Skip to main content

Home Music Music Live Reviews

Lil Nas X’s Glastonbury set showed why he’s on the road to headline sets

Performing just before Elton John, Lil Nas X delivered a masterclass in pop performance.

By Joseph Ryan-Hicks

Lil Nas X at Glastonbury (Picture: Aaron Parsons)

It seems fitting that this generation’s biggest openly gay artist was sub-headlining a stage shortly to be graced by that of the last. It’s this notion of history-making that seems to follow Lil Nas X with everything he does. Real name Montero Lamar Hill, the 24-year-old has had a series of big wins in his short career thus far – and Sunday night’s superb set on the Pyramid Stage proved yet another achievement.

LNX shot to fame in 2019 when his unique country-rap single Old Town Road became a viral sensation and went on to spend a record-breaking 19 weeks on the US Billboard Hot 100. During the song’s phenomenal chart run, the rapper-singer came out as gay and became the first artist to do so while still holding the number one spot. This would prove a turning point in his artistry, as he began to infuse more and more Queer references within his work. During Sunday night’s show, he allowed his identity to lead the show’s creativity to great effect.

Lil Nas X at Glastonbury (Picture: Aaron Parsons)

Opening his set with the epic ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’, LNX looked every inch the pop star as he stepped out on stage in a Herculean gold breastplate, white furry boots and a long high ponytail. There was an immense satisfaction in seeing the singer flip his hair during the track’s sassier moments. Then it was back-to-back as he delivered one high-energy tune after the other, barely giving the audience a moment to catch their breath.

The hits of his debut album proved popular with the crowd, with collective shout-singing for tracks such as ‘That’s What I Want’ and ‘Lost in the Citadel’. Old favourites ‘Panini’ and ‘Old Town Road’ also went down a treat, with LNX disappearing then reappearing on stage straddling a giant horse statue. The extravagance of such moments made this feel like a truly elevated pop show and was certainly the most ambitious on the Pyramid Stage that day.

Lil Nas X at Glastonbury (Picture: Aaron Parsons)

The set was tightly choreographed, with several dance numbers and moments of “freestyle” gyrating amongst the rapper and his backing dancers. Such openness with his sexuality and fellow male backing dancers was refreshing to see. It’s exciting to witness such a young star be so liberated on stage.

Where the show faltered was in the less-than-seamless costume changes which required LNX to exit the stage for a few minutes at a time. When all he was doing was slowly stripping to the bare minimum, it felt like a missed opportunity not to incorporate this into the already racy performance somehow. What we were left with were a jukebox of, presumably, some of LNX’s favourite hits including Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ and Beyonce’ ‘Déjà Vu’. 

The big surprise of the set came in the form of Jack Harlow for the pair’s 2021 hit, Industry Baby. The track opened with an ill-judged Michael Jackson sample and no sooner had Harlow arrived on stage, did he disappear again. After such excitement for the big reveal, the final result felt rushed.

This is the second time Lil Nas X has performed at Glastonbury – the first being as a guest during Miley Cyrus’ 2019 slot. The progression in the rapper’s stamina and confidence in front of a big crowd from then to now is like night and day. Touring his debut has clearly had an effect on the young star as his overall presence on stage is confident and self-assured. If this is what his Glastonbury set looks like with just one album under his belt, headline sets look very much in his future.