Well, it’s over. Last night marked the final day of the Barcelona edition of Primavera Sound 2022, and I can hardly believe I made it through. Despite being marred by organizational problems, the amount of incredible music – and I hope this is true of everyone that attended – went a long way in making up for whatever chaos they caused. Of course, it was also overwhelming. “I think if I went to this festival I would never listen to music again,” Julian Casablancas said during the Strokes’ set on Friday, which might end up being the case. But considering how much resilience being there for both weekends (plus the week-long Primavera a la Ciutat) required, I also found myself thinking, Damn, I must really like it. It was also a reminder that I enjoy hearing music live, too. Last night was one final test of endurance, to be sure, and there were, as usual, some unfortunate schedule conflicts, but it also featured plenty of unforgettable performances. Here, in chronological order, are six of them.
The Weather Station Blends In With the Ocean (And Techno Music)
Tamara Lindeman walks on to the stage wearing a dress with different shades of blue: “I wanted to match the ocean,” she explained, referring to it as her “Halloween costume.” Beside her, the band (featuring OHHME’s Macie Stewart on violin) is dressed in white, like clouds; behind them the screen is showing footage of the sea, as still as the one that’s in sight. It seemed like the perfect environment to showcase the lush, quietly stirring tracks on the Weather Station’s 2021 album Ignorance (and perhaps this year’s How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars, though its intimacy didn’t suit the full-band setup), and they blended in seamlessly. My god, I thought.
There’s only one thing that was off about the whole performance: dance music throbbed ceaselessly from a nearby stage, disrupting each moment of silence. “I wanted to say all this stuff,” she said at one point, “but I’ll just keep playing.” Later, she quipped, “I wish I made music like this.” The propulsive nature of her own music shines through as much as its unguarded vulnerability, and her voice is as spine-chillingly beautiful as it is on record. ‘Robber’ and ‘Atlantic’ are both standouts, building with an intensity that leaves the audience in rapture; Stewart’s solos in particular were astonishing. You wished they’d just keep playing until the only sound you could hear was theirs.
The Moon Can’t Escape Arooj Aftab
Early in her performance, Arooj Aftab remarked on how beautiful the view was from where she was standing at the Ouigo stage on Saturday evening. “We’re trying to reinvent sad music,” she explained, her set serving as a captivating showcase of her 2021 record Vulture Prince. “Make it sexy, you know?” Her songs of longing and melancholy – or, in her words, being “drunk and in love” – took on a transportive quality live, her stunning voice supported by two incredible musicians – “monsters,” as she called them – harpist Maeve Gilchrist and bassist Petros Kampanis, both of whom were given time in the spotlight on nearly every song.
There were occasionally some issues with the sound, which had an unsettling effect on the atmosphere; at times, though, the feedback almost unintentionally gave the songs a haunted edge. Whatever darkness they hold was also balanced out by Aftab’s endearing sense of humour. “Shit, the moon is now in the clouds,” she said, hilariously, before astounding us with her rendition of ‘Last Night’. Whenever I listen to Vulture Prince, I always envision a late-night summer scene, and it seemed to me like the performance might have benefited from being scheduled a bit later. It wasn’t necessary, though. Aftab knew exactly how to take us there: How beautiful, indeed.
Night Time, Sky Ferreira’s Not on Time
Sky Ferreira has a reputation for her shaky, incoherent live shows. It’s something she’s self-conscious about, apologizing at the end of a song and calling the performance a mess. (It often was.) But they don’t exactly happen very often. Her set at Primavera Sound Barcelona on Saturday was only her second in three years, following a recent performance at NOS Primavera Sound in Portugal (which reportedly began 20 minutes late), so you wouldn’t want to miss out on a chance to see her live. This performance wasn’t exactly an exception. She was late again (after her set time had already been changed at the last minute, moving closer to nighttime), skipped the opening ‘Boys’ after a false start and never returned to it, and her vocals often sounded off. The fact that it didn’t always have the effect of ruining the experience made me question how much of it is an aesthetic choice.
Fortunately, the songs from Night Time, My Time that people yearned to sing along to – including ’24 Hours’, ‘You’re Not the One’, ’I Blame Myself’, and ‘Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)’ – sounded pretty great, as did the new single ‘Don’t Forget’. I wasn’t exactly floored by the unreleased ‘Innocent Kind’, which she had played for the first time a few days earlier, or another one called ‘All My Lovers Die’, which got its live debut here – at least in part, because she decided to abandon that one, too. After begging for extra time, Ferreira gave fans what they wanted with a rendition of ‘Everything Is Embarrassing’. It might have been a mess, but it certainly wasn’t forgettable.
Not Enough Yeah Yeah Yeahs
A lot of festivalgoers were pretty frustrated when Sky Ferreira’s set time change meant it clashed with part of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and her going overtime didn’t exactly help matters. This meant I only managed to see only about half of the band’s headlining performance, but I’m glad I did – it was also one of their first shows in three years, arriving in anticipation of the recently announced Cool It Down, their first LP since 2013. I didn’t get to hear the great new single ‘Spitting Off the Edge of the World’, but after back-to-back performances of ‘Gold Lion’, ‘Maps’, ‘Y Control’, and ‘Heads Will Roll’, I could hardly complain. It was equal parts exhilarating, euphoric, and defiant, and I was convinced Karen O is one of the most electrifying performers alive (at one point, she devoured that microphone). I’ve only recently started getting more into their discography, and it’s not hard to see why they’re known as one of the best live bands in the world. If you have a chance to see them on any of their upcoming tour dates, do. Even if you get to watch the whole thing, I’ve no doubt it will leave you wanting more.
Jessie Ware Steps Into the Spotlight
Jessie Ware had been waiting for this moment for a long time, and so, clearly, were her fans. Just before she came on to the Cupra stage on Saturday night, it seemed to me like one of the most hotly anticipated performances of the festival – which really says something – and ended up being one of the most euphoric. It was a chance to finally showcase What’s Your Pleasure?, one of many albums released mid-pandemic that leaned into the escapism of disco – and also the best. Wearing a turquoise gown and joined by a group of incredible dancers and singers, she delivered a performance that was at once elegant and scintillating, even campy, but also strangely moving – with the full participation of the audience, it was hard to ignore the emotionality of these songs as much as their danceability. It’s why the gorgeously evocative ‘Wildest Moments’ – one of only a couple of older songs she performed – still suited her set, a reminder that there was a fierceness to her music even when she was mostly known for making laid-back R&B. But it was time for the pulsating beats and restless longing of What’s Your Pleasure? to shine, and they couldn’t have hit with more force.
Megan Thee Stallion Gives Fans the ‘Hot Girl Summer’ They Deserve
If you were to see me bearing witness to one final show at Primavera around 2pm last night, you’d think the headliner was Bon Iver, not Megan Thee Stallion. After ten days of non-stop live performances at the festival, I was struggling to keep myself up, let alone move my body in the way that Megan’s forceful, energetic one-hour set demanded. But everyone else certainly did. As she ran through hits like ’WAP’, ‘Body’, ‘Hot Girl Summer’, and ’Savage’ – as well as the recent ‘Sweetest Pie’, though not bringing fellow headliner Dua Lipa on stage was a missed opportunity – the performance exuded body positivity as her self-confidence spread across the crowd, which in turn hyped her up and bounced to every song like it was the first and possibly last hot girl summer. It was a powerful way to close out the festival – it felt like the season had only just begun. Maybe next time it won’t look like i,i is my idea of a “crazy energy” summer record.