Having purposely abstained from reading the setlist or watching any footage of Beyoncé’s much discussed Glastonbury set a fortnight ago, the prospect of tonight’s performance is both unknown and particularly exciting. The draw of the world’s biggest pop superstar proved crippling for The National’s simultaneous set on the Vodafone Stage as a gargantuan crowd flocked to the Main Stage – stretching back as far as the food stalls on all sides. The sense of anticipation is palpable and, when she does arrive on stage, rising into the view, the place goes predictably nuts.
It’s testament to her stature within Planet Pop that she can confidently kick things off with her two biggest hits to date, ‘Crazy in Love’ and ‘Single Ladies’ – both inspiring full and eager participation from the masses. With a back-catalogue at her disposal that most pop stars can only dream of, the set flows seamlessly. Her all-female band are on top form, and the technical choreography is mesmerising. And then there’s that ever-distinctive voice – her rendition of ‘1 + 1’, sung atop the grand piano, is quite simply stunning. The singles of most recent release 4 go down an absolute treat – most notably ‘Run the World (Girls)’, which induces near-hysteria. But despite her phenomenal solo success, Beyoncé certainly hasn’t forgotten her roots, either – a medley of Destiny’s Child hits is a delight for long-time fans.
What is most admirable about Beyoncé is the fact that she doesn’t need to rely on smutty over-share lyrics, controversial outfits and raunchy dance routines in the same way that her fellow female superstar counterparts so often do. Fittingly, ‘Halo’ brings the spectacle to a close, with Ms. Knowles taking off down to the front row to share the moment with her adoring public (kudos to the lad who gave it his all in spite of being tone-deaf when she offered him the microphone to sing a line). She came, she saw, she conquered with an iconic performance that may come to define this year’s, pop orientated, festival. All hail Queen B.