Guns N’ Roses has always been a law unto itself, and their Glastonbury title was no exception.
The hard rock legends played a twisty, sporadically brilliant set that blended stadium-level classics with less familiar deep cuts for three hours of endurance.
Highlights included a loud Welcome To The Jungle and the always welcome Sweet Child O’ Mine.
But they drew a smaller crowd than American pop star Lizzo earlier in the day.
The American band took the stage at 9.30pm, opening with the Appetite For Destruction classic It’s So Easy, as Axl Rose prowled the stage and Slash peeled off riffs under his top hat.
At 61, Rose’s voice isn’t what it used to be, but he can still put out a wolverine howl when he warms up – and his growling delivery remains convincingly menacing. (Some viewers complained that its microphone was too quiet, but in the field it cut through guitar bands like a knife through butter).
The set was slow to get going – filled with songs like the title track from the band’s failed 2008 album, Chinese Democracy; and Slither, a single from Slash’s post-GNR side project Velvet Revolver.
It wasn’t until the Welcome To The Jungle riff rang out in the Pyramid Arena, after a solid 20 minutes of filming, that they took off, followed by Mr. Brownstone’s ferocious rendition.
They show their support for Ukraine while playing Civil War, with Rose wearing the country’s flag on her t-shirt and images of bombed-out houses lighting up the screens.
Towards the end of their set, Nightrain has a pent up punk energy; and a cover of Down On The Farm by the UK Subs is a big shout out to Michael and Emily Eavis, who run the festival.
From time to time they see rough waters. Even die-hard fans are divided on the merits of Use Your Illusion’s bondage-themed song, Pretty Tied Up; and 2021’s Absurd single feels redundant.
But they recapture it with the pent-up punk energy of Nighttrain, before releasing Dave Grohl (“because you can never have too many guitars”) for a frenetic, euphoric encore of Paradise City.
In their chaotic pomp, buying a ticket to see Guns N’ Roses was a gamble. You never knew if they would come, and if they did, Rose used to storm off the stage if the crowd gave her a funny look.
But there was no sign of this wayward performer on Saturday night.
“What a beautiful evening” commented the former hellraiser, model of politeness. “We would like to thank you for inviting us.”
Pyramid Stage audiences weren’t as big as they had been for Arctic Monkeys on Friday night, with thousands of fans opting to see Lana Del Rey headline The Other Stage instead. ,
The American singer was half an hour late for her set, starting after 11:00 p.m. with an apology: “My hair is taking so long to do…so sorry I’m so late.”
When she finally started, her set was a lyrical, conceptual performance featuring ballet dancers and contortionists as Del Rey languidly draped herself across the stage.
Unfortunately, his late arrival ran into Glastonbury’s strict curfew. She cut several songs, telling the crowd, “I’m about to rush this set to death.”
But it wasn’t enough. His microphone was cut off at midnight, with at least six songs left to play. A printed setlist suggested these were some of his greatest songs, including Summertime Sadness and Video Games.
Visibly devastated, the singer attempted to speak to her fans, who rewarded her by singing Video Games a capella, while chanting “one more song”.
Del Rey sang with them, then walked to the pit at the front of the stage, so they could console each other directly. After that, she had to leave, clearly devastated.
On West Holts, British rapper Loyle Carner gave a more on-point, but equally emotional performance.
The set was built around his third album, Hugo, which examines his strained relationship with his biological father and how generational pain can be passed down the line.
It was a powerful show, which also saw Carner criticize the government for its handling of knife crimes and urge fans to “forget all that toxic (garbage) masculinity that ruined my childhood”.
Other headliners on the site on Saturday included French pop maverick Christine And The Queens and dance legend Fatboy Slim.
It was an embarrassment of riches that meant Glastonbury’s 200,000 festival-goers were scattered in every corner of the 1,000-acre site.
It also meant that Lizzo was able to claim the biggest viewership of the day.
The American star burst onto the Pyramid Stage like a human glitter cannon around 7.30pm BST, playing a euphoric set of scintillating soul hits which included Cuz I Love You, Juice and 2B Loved.
Wearing jade-colored hair and dressed in a steampunk ballgown, her infectious energy reached to the top of the hills, where fans wearing colorful wigs and fairy wings danced like their lives depended on it.
Polling the audience, the singer recalled how quickly her star has risen since her first appearance at Glastonbury in 2018.
“We were in a tent which was very big, with no one inside and me and my DJ Sophia playing hard.
“And we kept playing, until now I stand in front of all of you. I’m so proud. Thank you for supporting me.”
Her set ended with an exuberant version of the hit About Damn Time, complete with aerobic choreography and a flawless flute solo from the woman herself.
People who fell asleep before Guns N’ Roses did so on cloud nine.
Earlier in the day, 80s pop legend Rick Astley opened the stage to an equally warm welcome.
Knowing people had mostly come to hear Never Gonna Give You Up, he peppered his set with covers of Harry Styles’ As It Was and AC/DC’s Highway To Hell to please the crowd as he prepared. to the inevitable cheese climax. .
“It was absolutely amazing. It’s very hard to put into words, but it was the most beautiful crowd I’ve ever played in front of,” he said after leaving the stage.
“They were so generous, so loving, so amazing. Just a great experience.”
Croydon-born soul singer Raye was next, with a big band in white tuxedos who gave a distinctly retro, Amy Winehouse vibe to her midday set.
She took off her shoes to dance to Black Mascara and fought back tears as she sang the heartbreaking Ice Cream Man – a song that details her experiences of sexual abuse.
Like Lizzo, she couldn’t quite believe she had been booked for the main stage at Glastonbury, after a very public breakup with her label which she accused of stifling her career.
“It seems like yesterday we were playing festivals where we had more people on stage than we had in the audience,” she said, pointing to the hit single Escapsim.
“I don’t take your presence here for granted.”
Grammy-nominated duo Amadou and Mariam brought the warm, earthy vibes of Mali to the Pyramid stage at lunchtime, before Mancunian star Aitch turned up the heat with a simmering set of anthems from British rap (and a perfectly judged cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall).
And that was just the acts in the main arena…
Rick Astley returned to the Woodises stage to perform a series of Smiths covers with Stockport indie band Blossoms; while former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr joined Chrissie Hynde for a set with The Pretenders on The Park Stage.
Turns out he wasn’t their only guest.
“Apparently there’s a drunk guy backstage (and) he insists on playing,” Hynde joked before Dave Grohl appeared (again) to play drums on Mystery Achievement, while Paul McCartney, who had looked sideways, made a brief appearance to give a thumbs up before disappearing again.
Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton treated the crowds to an unexpected spoken word performance alongside composer Max Richter; and rap star Dave appeared during Central Cee’s set on The Other Stage to perform their summer anthem Sprinter.
The festival ends on Sunday with the most anticipated set of the weekend – as Elton John wraps up his UK touring career with a headline on the Pyramid stage.
The singer has promised a bespoke show with several special guests, and speculation is already rife.
Among the names rumored to join him (so far) are Britney Spears, Dua Lipa, Sam Fender, Harry Styles, Eminem and actor Taron Egerton – who played Elton in the hit movie Rocketman.