Solange gave Glastonbury a faultless, theatrical ode to black womanhood – review

Solange, who just wrapped her set on the West Holts Stage
Solange, who just wrapped her set on the West Holts Stage Credit: Matt Crossick/EMPICS Entertainment

For years most people recognised her as Beyoncé’s younger sister, but Solange has now established herself as one of the most forward-thinking artists of her generation, whose deeply personal and political R&B never descends into sad solipsism or self-involved polemic. Not only that, she's constantly evolving. There's the gauche, gleaming pop of her 2003 debut, Solo Star, the slinky funk and soul of 2008's Sol-Angel and the Hadley St Dreams, and the alt-R&B of her 2012 EP, True, which was lent hipster suss by east-London producer Dev Hynes.  

As a live act, though, Solange – who was celebrating her 31st birthday today – has never really seemed suited to Glastonbury, where the nuances of her gossamer falsetto can get lost in the vastness of it all. That is, until recently. Last month, she flooded New York's Guggenheim Museum with backing vocalists, musicians and dancers for a performance-art project inspired by her 2016 album A Seat at the Table. Attendees were instructed to wear white. Phones were relinquished at the door. Critics, by and large, were bowled over.

Solange, who just wrapped her set on the West Holts Stage Credit: Tony Barson/Getty Images for Spotify

In a similarly accomplished performance – albeit one without the same spherical and rectangular sculptures by Julia Heymans to marvel at – Solange beguiled crowds at the West Holts stage at Glastonbury on Saturday night. Uniformly dressed in that most passionate of colours, red, Solange and her band moved in simple geometric formations that were so de rigueur in the Sixties. It was fantastic theatre. Themes of identity, empowerment and independence featured prominently, as Solange drew largely from A Seat at the Table, her 21-track treatise on the complexities of black womanhood. 

From the first beat of the drums on the gorgeous Cranes in the Sky, the thronging crowd were kneeling at the altar. Segueing from the bass-heavy Some Things Never Seem to F---ing Work, produced by Hynes, into Mad, in which she dismantles the stereotype of an Angry Black Woman, Solange was on point, unleashing the kind of melismatic runs that inspire the utmost awe. 

Up next was the horn-laced, heavily charged FUBU ("For Us by Us"), during which she greeted the black attendees in the front row and sang directly to them. Between songs, she was poised and gracious, thanking the audience for their “special energy” in a Southern drawl that sounded at odds with her vocals. “How many guys out there have a seat at the table?” she asked before the jubilant Junie. For all the brilliance of her most recent album, though, it was 2012's Losing You that sparked the biggest reaction, Solange coaxing the crowd into a mass wig-out with the track's tragically euphoric refrain of "Tell me the truth, boy, am I losing you for good?". 

This is an artist to be cherished.