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Lana Del Rey live at Glastonbury: midnight curfew stops singer from delivering brilliance

A night of mixed returns as Lana makes her first Glastonbury performance in nine years.

3.0 rating

By Joseph Ryan-Hicks

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey performs on the Other Stage at Day 4 of Glastonbury Festival 2023 on June 24, 2023 in Somerset, United Kingdom. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

The road to this year’s Glastonbury has been a rocky one for Lana Del Rey. Shortly after the ‘Ultraviolence’ singer was announced as part of this year’s line-up, the 38-year-old suggested she would pull out on the grounds of the festival’s failure to properly announce her as a headliner on the Other Stage. However, with no further word of her officially cancelling her appearance, things seemed to be on the up.

As the minutes ticked by and Del Rey was nowhere to be seen for her 10.30PM slot, an agitated crowd were quick to assume that she had indeed pulled out at the eleventh hour. 30 minutes later, to rapturous applause – and a collective sigh of relief – the stage came to life. The show was back on. For now.

Arriving on stage in a chic black trench coat and sixties-inspired beehive, Del Rey kicked off her set with the effortlessly cool A&W – a highlight from her most recent album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard. Soon after, she disappeared behind a makeshift quick-change and reappeared in a spotless white mini-skirt and jacket co-ord. Then, her glam squad appeared on stage, releasing Del Rey’s locks from the tight up-do and fussing over her makeup. This was all theatre, but mesmerising to watch as she simultaneously made her way through Norman F***ing Rockwell’s Bartender and puffed on a disposable vape.

As she kicked off her heels and made her way through a selection of Born to Die favourites, the singer finally looked at ease. On Blue Jeans the singer grew emotional, taking a few moments to gather herself once the song closed out. Given the now much tighter running time, it was perhaps a misguided decision to then explore some of her more recent cuts for a majority audience who wanted the singalong hits. For the devoted fans, hearing tracks like Blue Bannister’s Arcadia and the even more recent Candy Necklace will have been immensely satisfying. But approaching nearly 90 minutes after Del Rey was due on stage, most just wanted to hear the likes of Summertime Sadness and National Anthem.

The audience interaction was kept to a minimum, with the singer expressing her gratitude to the patience of her audience. “If they cut the power, I’m so f*cking sorry,” she apologised. Then, after White Mustang, they did. After an awkward few seconds of the singer attempting to speak through a now silent microphone, it was evident that things were not looking good. As the booing and general confusion from the crowd grew more intense, Del Rey attempted to communicate with the first few rows and explain the situation. There was a glimmer of hope as everyone collectively tried to make their way through the chorus of the singer’s first hit, Video Games. But the hope soon died as Del Rey was then escorted off stage.

It’s a shame that things had to end this way. In the nine years since the singer last performed at Worthy Farm, she has released six critically and commercially successful albums, and has established herself as one of the leading songwriters of her generation. She’s also grown immensely as a performer, incorporating more ambitious set dressing and choreography into her live show. Given the recent, and surprising, viral success of previously unreleased single Say Yes to Heaven (and her first solo top ten single in the UK since 2011), it’s disappointing that she was unable to perform this live. But alas, the powers that be chose not to grant her an extra 10 minutes to close her set and created an easily avoidable awkwardness for both Del Rey and her audience.

Throughout Lana’s set, the thumping bass of surrounding dance stages interfered with the more paired back and tender moments. If noise pollution is of great concern and the reason her set had to be cut short, logically this should apply to all stages. Of course, this would never happen. But for a festival born from rock ‘n’ roll, a midnight curfew for the Other Stage is decidedly not.

For the short time she was on stage, Lana shone. We can only hope she, and the festival organisers, are able to put this behind them and invite her back for the opportunity to redeem herself.