Diana Ross brings Motown glamour to Glastonbury

By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent

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Diana RossImage source, PA Media
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The star received a rapturous reception on the Pyramid Stage

Diana Ross graced Glastonbury's legend slot on Sunday afternoon with a career-spanning greatest hits show that drew one of the weekend's biggest crowds.

The Motown star exuded glamour in a flowing white fur coat and feathered headdress, as she opened with the Pride anthem I'm Coming Out.

"I love singing during the daytime where I can see your faces and see your eyes," she declared, further seducing an already enthusiastic audience.

"Can you see me, 'cos I can see you?"

In other words, Ross understood the brief: The Sunday teatime slot is all about audience goodwill; and she had it in spades.

Often portrayed as a diva, she spoke openly about the difficulties of lockdown - "I'm going to call it a vacation, a gap year, because I don't want to say what it really did" - and confessed the need for a lyric sheet when she sang the title track of last year's Thank You album.

"I'm not perfect at it yet, but I will be," she joked.

Best of all, the 78-year-old genuinely seemed to enjoy her own music - a phenomenon that's more uncommon than you'd think.

After the band finished one of her newer songs, a euphoric disco cherry bomb called Tomorrow, she carried on the chorus a capella, apparently having the time of her life.

"Wooh, really good!" she exclaimed.

That joy was reflected back from the audience, who belted out Supremes classics like Can't Hurry Love, Baby Love and Stop In The Name Of Love ("I've got a lot of songs about love, because everything we do is about love," Ross noted) as well as later solo hits like Chain Reaction and Love Hangover.

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Tens of thousands sang along to hits like Chain Reaction and Upside Down

Ross was first announced for Glastonbury's coveted legend slot in 2020, before Covid resulted in two successive festivals being cancelled.

She re-confirmed her appearance last November, claiming her place in the festival's hall of fame alongside Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Barry Gibb and Kylie Minogue.

The set traditionally draws the Glastonbury's largest crowds. Parton attracted the festival's largest-ever audience in 2014; while Minogue's triumphant performance was watched by 3.9 million TV viewers.

Ross certainly drew a crowd to rival theirs, with a timeless catalogue of hits to match.

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The highlight was the Chic-penned Upside Down, a song that's essentially a never-ending cycle of brilliant hooks.

The irresistible funk even encouraged the statuesque Ross to abandon her spot behind the microphone and shuffle down to the audience for a little shoulder shimmy.

"You've got to put your body into it," she exclaimed. "You can't be unhappy when you're moving your body."

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The singer said she felt 47, despite celebrating her 78th birthday in March

Like Paul McCartney, who headlined the Pyramid Stage on Saturday night, Ross's voice betrayed the signs of her advancing years. But when the 78-year-old missed the occasional high note or jumped ahead of the beat, she made it look intentional - as if it was the band's fault for not keeping up.

Viewers who watch the set back at home may find those moments uncomfortable but, for the audience at Worthy Farm, her razor-sharp backing singers carried her through.

Even the newer songs from Ross's lockdown album Thank You, went down well, although it would have been nice to hear golden oldies like Love Child or Reflections, instead of the set-closing cover of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive (mashed up, inexplicably but brilliantly, with DJ Khaled's All I Do Is Win).

But you can't quibble with Miss Ross. She's earned the right to do whatever she wants. And in this case, that was a crowd-pleasing, uplifting, party-starting Glastonbury highlight.

Diana Ross set list

  • I'm Coming Out
  • More Today Than Yesterday
  • My World Is Empty Without You
  • Baby Love
  • Stop In The Name Of Love
  • Can't Hurry Love
  • Chain Reaction
  • Thank You
  • Tomorrow
  • If The World Just Danced
  • I'm Still Waiting
  • Upside Down
  • Love Hangover
  • Why Do Fools Fall In Love
  • Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)
  • Ain't No Mountain High Enough
  • I Will Survive

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