It’ and a wonderfully over-the-top ‘Old Town Road’ but Nas knows he isn’t playing to his typical crowd, with the heaving field home to clusters of people sitting in camping chairs, waiting for the main event. Leaning into this, he includes snippets of Nirvana and Michael Jackson to help ease newcomers into his world, while a dance-heavy interlude is soundtracked by pop anthems from both Rhianna and Beyonc√©. The polished performance may be heavy on choreography and otherworldly creatures, but it only adds to the carnival atmosphere that Lil Nas X creates. The party then gets taken up a notch via a guest appearance from Jack Harlow for ‘Industry Baby’. It’s an outstanding hour of music that’s impossible for anyone but a legend to follow.

Coming directly before Elton John’s final ever UK show can be an even bigger challenge if you’re not at the Pyramid, but if there’s anyone capable of seizing that challenge, it’s Caroline Polachek. With slick, all-encompassing production, it’s pure theatre – an assured display of pop brilliance. Leaning heavily on new album ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’, ‘Welcome To My Island’ sees singalongs erupt, whilst a special appearance from Weyes Blood on ‘Butterfly Net’ sets soaring vocals even higher. The result is euphoric. By the time an anthem like ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ wraps up proceedings, Caroline Polachek’s challenge is completed and more.

True Glastonbury moments are easy to define. There’s a feeling of celebration and recognition of a great artist setting out their stall. On that criteria, CMAT may just claim the entire weekend, with a set that goes far beyond just another stop on her rise to ‘the top’. Bursting with a contagious energy that quickly sweeps the entire crowd, Ireland’s Best Popstar does what she does best. Soaring anthems, laugh-out-loud moments and a continuous run of brilliant songs combine to signal the arrival of a future Glastonbury icon. Dance routines, the splits, pogoing masses and more leave Woodsies beaming from ear to ear – with fresh tracks like ‘Have Fun’, ‘Whatever’s Inconvenient’ and stunning newbie ‘Where Are Your Kids Tonight?’ perfectly matching faves like ‘2 Wrecked 2 Care’, ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’ and ‘No More Virgos’. 

Drawing the crowd in, it’s like everyone is immediately best mates with the best rockstar in town – probably because CMAT, too, has been at the festival since Thursday. Yet it’s the closing moments of her set that truly reach deeper. Following a party of the highest order, with rapturous applause refusing to die down, CMAT stands in awe. She offers up an emotional reflection on playing to 5 people just 4 years ago and writing closer ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!’ in her bedroom, crying and staring in the mirror. Now with thousands packed in just to catch a glimpse – it marks a full-circle moment of validation. There are tears of happiness on-stage and off it. That’s how you do a special moment.

It’s been around a year since Lovejoy played their first shows, yet today, they are playing the biggest festival on the planet. That sort of rise doesn’t just come out of nowhere: their fizzing blend of stonking hooks and razor-sharp anthems have found a place in the hearts of millions (quite literally), with the sort of connection to fans that most bands would only dream of. Drowned-out screams ring around the BBC Introducing stage from the moment they step out, frontman Will introducing themselves as a little band from the South Coast – but what lights up from there is anything but small. Crunching riffs and cuts from latest EP ‘Wake Up And It’s Over’ bounce off whip-smart anthems sung back at top volume. Most could only dream of such a response, but for Lovejoy, it’s a reality. Their first Glastonbury is certain to not be their last, and on the evidence of the sheer hunger shown today, there ain’t no stopping them now. The revolution continues.