The 7 queerest moments of Glastonbury 2023, from Lizzo and Elton John to Lil Nas X
Over the years, Glastonbury has been a welcoming home for LGBTQ+ talent from across the globe, from David Bowie to Pet Shop Boys, Olly Alexander to Anna Calvi.
This year was no different, although some would argue that Glastonbury 2023 was the queerest festival to date. With Elton John as a headliner, and stars including Lil Nas X and Rina Sawayama on the bill, there was a lot of queer talent to pick between.
Now that the Worthy Farm festival is done for another year, here’s a look back at some of the biggest and best gay moments.
Lil Nas X gives the queerest show in Glastonbury history
“Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m riding,” Lil Nas X raps on bottom banger and number-one single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”. Given some of his lyrics, the 24-year-old rapper would’ve given a pretty queer showing if he’d simply turned up at Glastonbury and stood singing into the microphone à la Adele.
His sub-headliner set on the main Pyramid stage was a pick ‘n’ mix selection of queer culture, including a kiss with one of his dancers during “That’s What I Want”, a number of revealing outfits, and a grand entrance or two – towards the end, he returned to the stage on top of a hairy white horse, like the bear version of Beyonce’s Renaissance stallion.
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Fans and critics loved the performance, with NME dubbing it a “watershed moment for queer pop”, while The Guardian declared it the most “openly, ostentatiously queer show ever staged” at the Somerset festival.
Elton John says goodbye with a heart-warming George Michael tribute
Elton’s closing slot was always going to be an emotional one: after embarking on his worldwide Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour almost five years ago, his headline set at Glastonbury was to be his final goodbye to the UK.
Running through some of the monster hits in his back catalogue, including “Candle in the Wind”, “Bennie and the Jets”, and “Crocodile Rock”, Elton revealed that he “never thought” he’d play the festival, and said the evening was “very special and emotional” as it “might be” his last-ever show in Britain.
“I had better play well and I had better entertain you,” he told the crowd – and entertain he did.
Alongside running through the greatest hits of his 50-plus-year career, the gay pop rock legend welcomed special guests to the stage, including pansexual singer Rina Sawayama and The Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers.
The most emotional moment of the night came when Elton addressed the fact it was a dear friend’s birthday – George Michael would have turned 60.
“I want to dedicate this song to his memory,” Elton, 76, told the crowd. “All of the music he left us with, which is so gorgeous. This is for you, George.”
Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016, and alongside Elton, blazed a trail for queer British pop stars.
Jake Shears adds some queer sparkle to the Avalon stage
Jake Shears recently said that he doesn’t care about intentionally making his music queer, as it is, by nature, a big old gay romp.
A whisk through his and the Scissor Sisters’ back catalogue shows just that: from the coming out anthem “Take Your Mama” to his new, second solo album Last Man Dancing, Shears has always made music that has queerness running through its veins.
Bringing that discography to the stage at Worthy Farm made Glastonbury feel like an unofficial Pride event. First, there was the look: sparkling red shorts and vest with a white sweatband to match, Shears looked like a yassified version of the 118 118 men.
Then there was the set list, packed full of so many of the pulsing, raunchy hits that made Scissor Sisters one of the biggest bands of the millennium – “Filthy/Gorgeous” and “Don’t Feel Like Dancing” were just two of the highlights.
Finally, the extra sprinkling of queer magic, with his backing dancers launching into vogue mode.
In 2012, Scissor Sisters declared “Let’s Have a Kiki”. At Glastonbury, Shears made sure that a kiki was had.
Lizzo honours LGBTQ+ fans and Pride month
Lizzo knows her fans are, on the whole, very queer. As such, she’s always first in line to support the community, whether that’s taking on anti-drag laws in the US by inviting RuPaul’s Drag Race queens on stage with her during her tour, or simply by writing a song called “Everybody’s Gay”.
Glastonbury was no different. During her set on the Pyramid stage, which included hits “About Damn Time” and “Juice”, Lizzo pulled out a LGBTQ+ progress Pride flag, before screaming: “Happy Pride, b*tch!”
Lizzo, an LGBTQ+ ally until the very end.
Drag Race UK star Bimini stands with their trans siblings
Pausing their set, the non-binary drag performer held up a banner painted with the trans flag colours, which read: “Bin The Tories Anti-Trans Ban”.
Activists have voiced concerns about the 2010 Equality Act being amended to strip trans people of certain rights, by redefining sex as strictly biological.
In a letter to equalities minister Kemi Badenoch earlier this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggested that amending the definition of sex to “biological sex” would allow for “greater legal clarity” in terms of single-sex spaces.
Taking on the Tory’s anti-trans stance, Bimini told the crowd: “If it wasn’t for trans people, I wouldn’t be able to stand on this stage right now.
“Trans people are the reason we got our rights, they were at the forefront of the Stonewall riots. If you’re a true ally, support trans people.”
Shygirl performs one of the weekend’s most understatedly brilliant sets
Shygirl’s career has seen her sing alongside some of the greatest, queerest artists of our generation. She’s worked with the Sophie and trans avant-pop star Arca, and even popped up on the remixed version of Lady Gaga’s mammoth 2020 record, Chromatica.
As a queer person herself, Shygirl is also one of many LGBTQ+ women looking to dominate the music industry.
While her set on the small Park stage wasn’t lit with grand Pride celebrations or a troupe of vogue dancers, her appearance alone is a sign that the music industry has changed for the better.
Rina Sawayama steals the spotlight
One of the biggest talking points of the festival was “Hold The Girl” hit-maker Rina Sawayama seemingly calling out The 1975 singer Matty Healy.
Introducing her song about racist micro-aggression, “Stfu!”, Sawayama said she had “had enough” as she dedicated the song to a “white man who… mocks Asian people on a podcast”.
While the speech made the headlines, the real show-stopping moment was Sawayama herself.
The pansexual pop princess dazzled the roaring crowd with a run-through of her queer anthems, including her campy 2022 single “This Hell” and gay club fever dream “Lucid”.
Reviewers praised the set as “theatrical, flawless and f*****g stunning”.
On Sunday, she even joined Elton for a special rendition of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and, honestly, it doesn’t get much gayer than that.
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