The 20 largest Glastonbury performances ever, from Kylie to The Cure

A 40-minute blast of natural, undiluted zeitgeist. A huge crowd stretching away over hill and vale. A technology’s prejudices and expectancies overturned like a flick of mud off the shoulder. A setlist chiselled into quicksilver through Zeus and carried to the degree through a choir of winged roadies. Or perhaps simply the Dalai Lama, blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.

These are simply a number of the the reason why a gig taking part in out at the hallowed grounds of Worthy Farm would possibly pass down in Glastonbury folklore – a type of iconic moments that don’t simply make the weekend, however mark out the evolution of popular culture. Glastonbury is the place musical historical past is made and cultural colossi are topped on a near-annual foundation.

Ahead of the fantastic go back of the arena’s largest competition, headlined this 12 months through Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar, right here’s a glance again at the most productive ever Glastonbury performances.

22. The Levellers – Pyramid Stage, 1994

Sometimes amount actually does subject up to high quality. Without a metal fence to stay the gatecrashers away, Glasto used to be formally unfastened and The Levellers performed to what’s reported to had been the competition’s largest-ever crowd so far, estimated at 300,000. Imagine what number of canine have been tied up on the gate.

21. Kanye West – Pyramid Stage, 2015

Lee Nelson invades the degree as Kanye West plays


As a ways as vintage Glastonbury speaking issues pass, not anything since Michael Jackson died has come as regards to Kanye’s 2015 slot. For all his claims to be “the biggest rock star on the planet”, nerves were given the easier of what used to be arguably Kanye’s highest-profile display ever. His try to echo Jay-Z’s rock-embracing “Wonderwall” from 2008 fell flat when he forgot the phrases to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and he needed to restart “Black Skinhead”’ after comic Lee Nelson invaded the degree pretending to be a marvel visitor rapper. Nonetheless (glance away now, Noel), some elegance this as any other key victory in hip-hop’s Glastonbury takeover.

20. Primal Scream – NME Stage, 1992

The quantity, in accordance to a few onlookers, used to be like being attentive to a automobile stereo taking part in ”Movin’ On Up” underwater 3 miles away. Yet Primal Scream bringing Screamadelica to the NME Stage in 1992 used to be extra of a collective birthday party of tune’s maximum double-visioned zeitgeist. Generation “Loaded” got here in combination as one, and rock and dance cultures mated furiously within the timber at this height of the ecstasy rave explosion.

19. T Rex – Main Stage, 1970

“Don’t touch my car!” Marc Bolan barked at Michael Eavis when the burgeoning competition don – en path to Minehead Butlin’s to switch The Kinks at what used to be then necessarily a farmer’s celebration happening on a degree held at the side of string – attempted brushing leaves off his Cadillac. Yet Bolan’s T Rex stormed the inaugural Glastonbury (or the Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues Festival because it used to be identified – £1 consistent with price tag and the entire milk you must drink). “Bolan played on and on and on as the sun was going down,” Eavis recalled, “all the hits, the full works, and it sounded fantastic.”

18. Kylie Minogue – Pyramid Stage, 2019

In 2005, Kylie used to be pressured to tug out of her Pyramid Stage headline slot because of her most cancers prognosis, a wrench for enthusiasts and artist alike regardless of Coldplay’s impressive substitute set. The Eavises, on the other hand, couldn’t get her out in their heads. When she in the end honoured the reserving 14 years later, for 2019’s Legends slot, she pulled out the entire stops, placing on a headline-worthy display rammed together with her largest hits. There have been superstar visitors, too, together with Chris Martin on “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and Nick Cave for “Where the Wild Roses Grow”. Dolly-beating stuff.

17. Portishead – Acoustic Tent, 1995

As many a troubadour will attest, it’s uncommon to discover a overwhelm of 15,000 folks caught out of doors the Acoustic Tent. But the coming of native (ish) heroes Portishead bearing the splendid jazz front room trip-hop in their vastly acclaimed debut album Dummy brought about simply such well mannered chaos. The fortunate few within reported a bewitching set of very trendy heartache – “Glory Box” and “Sour Times” capping a display of immense grace and emotion. As many tears within as out.

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16. The Killers – New Tent, 2004

The Killers headlining Glastonbury in 2019 – 15 years once they performed the New Tent


The best possible signal of encroaching superstardom, they are saying, is when your John Peel Stage debut is as rammed and rambunctious as Theresa May’s leaving beverages. Arguably the primary and best instance used to be the tsunami of enthusiasts descending at the New Tent early at the Saturday night in 2004, to toast the coming of Las Vegas indie pop showmen The Killers. The crowds stretched a ways out of doors the tent however even those at the outskirts bawled alongside to “Mr Brightside” and “All These Things That I’ve Done”. It used to be any such “moment” that the band returned to the degree (now the John Peel Stage) for a secret encore in 2017.

15. Orbital – NME Stage, 1994

Dance tune had lengthy since conquered clubland, however its clout as a power to unify an unlimited competition crowd used to be unrecognised till Orbital took Glasto ’94 through artificial hurricane. Drawing 40,000 ravers to the NME Stage for his or her headline set with little greater than compulsive beats and headlights on their faces, the Hartnoll brothers dazzled now not simply the thousands and thousands observing Glastonbury’s first televised proclaims on Channel 4, however Eavis himself. So a lot so, actually, that he used to be impressed to open a devoted Dance Tent the next 12 months. It’s since grown into its personal festival-within-a-festival within the Silver Hayes dance village.

14. New Order – Pyramid Stage, 1981

By 1981, Glastonbury had grown from its Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues roots, however now not a ways. It used to be a CND charity amassing of round 3,000 bikers burning up the website as they waited for Hawkwind to return on. “It was our version of Altamont but without any trouble,” mentioned New Order’s Peter Hook in their “spirited” reinforce slot, but it surely used to be additionally the instant the band emerged from underneath the lingering clouds of Joy Division and proved themselves the silvery scouts of the brand new digital age.

13. Beyoncé – Pyramid Stage, 2011

If Jay may do it, so may Bey. Following her husband’s celebrated 2008 headline slot (and pregnant with their first kid on the time), Beyoncé delivered Glastonbury’s final pop revel in so far. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”, “Crazy in Love”, glitzy covers of each “Love to Love You Baby” and “Sex On Fire’, billowing ballads sung while kneeling on white grand pianos… even the bells had whistles on them. All of this was wrapped up with the most bootylicious of Destiny’s Child medleys.

12. Stormzy – Pyramid Stage, 2019

Stormzy performs Shut Up at Glastonbury

Boasting what was rumoured to be the most expensive Glastonbury set ever staged – a Banksy stab-vest! Ballet dancers! Chris Martin! – Stormzy had only released one album, his hit debut Gang Signs & Prayer, when he became the first black British solo artist to ascend to the revered Glastonbury headline slot in 2019. He used it as a battering ram to break the new grime uprising onto the most respected stage in the world. Historic.

11. Happy Mondays – Pyramid Stage, 1990

By its very nature as a gigantic concave mirror on alternative culture, Glastonbury reflects and exaggerates music’s pivotal moments. Case in point: Happy Mondays roll onto the Pyramid Stage in 1990 – just as ecstasy is reshaping youth culture into very bendy shapes indeed – and twist the melon of an entire generation with “Step On”, “Wrote For Luck” and “Hallelujah”. Where the Second Summer of Love (1988-1989) used to be an in-the-know affair, this set made it universally hip to be bushy, lairy, saggy and boggle-eyed.

10. Jay-Z – Pyramid Stage, 2008

Noel Gallagher wasn’t having it, however Glastonbury 2008 indubitably used to be. Gently mocking Noel’s disgust as rap infiltrated rock’s maximum respected degree, Jay-Z entered with a ramshackle solo rendition of “Wonderwall”, then all however smashed his acoustic guitar as he burst into “99 Problems”. There adopted a veritable firestorm of hip-hop classics – “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, “Girls, Girls, Girls”, “Big Pimpin’”, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” – nearly as even though Jigga used to be beating the spirit of Glastonbury into submission prior to forcing it to put on a Brooklyn Nets blouse. The competition’s thoughts used to be opened eternally, that evening.

9. Patti Smith – Pyramid Stage, 2015

Most so-called “heritage” acts pass during the motions at Glastonbury – a stout bite in their folky new file and, begrudgingly, a smatter in their outdated hits. Not Patti Smith. She attacked the Pyramid Stage in 2015 like a white-haired twister. Ripping strings from her guitar through the fistful and hailing “Freedom!” on the most sensible of her voice, she tore via “Land”, “Gloria” and The Who’s “My Generation” just like the age-defying punk pioneer she is. She even discovered time to offer the real Dalai Lama with a birthday cake on degree and fall on her face, “because I’m a f***ing animal!” Amen.

8. Oasis – NME Stage, 1994

Scenes develop into seismic occasions once they turn out they are able to dominate a whole Glastonbury competition. Take Sunday 26 June 1994, when a tender, cocksure Liam Gallagher strode onto the NME Stage in a black jumper and sun shades and demanded of a distinctly mad-ferrit crowd: “Are you lot gonna wake up for some proper songs?” Songs hardly got here so “proper” as “Cigarettes and Alcohol”, “Live Forever” and “Fade Away”, which joined “Shakermaker” and “Supersonic” within the wider public area that day – bombardments from Britpop’s northern armies. The Nineties abruptly had some actual combat in them.

7. The Cure – Pyramid Stage, 2019

Robert Smith pulled a Bowie in 2019, returning to Glastonbury after a decades-long smash – 24 years to be actual – and levelling the Tor with the hits. As certainly one of Britain’s largest singles bands cunningly disguised as certainly one of its largest album bands, The Cure unleashed their ambitious melodic facet in their canon, from gothic classics (“The Walk”, “A Forest”) to formative alt-pop greats (“Close to Me”, “In Between Days”, “Boys Don’t Cry”) and indie dancefloor mainstays (“Friday I’m in Love”, “Why Can’t I Be You?”, “Just Like Heaven”). There used to be house, too, for extra chest-bursting moments equivalent to “Pictures of You”, “Plainsong” and “Disintegration” in one of the brilliantly balanced Glastonbury headline units of all time.

6. Blur – NME Stage, 1994

By the time Pulp and Radiohead had performed that very same degree, that very same day, in a line-up that Johnny Greenwood would describe as ”just like the Champions League”, Britpop had formally arrived. To usher in this cultural breakout, Blur rolled up of their Parklife charabanc at sunset for a coming-of-age celebration that noticed “Girls & Boys”, “End of a Century” and the era-defining name monitor taken on as generational anthems, at a display as celebratory and momentous as any headline set. It took a 12 months prior to the News at Ten stuck on, however everybody on the NME Stage that day knew that Britpop already owned the last decade.

5. Radiohead – Pyramid Stage, 1997

Thom Yorke of Radiohead all over the band’s mythical Glastonbury efficiency in 1997


Radiohead’s 1997 headline slot is steadily solid as a fight – towards the weather, malfunctioning degree apparatus and their very own despondency. “Everything broke onstage,” mentioned Ed O’Brien. “It turned into the worst night of our lives. I don’t think we ever wanted to play a concert again.” But it’s higher remembered as a fight towards the formulaic post-Oasis rock panorama of Ocean Colour Scenes and Stereophonics, into which OK Computer landed like a laser-precision drone assault. “Lucky” rang out like an epic air-raid siren for the tip of the century, and Radiohead’s recent logo of ultramodern melancholia – “No Surprises”, “Karma Police”, “Airbag” – made it really feel as even though the longer term had selected Worthy Farm for its grand unveiling.

4. The Smiths – Pyramid Stage, 1984

“I don’t want to sound revolutionary, or wild or dangerous, but hippydom… what does it mean?” So mentioned Morrissey, listening to help firmly in lughole, behind the curtain at Glastonbury 1984 – in a while prior to The Smiths have been resoundingly booed and bottled through a box filled with Santana enthusiasts. Hippydom indubitably wasn’t a number of effete Mancunians flapping round making a song wiry pop songs filled with wry, poetic teenage ennui equivalent to “Hand in Glove”, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and “This Charming Man”. The efficiency impressed Glastonbury’s first degree invasion, however by no means would Glasto be explained as a purely “hippy festival” once more. With The Smiths got here a brand new subculture and a modern inclusiveness that reinvented the competition as a early life tradition amassing that used to be certainly modern, wild and a bit bit unhealthy.

3. Paul McCartney – Pyramid Stage, 2004

Sometimes all it takes to slide seamlessly into Glastonbury legend is the best songbook identified to mankind. Sir Paul’s first-ever UK competition display – no, actually – used to be the singalong to finish all of them: “Eleanor Rigby” into “Drive My Car”, “Penny Lane”, “Get Back”, “Band On the Run”, “Back In the USSR”, “Live and Let Die”, “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Lady Madonna” and a “Hey Jude” you must pay attention from Dunfermline. That used to be prior to the encore. McCartney is returning for Glastonbury 2022 – if he’s even part as just right, it’ll be a collection to keep in mind.

2. David Bowie – Pyramid Stage, 2000

Bowie at Glastonbury in 2000

(PA Archive)

Bowie’s recognition as an uncompromising artwork iconoclast preceded him for Glastonbury 2000. We’d observed him headline fairs prior to, taking part in hit-free drum’n’bass units or onslaughts of screeching long run steel that appeared like vaguely tuneful slow-motion automobile crashes. Needless to mention, we weren’t precisely anticipating “Changes”. Then he got here on in one of those Moroccan bathrobe affair and sang “Changes”. And “Life On Mars?” And “Ashes to Ashes” and “Rebel Rebel” and “Under Pressure” and “Starman” and “All the Young Dudes” and the whole thing else you may be able to need David Bowie to play. You may’ve observed David Bowie are living 1000 instances, and this will be the set you remembered.

1. Pulp – Pyramid Stage, 1995

When The Stone Roses pulled out in their hotly expected Glastonbury headline set in 1995, few within the crowd had any concept who used to be changing them till Pulp walked onstage. To say they stepped up is an unlimited understatement – they went down in historical past. Jarvis Cocker appeared born to prowl the arena’s greatest degree, chatting to the largest crowd of his lifestyles find it irresistible used to be a mate down his native Voyeurs Anonymous assembly. The likes of “Babies”, “Disco 2000” and “Common People” crystallised Britpop’s ascendance in 60 or so scintillating mins. They even unveiled a brand new music reputedly penned for the instance – “Sorted For E’s & Wizz” – and encapsulated the bewildering, otherworldly spirit of Glastonbury in 20 phrases: ”Is this the best way they are saying the longer term’s supposed to really feel?/ Or simply 20,000 folks status in a box?” And to assume, they requested Rod Stewart to fill in first.

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