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Avril Lavigne was another Glastonbury artist plonked on too small a stage – review

There comes a point at Glastonbury 2024 where it becomes easier to give up about a mile away from the stage.

Much like Sugababes’ overcrowded set, the grouchy, nostalgic pop-punk queen Avril Lavigne is one of the festival’s must-see acts, yet is shoved on a too-small stage in front of an overwhelming sea of people. Janelle Monae, over on the Pyramid Stage at the exact same time, is the unlucky recipient of poor planning – a genius pop star performing to a barely-there crowd. It’s not great.

In difficult circumstances, crowd-control at Glastonbury do a brilliant job, keeping everyone safe and herding thousands of people in front of the Other Stage and the surrounding areas. Everybody seems to be able to see, and – unlike the Sugababes over at West Holts on Thursday – there are no reports of people being told to back away. Lavigne herself is overwhelmed.

“I can’t believe it’s taken me 22 years to play Glastonbury,” she says. “It’s about time.”

This is a brilliant show, but Glastonbury must learn lessons from a year that has vastly underestimated the appeal of pop nostalgia, and overestimated the interest in many performing over at the Pyramid.

That said, there is something incredibly special about being, more or less, a million miles away from the Other Stage and singing in unison with a small country of people in their late twenties and early thirties, to whom Lavigne is something of a god.

Lavigne retains the laconic performance style that has always defined her
Lavigne retains the laconic performance style that has always defined her (Getty)

All of us stuffed at the back of the crowd, near the food vendors and the toilets, know absolutely every word of an artist who, for all the cynical mockery she experienced at the beginning of her early fame, directly spoke to a generation.

“Did anyone here have a copy of my first album, Let Go?,” Lavigne asks at one point. It takes some resistance for the crowd to not scream back, “Duh”.

Lavigne is now 39, but retains the laconic, vaguely petulant performance style that has always defined her. She moves slowly across the stage, sings powerfully but largely statically. “Here’s to never growing up”, she once sang. She was at least being honest.

“Girlfriend” kicks things off with bratty brilliance, before Lavigne segues into “What the Hell”, another mid-career track about as synonymous with a particular moment in time as a My Chemical Romance patch and far too much brain power spent ranking the Wentz brothers.

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There are more sing-alongs to the evocative rock ballad “My Happy Ending”, and a massive, audible “aww” when the beautiful strings first kick in for “I’m with You”, one of those formidable gut-wrenchers comfortably sitting in the new millennium power ballad canon.

Avril Lavigne kicks up a storm on the Other Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2024
Avril Lavigne kicks up a storm on the Other Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2024 (Getty Images)

There is a rich power to the plainness of Lavigne’s lyrics, which resist flowery metaphor in favour of direct translation of commonplace woe: “Isn’t anyone trying to find me?/ Won’t somebody come take me home?” she sings on “I’m with You”.

“It’s a damn cold night / Trying to figure out this life…”

She’s never been considered much of a songwriter, or even particularly important in the grand scheme of coming-of-age music, but it’d be lovely if her Glastonbury set serves as a reminder of her appeal and her importance.

“Sk8r Boi” – that genius combination of head-banging brilliance and deep Y2K cringe – brings the set to a close, Lavigne grinning from ear to ear. Even pop-punk’s greatest miserabilist can’t resist the joy radiating from this crowd.

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