Fans were chanting “Solange, Solange!” as the delay to the singer’s set stretched past the 15-minute mark — those near the front cheered at the emergence of every sheepish sound technician who had to fiddle with a keyboard or mic.
Their anticipation was fully warranted; when Solange appeared on stage, bathed in deep red light, she launched into what was one of the defining sets of the festival. Exquisitely choreographed by the artist, down to the beat, Solange’s set featured Solange and two backup singers, two brass instrumentalists, a drummer, keyboardist and two guitarists/bassists. Every member of the group was identically clad in orange-red tight jumpsuits.
Setting aside the impressiveness of the instrumentalists memorizing both the complex choreography and their musical parts, a defining characteristic of the set was the fact that for every step Solange asked her stagemates to learn, she took those steps with them, integrating herself fully into the choreography and often standing off center on the stage, evenly sharing the limelight with the talented musicians around her.
Far from mechanized robots, everyone involved seemed to be having a great time, and Solange was radiant as she reached out to the crowd — and faced the criminal attrition to that crowd caused by the festival scheduling The Who at the same time.
She also took the time to speak to her fans about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia — one of the few artists at the festival to do so explicitly. “Stay up. Find your self-care, find your joy,” she said at one of the first breaks in her set. “I know it’s been a rough few days,” she continued, singling out Black, Muslim and LGBTQ+ members of the audience. But she was reassuring before she continued on: “You matter, you belong.”
As her set continued, the impeccable choreography started drifting out of prominence for segments of each song, giving Solange the freedom to dance and twerk to the delight of fans, who whooped and hollered in support. And yet every spontaneous burst was seamlessly reintegrated into the arc of the show, as out of nowhere we would find all the musicians lined up in a row, in lock step move for move.
Almost adding insult to the injury of being given a shorter set on a smaller stage during The Who’s time slot, the festival also pulled the plug on her performance at around 9:42 p.m. — presumably (based on the 15-minute late start) about a quarter of an hour before her set was complete.
Ever graceful under pressure, Solange rallied her crew to finish the song they were playing, and at least for those in the front rows, the drums, brass and keys were still easily audible despite the lack of amplification. It’s unclear whose fault the late start was, but to those who had anxiously chanted her name beforehand, the cutoff was undoubtedly a bittersweet way to end the festival.