Rosalia review, Glastonbury day three: The exhilarating, dramatic and startlingly accomplished set of a future headliner
The 25-year-old who puts a modern spin on old-school flamenco shouldn't have been tucked away in a suffocatingly hot tent at the John Peel stage
Performing underneath the scorching sun would have been perfect for Rosalía – the searing Spanish singer who puts a modern spin on old-school flamenco – but instead, this evening she is tucked away inside a tent at Glastonbury‘s John Peel stage, a somewhat stifling experience.
So it is testament to her that the set is so exhilarating – intense, dramatic, playful and beautifully choreographed – the kind a future headliner would provide. “I always dreamt of playing here,” she says, out of breath, dressed in a purple boiler suit, her long, multicoloured nails curling around the mic, a metallic snake wrapped around her wrist. Almost everyone is surely jealous, in this sweltering heat, of the wind machine that wafts her ponytail aloft. At one point, her dancers grasp her from behind, as if she is Jesus on the cross – or, at least, Jack from Titanic. Later, they are like characters from a video game, all staccato moves and karate chops.
Singing almost entirely in Spanish, the 25-year-old – who has worked with the likes of J Balvin, Pharrell and James Blake, and was shortlisted for the BBC’s Sound of 2019 – brings the ancient sound of her homeland to a 21st-century audience, taking the fierce Spanish trills and adding modern beats and R&B inflections.
Today, her set pulls fairly evenly from both her 2017 debut album, Los Ángeles, and its 2018 follow-up, El Ma Querer. The latter is ever-so-slightly favoured, though – she bookends the set with the wavy, R&B-tinged “Pienso En Tu Mirá” and the bright, clattering “Malamente”, both from that excellent LP. There’s an unreleased song, too, in the form of “Como Alí”, a playful, staccato number full of passion and poise, which she performs with an intoxicating swagger.
Next comes a brief foray into the English language in the form of the woozy, off-kilter “Barefoot in the Park” – one of the standout tracks from James Blake’s latest album, Assume Form, to which Rosalia contributed vocals. Purple stars flicker behind her, but Blake doesn’t appear onstage (he’s in Switzerland right now). It is no slight against him to say that Rosalía more than does the song justice on her own.
“Brillo”, on which she appeared alongside Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin, is another highlight – all clicks, “oohs” and slinky beats – but it is a second Balvin hook-up that most gets the crowd going. Released just a few months ago, “Con Altura”, a confident, restless cultural criss-cross, is already Rosalía’s biggest hit, and she performs it with excessive, jittery charm.
A Spanish reimagining of “Cry Me a River” is scattered into “Baghdad”, while a beautiful, undulating a capella rendition of “Catalina” soon follows. As the crowd begins to cheer, she holds out her fingers to hush them, not yet finished. Thank goodness she silences us. It ascends into something absolutely incomparable.
This is a startlingly accomplished set – proof, indeed, that Rosalía is destined for bigger things than this suffocating tent.