Lana Del Rey’s road to Glastonbury hasn’t been smooth sailing. When the initial line-up poster was revealed earlier this year, she had angry words for the festival, annoyed that it didn’t reflect her billing as Other Stage headliner. Tonight (June 24), she keeps the audience waiting 30 minutes after her scheduled stage time – a delay that will eventually prove to be her downfall.
Before that, though, she turns things around in spectacular style. When she does emerge on stage, it’s in the middle of a flurry of theatrics. There’s the silhouette of a woman backlit through fabric, dancers scurrying into place and a score that wouldn’t sound out of place in the dramatic opening credits of a movie. In between it all, the star strides to the middle, hair pinned up beneath a glittering headband, dressed in an elegant, floor-length black dress, ready to give what will be one of the most stunning performances of the weekend.
The show – and it is a show in the true sense of the word – plays up Del Rey’s old Hollywood glamour aesthetic, even when she’s delving into the more experimental, modern cuts of her catalogue. She begins with one such song, kicking things off with the bass-y, glitchy refrain at the end of ‘A&W’ before switching gears to a gorgeous version of ‘Young And Beautiful’. During the latter, her dancers gather behind her and spread the train of her dress out over the stairs behind her, casting a beautiful shadow over the stage.
The drama continues right after, with Del Rey being shrouded in a circular curtain and flanked by dancers. When she comes out of the cocoon, the heavy black material she was previously dressed in is gone, replaced by a white mini-dress. She totters over to a dressing table set up on the side of the stage and one dancer unpins her hair and starts brushing it, while another dabs at her face with a make-up brush. As she receives her touch ups, Lana launches into ‘Bartender’, and it’s as if she’s singing about her secret lover while getting ready to go meet them.
Though the performance is highly stylised – with beautiful moments including her dancers forming a human bed for her to recline on during ‘Pretty When You Cry’ and ivy-woven swings being swung on for ‘Ride’ – these elements never overshadow Del Rey’s talent. Her voice sounds impeccable throughout, whether she’s delivering golden harmonies with a trio of backing singers on ‘The Grants’ or taking the spotlight on a heavenly rendition of ‘Born To Die’. In both production and vocals, this performance is an emphatic reinforcement that she is one of modern music’s greatest stars.
Unfortunately, though, she doesn’t get treated as such. ‘Born To Die’ is followed by a handful more stunning moments – a whispered ‘Candy Necklaces’, ‘Ultraviolence’ uniting the crowd in swaying dreamily along – before she sits on the steps on stage ready to sing ‘Video Games’. As she settles down and tries to speak into the microphone, though, no sound comes out. She looks to the side of stage and stands up, then kneels theatrically on the floor as if begging someone.
Lana Del Rey was escorted off stage by security at Glastonbury Festival due to her set being cut off after showing up late. pic.twitter.com/JnE4Q2iufT— Pop Base (@PopBase) June 25, 2023
Soon, the screens either side of the stage go off, only to be replaced by a message about the quickest route to the Arcadia spider, of all things. Del Rey’s set has been cut cruelly short, abruptly bursting her cinematic bubble without even offering her the chance to say goodbye. She takes matters into her own hands, singing ‘Video Games’ a cappella with the fans down the front, but it’s a disappointing ending to what was building to be a Glastonbury great.