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Another Artist Squeezed onto an Undersized Stage

At Glastonbury 2024, one might find it more manageable to give up being anywhere near the stage, especially when you’re almost a mile away.

Much like the overcrowded Sugababes’ set, Avril Lavigne, the grumpy yet nostalgic pop-punk queen, has proven to be one of the festival’s must-see acts. Unfortunately, she’s been given a too-small stage in front of an overwhelming sea of admirers. Meanwhile, Janelle Monae, performing simultaneously on the Pyramid Stage, faces a sparsely populated audience, a result of poor scheduling. This scenario is far from ideal.

Despite the challenging conditions, Glastonbury’s crowd control team does a stellar job. They manage to keep everyone safe and direct thousands of people in front of the Other Stage and its surrounding areas. Unlike the Sugababes set at West Holts on Thursday, there are no reports of people being asked to step back during Lavigne’s performance. Lavigne herself seems overwhelmed by the turnout.

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

The show is brilliant, but Glastonbury must take note of the lessons from this year: underestimating the draw of pop nostalgia and overestimating interest in acts at the Pyramid Stage has led to some imbalances.

Nonetheless, there’s something magical about singing along with a multitude of fans, in their late twenties and early thirties, finding themselves somewhat far from the Other Stage but united in their love for Lavigne. To this group, she is nothing short of a deity.

All of us crammed at the back, close to food vendors and toilets, know every single word. Despite the initial critical dismissiveness of her stardom, Lavigne managed to speak directly to an entire generation.

“Did anyone here have a copy of my first album, Let Go?” she asks.

The collective response could be summarized with a loud “Duh.”

At 39, Lavigne still carries that laconic, somewhat petulant performing style that has always been her trademark. She moves deliberately across the stage, singing powerfully yet mostly stationary. “Here’s to never growing up,” she once sang, and her performance stays faithful to that proclamation.

Opening with the bratty brilliance of “Girlfriend,” Lavigne transitions into “What the Hell,” a mid-career track as evocative of its time as My Chemical Romance patches and youthful obsessions over the Wentz brothers.

More sing-alongs follow with the evocative rock ballad “My Happy Ending,” and a collective “aww” echoes when the strings for “I’m with You” begin, a new millennium power ballad that remains deeply affecting.

The straightforwardness of Lavigne’s lyrics holds a potent charm. Instead of leaning into elaborate metaphors, she opts for direct expressions of common woes: “Isn’t anyone trying to find me?/ Won’t somebody come take me home?” she sings in “I’m with You.”

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

Though she’s seldom been hailed as a great songwriter or a pivotal figure in coming-of-age music, it would be nice if this Glastonbury set reminds everyone of her appeal and significance.

Bringing the set to a close with “Sk8r Boi,” that delightful mix of head-banging fun and early 2000s cringe, Lavigne beams with joy. Even pop-punk’s most renowned miserablist can’t resist the infectious enthusiasm of the crowd.

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