Picture the scene, you are a 15-year-old learning to play drums in your dad’s garage and dreaming of one day playing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival. Fast forward (unless that is you, now) to June 2023 enter Rick Astley, who at 57, finally realised the dream of that kid from Lancashire, when he opened the stage with full band. The singer-songwriter came away from his debut Glastonbury performance having occupied the space between 80’s pop idol and mature soul artist magically, throwing in some rock and new stuff for good measure. That was the brief and Astley understood the assignment.
Rick Astley @ Glastonbury Festival 2023
When people are starting to fray around the edges, having partied hard for at least 2 days in the oasis that is Worthy Farm in Somerset, midday on a Sunday is a challenging slot to fill. Opening with classic Together Forever (1987), Astley swiftly acknowledged that most people were only there to hear that song and promised it would close out the set. No more guessing. He worked hard to get the audience warmed up, cracking jokes and playing games with the cameras and those who made sure to be on site early were treated well for their eventual participation. The singer was depreciating and witty throughout, generously showing appreciation for his band and singers along the way, allowing them to shine individually as they all got to live out their own childhood dreams of the festival, taking their moment at the front while Rick hung off to the back or side.
Moving effortlessly through Keep Singing (from his anniversary album, 50 in 2016) which admittedly not many knew, to cover a track pretty much everybody knew, As It Was by Harry Styles. Astley threw a guitar round his neck and gave it an 80’s synth makeover playing A-Ha’s Take On Me underneath. Genius. Cry For Help (1991) was atmospheric and sounded like it was being sung in a church, rather than in a field in the middle of the Somerset acountryside.
The very modern salmon pink suit worked fabulously against the 80’s outfits of Dawn and Lauren (the choir of two) donned in sparkling denim jumpsuits featuring fluted cuffs. Back to that 15-year-old in a garage, when the vocalist moved to the drum kit he took on, and nailed, AC/DC’s Highway To Hell sharing it was a dream come true for him. We were treated to a new track Dippin’ My Feet (2023) telling the audience he would be a fool not to take advantage of the biggest audience of his life and the TV being there, he was right and it was well received. The beauty of this musicians’ time at the Pyramid was making new things old and old things new.
Closing, as promised, with Never Gonna Give You Up (1987), that song, the whole field was singing along before a note was even played. It was the call and response track of the day, completely worth the wait. When the music kicked in, the band accompanied by the stage staff displaying a choreographed routine along the safety barrier, a unique touch where no one cared IF anyone pointed the wrong way. I did miss the famous finger click and hip sway from the music video, but it was the perfect end to a tricky slot.
I came away thinking what a talented gentleman, he knows how to work a crowd and appreciates his musical history. Very obviously delighted to be on the stage showcasing his ability on a range on instruments. Rick Astley’s Glastonbury debut was everything I wanted to see. Overall 10/10? No notes (apart from these).
Review by Sharmayne Robinson and photos by Kalpesh Patel at Glastonbury Festival 2023.