Rina Sawayama delivers a stunning set as Lizzo, Shame, Maggie Rogers, The Last Dinner Party and more impress on Saturday at Glastonbury 2023

Lizzo proves she’s headline material, but a brilliant Rina Sawayama steals the day.

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

It’s hard to argue that Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses and Elton John aren’t (at least mostly – Ed) a good set of festival headliners but going into Glastonbury, it felt like giving Lizzo the top slot would have made things great. Today, she proves she’s more than ready for the most commanding slots without ever really trying. The stage show is flawless; the messages of self-love, community and empowerment speak to that magic Glasto vibe and pop bangers like ‘Juice’, ‘Good As Hell’ and ‘2 Be Loved’ are absurdly brilliant when sung by tens of thousands of people. There’s even a snippet of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ for good measure. She sets a bar so high Guns N’ Roses really didn’t stand a chance. Even Elton John will need to bring out the big guns to top this.

Plenty of other artists have their sights set on Glastonbury’s top slot as well. Yes, The Last Dinner Party may only have one song to their name, but their giddy, 45-minute set on the Woodsies suggests the best is very much yet to come. ‘Burn Alive’ is a suitably theatrical opener, ‘Feminine Urge’ is playful yet venomous, while upcoming single ‘Sinner’ is jaunty but comes with a devilish glint in the band’s eye. The brooding ‘Lady Of Mercy’ is tinged with sadness, while ‘Godzilla’ couldn’t be more wonderfully outlandish if it tried. The Last Dinner Party are delicate one moment, thunderous the next. By the time they launch into the already-commanding ‘Nothing Matters’, it’s obvious that this group are something very special indeed.

It’d be easy for a new band to stumble in the spotlight of one of the world’s biggest stages, but The Last Dinner Party are beaming throughout. They’ve been waiting for a chance like this to show the world what they can really do. Still, it doesn’t feel like they are ever trying to prove themselves. They know what they can do. Other people will catch on in their own time.

After leaving the stage, the band burst into tears of triumph while the Woodsies long-serving compare explains how Coldplay played the same slot, on the same stage, many years ago and even they hadn’t pulled a crowd of today’s size.

Whipping Woodsies into a frenzy, Wunderhorse are determined to make a statement. Ripping hooks and throat-piercing vocals pour out of them, taking the saying “leaving everything on the stage” to new levels. Jumping between the tender and the tenacious, it’s a raw rock’n’roll party – their place as a must-see band only continues to grow and grow.

With their eruptive world of electronic pill-punk energy, Working Men’s Club are a flurry of beats and pulses that transforms Woodsies into a nightclub at 3 am. Commanding and infectious, it’s a captivating 45 minutes that sets them apart from the pack. Things go up a dial when Shame jump in for a mid-afternoon stormer of a set that finds them at their most complete as a band. New album ‘Food For Worms’ already marking out as a future Album Of The Year, their full-throttle live show remains as incendiary as ever – the likes of ‘Fingers Of Steel’, ‘Concrete’ and ‘One Rizla’ lighting up a jam-packed Woodsies stage that spills out into the fields around it. With gold hot pants and a sprawling sound, today is the crowning moment that Shame have been pointing to for a while. As ‘Gold Hole’ rings out, their reputation as both a great live band and a leading force in modern guitar music in general also stands loud and proud. Hot pants included.

Further up the bill, Maggie Rogers‘ sunny slot on The Other Side is a moment of sheer Glastonbury magic. Her 2022 album ‘Surrender’ was recorded just up the road, with Maggie and her band even making an impromptu winter visit to Glastonbury for inspiration. The Feral Joy tour that followed felt viciously defiant in the search for a good time, but today feels more like a victory. From the epic ‘Overdrive’ through the flickering ‘Want Want’ to the fiery ‘Shatter’, Maggie and her band twist uncomfortable emotions into pure euphoria while a reworked ‘Alaska’ is simply astounding. The reflective burn of ‘Fallingwater’ is similarly emotional before the final ‘That’s Where I Am’ feels like a big, communal purge.

Later in the night, Maneskin‘s rock & roll circus makes short work of the Woodsies stage as their snarling guitar anthems prove that the genre still has a sense of humour without losing its vicious bite, while Christine And The Queens brought their beautifully crafted stage show for the recently released Paranoia, Angels, True Love to Worthy Farm. Playing a new album in full is a bold move, but when has Christine And The Queens ever done anything else?

It feels like Rina Sawayama is on another level to the rest of the festival entirely, though. Her impassioned, visceral speech about racism and control will rightly be the biggest takeaway from her 60-minute set, but let’s not gloss over just how phenomenal the entire show is. From the impressive boxing ring-meets-industrial-rave stage set-up through the electrifying dance routines, the various costume changes and the weaving arching narrative, Rina’s set is theatrical, flawless and fucking stunning. It needed to be to match the commanding back catalogue Rina’s built over her past two albums. From the soaring ‘Hold The Girl’ through the hammering ‘Dynasty’ to the sheer ferocity of ‘STFU!’ and a cover of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’, every song feels like a moment, while a giddy run of ‘Beg For You’, ‘Comme des garçons (Like the Boys)’ and ‘XS’ is untouchable. Despite the scale of the show, Rina doesn’t get lost in the bombast either, with a smirking onstage costume change allowing her to gently mock the crowd for being “too quiet” while the closing ‘This Hell’ is transformed into a bellowing call-and-response. It’s a slay of the highest possible level.