The mud might be drying on Worthy Farm, but the UK is still talking about the first Glastonbury since the pandemic. So we’ve selected some of our favourite performances from BBC Music’s Must-See list and run them through our tagging AI. 

But how does an AI hear live performances? And what can we tell about each performance based on the data? Let’s find out.

1. Paul McCartney - 'Band on the Run' (feat. Dave Grohl)

Glastonbury has legendary status among music festivals, but this outing saw the octogenarian former Beatle bring to the stage other rock heavyweights, including Dave Grohl, for ‘Band on the Run’ and even Bruce Springsteen. 

The exciting point is that the algorithm picks up hard-rock elements, which could be a recognition of Dave Grohl’s voice, which usually fits with harder styles than McCartney’s.

What the AI hears:
  • Genre: Rock (100%) Classic Rock (82%) Hard Rock (23%)
  • Mood: Powerful (89%) (Dramatic 27%)
  • Energy: High

2. Wolf Alice - 'The Last Man on Earth'

The drama with British alternative rock band Wolf Alice was off-stage when they reached out on social media looking for a private jet from LA to Glastonbury after their flight was cancelled at the last minute. After miraculously making it to the site just in time for their set, you can hear singer Ellie Rowsell is still out of breath from running to the stage.

In this track, one of their more mellow songs, the algorithm primarily recognises pop and 80s pop genres. The song’s climax triggers more performance-friendly moods such as powerful and exciting.

What the AI hears:
  • Genre: Pop (58%) 80s Pop (47%) Indie (27%)
  • Mood: Exciting (32%) Powerful (24%)
  • Energy: High

3. Kendrick Lamar - 'Saviour'

Kendrick categorically justified his position as the festival’s closing act with a powerful, theatrical performance in which the rapper was drenched in blood from a silver crown of thorns, enveloped by 20 dancers. His lyrics were especially poignant, and the passion of his delivery covering topics such as Covid and women’s rights was one that’s rarely seen on the Pyramid Stage.

Dark and quirky tags likely reflect the track’s production, including woozy synths, minor upright piano riff, and distinctive backing vocals. It’s interesting to see the energy being medium despite Kendrick’s fervour – this is likely due to the track’s relatively sparse production.

What the AI hears:
  • Genre: Hip Hop (88%) Electronic (21%)
  • Mood: Dark (39%) Quirky (31%)
  • Energy: Medium

4. Wet Leg - 'Chaise Longue'

Glastonbury can turn up-and-coming artists into household names. And one of the huge stand-outs from the coverage, among a sea of chart-topping names, was Wet Leg. The Isle of Wight band, formed by Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers in 2018, was named second in the BBC’s Sound of 2022 list. Although they found success in 2019 with their debut single ‘Chaise Longue’, they’ve landed a staunch fanbase with their riotously weird ‘Wet Dream’.

With its distorted guitar riffs, driving rhythm section, and semi-spoken/shouted vocal, there’s no mistaking the high energy of this performance. It’s no surprise that Wet Leg took Glastonbury by storm. Their combo of angry/energetic moods with quirky lyrics is a perfect festival fit.

What the AI hears:
  • Genre: Indie Rock (82%) Rock (57%) Indie (56%) Alt Rock (52%)
  • Mood: Angry (49%) Exciting (30%)
  • Energy: High

5. Lorde - 'Stoned at the Nail Salon' (feat. Arlo Parks and Clairo)

It’s not all about energetic songs at Glasto, as Lorde proved by teaming up with singer-songwriters Arlo Parks and Clairo. Their rendition of ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon – a song that’s just electric guitar and vocal – reminded audiences of the emotional weight that heartfelt, low-energy performances and close harmony can bring, especially as the evening drew in.

The only low-energy track on our list, it is a masterclass in setlist curation.  

What the AI hears:
  • Genre: Pop (76%) Folk (34%) Contemporary Pop (24%)
  • Mood: Dark (31%) Neutral (30%)
  • Energy: Low

6. Little Simz - 'Woman' (feat. Cleo Sol)

On Friday night, as Billie Eilish took to the Pyramid Stage, Little Simz delivered one of the most impressive performances of the festival on the West Holts Stage. One of the UK’s most captivating voices, Simz’s performance of ‘Woman’ with Cleo Sol (also featured on the studio recording) demonstrated her dominance as a headline performer. 

We’re as confident as she is that the next time we see her at Glasto, she will be on the Pyramid Stage. 

What the AI hears:
  • Genre: Gospel (54%) Soul (42%) Early Soul (25%) Neo Soul (21%)
  • Mood: Relaxed (64%) Romantic (31%)
  • Energy: Medium

7. Sam Fender - 'Seventeen Going Under'

Sam Fender is a classic Glasto act: an established British talent at the top of their game who can whip up a crowd. He missed out on debuting at the festival in 2019 due to illness, but he more than made up for it this year, bagging a sunset slot before Billie Eilish on the famous Pyramid Stage. 

The only performance on our list that earns a very high energy rating is ‘Seventeen Going Under’, which is fitting for the horn-section-backed rock performance. It also earns its powerful mood tag, with the audience chanting the melody in a moment that would make Springsteen proud.

What the AI hears:
  • Genre: Rock (100%) Alternative Rock (100%) Indie Rock (48%) Classic Rock (21%)
  • Mood: Powerful (53%) Dark (20%)
  • Energy: Very High

What were the trends among must-see performances?

The overriding trend we see in the list compiled by BBC Music is that powerful, angry and exciting moods are most common, and performances tend towards higher energies as artists bid to whip up the crowd. For genres, it’s perhaps no surprise that rock and indie genres reign supreme at Worthy Farm with the festival's rich rock heritage.

But how different are these live performances from the studio recordings of the same songs? We’ll aim to answer that question next week. Stay tuned!

Want to know how you can gain these insights into your catalogue? Drop us a message on Twitter, LinkedIn, email or send a message via our contact form.

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