Stormzy dominated Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage on Friday, with a thrilling, thought-provoking show that cemented his status as Britain’s best rapper.
Wearing a stab-proof Union Jack vest, he used his set to highlight inequality in the justice system and the arts.
In lighter moments, he covered Shape Of You and Sweet Like Chocolate, before wrapping up his set with a celebratory Big For Your Boots.
“This is the greatest night of my entire life,” he told the crowd.
The show opened with an introductory video of Jay-Z giving Stormzy advice for his history-making Glastonbury set. The US star explained he could use the moment to change culture, and inspire future generations of black children.
“Culture moves the world,” Jay-Z said. “When you step on that stage, you’re going to see it because they are really ready for it.”
From there, Stormzy strode onstage amid flamethrowers and fireworks, delivering an incendiary version of Know Me From.
Three songs in, he flashed crime statistics on the video screens, while sampling a speech by Labour MP David Lammy on racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system.
Later, the star invited a classically-trained dancer on stage to highlight how racism and privilege are present in all walks of life – even ballet, where shoes have only just became available in different skin tones.
But the night was also a celebration – Stormzy is the first black British solo artist to headline the Pyramid Stage – and he pulled out all the stops.
BMX riders took to the stage during Vossi Bop, Chris Martin came out to duet on Blinded By Your Grace, and Dave and Fredo joined Stormzy to perform their recent single Funky Friday.
“The reason I invited them here,” Sormzy explained, “is that Funky Friday the first pure British rap song to go number one in the UK. Do you understand what that means? That means we’ve come a long way.”
The significance of the moment was not lost on Dave, who turned to Stormzy and said: “You’ve made it possible, bro. You’ve allowed us to believe. I love you, bro. I love you.”
But the most moving section came towards the end, as Stormzy stood still in the centre of the stage while a gospel choir surrounded him singing You Saved Me – a minute of humility and grace in the midst of the biggest night of the star’s life.
Stormzy’s set was broadcast live on BBC Two, Radio 1Xtra and online.
Ahead of the show, the star said he was “overwhelmed with emotions” and that playing at Worthy Farm was “the most surreal feeling I’ve ever experienced.”
His performance wrapped up the first full day of the festival, where the main stage saw performances from George Ezra, Lauryn Hill and Sheryl Crow.
Crow, returning to the festival for the first time since 1997, sounded fresh and energised as she rattled through hits such as My Favourite Mistake and Every Day Is A Winding Road.
She hit an incredible high note during Can’t Cry Anymore, and posed for selfies with the audience. “You’d better get some sunblock on,” she told one fan, as the temperatures on Worthy Farm reached 28C.
Crow’s 12-year-old son even acted as an unofficial roadie, helping her swap guitars between numbers, and joining his younger brother to play percussion on Steve McQueen.
“My kids are having their first Glastonbury experience,” Crow said. “I think they’re enjoying it a little too much.”
The crowd swelled for Bastille’s early-evening set, which saw lead singer Dan Smith throw himself around the stage with scant regard for his personal safety.
Wearing a smiley face T-shirt- which was somehow less smiley than his actual face – Smith seemed to be having the time of his life, on songs such Pompeii, Happier and current single Joy.
“I know it’s a cliche and everyone says it, but this is the best festival in the whole world,” he said.
He recalled that, when he came to the 2008 festival as a fan, he spent the whole day watching bands he didn’t like, in order to see Amy Winehouse and Jay-Z.
“I’m sorry if we’re that band for you,” he said, as self-deprecating as ever.
Lauryn Hill allayed many fans’ fears by showing up (almost) on time, and staying largely faithful to the melodies and arrangements of her biggest hits.
Slightly raspier than you might remember, she delivered affecting, soulful performances of To Zion and Ex Factor, as she celebrated the 21st anniversary of her first – and so far only – solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
“It’s kind of crazy because I’ve kind of been in my own time-warp,” she said of playing the album, while teasing fans that she had been working on new material.
Her set ended with a mass singalong to Killing Me Softly, which she took to number one as part of the Fugees.
“You’re hired,” she smiled at the crowd as she left the stage.
Last on the Pyramid Stage before Stormzy was George Ezra, playing on a stool after injuring his ankle while running a couple of weeks ago.
His lack of movement didn’t seem to matter to the crowd – suddenly featuring a large number of small children – who danced and sang along to his freewheeling good-time pop songs, with particular highlights including Paradise and set-closer Shotgun.
The festival continues on Saturday with performances from Janet Jackson, Liam Gallagher, The Chemical Brothers, Sigrid, Wu-Tang Clan and headliners The Killers.