Glastonbury 2014 / The 100 best Glastonbury performances ever
The 100 best Glastonbury performances ever
From the Rolling Stones to Beyoncé, here's our countdown of Glastonbury's greatest ever acts
Glastonbury greats: Nick Cave, Beyoncé and Amy WinehousePhoto: REX FEATURES/BBC
By Thomas H Green
5:28PM BST 23 Jun 2014
100. The Wurzels, 2000
The Bandstand stage is tiny, on a concourse in the market area, but given that these West Country hitmakers of the Seventies are patron saints of cider-drinking, with many a song on the subject, their jovial hoedown pulled a crowd from miles around.
99. Kerri Chandler, 2013
Among the night fields there’s a tattered tenement building with a New York cab sticking out of the roof. Its creators, Block9, invited the cream of original US house DJs, most especially Kerri Chandler, to play all night long.
98. Ozric Tentacles, 1992
The Ozrics are a Somerset space-rock gaggle, fixtures of the free festival circuit in the late Eighties and early Nineties. They played the NME stage that year but their acid-fried jamming was perfectly suited to the more illicit Green Lights Oasis stage.
97. The Sandals, 1993
Now lost to history, The Sandals were briefly a big thing. Their hypnotic blend of percussion and indie-jazz was never better than when tropical monsoon heat was punctured by a thunderstorm during their best song, We Wanna Live.
96. Youssou N’Dour, 1992
Youssou N’Dour’s eclectic brand of the Senegalese musical style mbalax was a surprise hit, as ravers, hippies and indie kids congregated in the Jazz World field to enjoy a splash of solar-powered African optimism.
95. Spiritualised, 1993
Jason Pierce’s gospel-tinted drone-rockers have played regularly at Glastonbury but their 1993 set, expanding mesmerisingly on the previous year’s spaced out Laser Guided Melodies album, swept many a tired mind off into the cosmos.
94. Chic, 2013
Nile Rodgers’ funk showcase was an obvious choice for a frothier, sexier alternative to Arctic Monkeys on the Pyramid. So it proved, with the crowd’s a cappella version of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky – which he co-wrote – as an encore.
93. Melanie, Pyramid, 1971
The sappy and sometimes off-key American strummer entirely nailed the guileless, utopian, hippy dreaming of the first proper Glastonbury, as can be seen in Nicholas Roeg’s very much of-its-time documentary Glastonbury Fayre.
92. TCR Allstars, 2008
Rennie Pilgrem’s breakbeat ravers gave an object lesson in how Glastonbury midafternoon can hold its own with Ibiza, aided by multiple Frisbees distributed by now-forgotten Australian dance-pop act Sneaky Sound System.
91. Isaac Hayes, 2002
From the sublime to the ridiculous, the denim-leisurewear-clad funk legend sent himself up while seriously enjoying his back catalogue, running the gamut from a storming Shaft to the very silly South Park hit Chocolate Salty Balls.
90. Last Shadow Puppets, 2008
A ’secret’ appearance by the side project of Miles Kane and Arctic Monkey Alex Turner. The string section they took on tour was absent, but Jack White was notably present on guitar for one song.
89. Hawkwind, 1990
The free festival-friendly space-rockers played various Glastonburys but this unoffical turn in the travellers’ site - the year of the riot that ended the travellers’ free entrance to the festival - also ended the band’s relationship with Glastonbury. They did, however, get a tasty live album out of it.
88. Janelle Monae, 2011
The extravagantly coiffured American funk-rock singer delivered her set from a stage crowded in performers and writhing with wild dancers, including herself. It was akin to a crazily energised, surrealist, soul burlesque.
85. Bhundu Boys, 1989
The sweet, easily palatable Zimbabwean ’jit’ sound of the Bhundu Boys is sometimes sneered at, retrospectively, by world music aficionados, but in 1989 they proved a lively, lovable bridge into African music for a field of rock fans.
87. Stanton Warriors, 2011
The Arcadia venue alone is persuasive, a giant metal fire-breathing sci-fi spider, the size of a couple of houses, but Bristolian DJ duo the Stanton Warriors’ raging breakbeat assault tipped everything into euphoric dirt-tramping hysteria.
86. Amy Winehouse, 2007
(Picture: Leon Schadeberg/Rex)
Clad in a green vest top, Amy Winehouse gave a Friday afternoon ska and soul revue as the weather alternated between sun and rain. Her palpable nervousness was replaced two years later by a deranged, swearing performance before Jay-Z in 2009.
84. Dreadzone, 2010
Dreadzone’s mix of electro-reggae with sea shanty trimmings has little appeal on record but somehow it makes perfect sense at Glastonbury where they play every year, their live shows much beloved by the late, great John Peel.
83. Sphynx, 1978
Sphynx, a band fronted by Nik Turner of Hawkwind, jammed hypnotic Egyptian-themed space-rock beneath a hastily erected pyramid-shaped awning which was allegedly struck, at one point, by lightning, at a free, impromptu and rain-lashed Glastonbury.
82. Elvis Costello, 1987
A snappy solo Saturday headline set concluded with Tramp the Dirt Down, only for a curtain to rise revealing the Attractions, who then performed another hour with visceral zest in their last show with Costello until the Nineties.
81. Toots & the Maytals, 2010
Directly after Germany knocked England out of the World Cup, the sun-roasted crowds needed a tonic which these reggae veterans provided to the max, from Funky Kingston to a smashing cover of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads.
80. Carl Cox, 1995
Following persuasion from techno convert Steve Hillage (of Gong), Glastonbury decided DJs join the more traditional bands. Superstar DJ Carl Cox sent the new Dance Tent wild, with tunes such as Hardfloor’s acid techno remix of Mory Kanté s Yeké Yeké.
79. Robbie Williams, 1998
(Picture: Brian Rasic/Rex)
Partying at Glastonbury 1995 was famously Robbie Williams’ undoing, instigating his departure from Take That, but he returned triumphant three years later, raising a soaked festival’s spirits and beginning Angels’ journey to anthem status.
78. Van Morrison, 1987
Glastonbury 1987 is mostly remembered for the Mutoid Waste Company’s Car Henge sculptures, a taste of things to come, but Van Morrison soothed a weather-beaten Sunday night with a lush set climaxing in the Beatnik soul of Rave On John Donne.
77. Billy Bragg, any stage, any year
Bragg has been attending the festival since 1984, a regular on the Leftfield tent stage, and he always entertains. He has claimed, “The enemy within Margaret Thatcher spoke about, it was ... the people who came to this festival.”
76. Roy Ayers, 1993
LA’s jazz-funk vibraphone don brought the California weather with him in 1993 and celebrated the fact in ecstatic style with a crowd-moving, extended version of his 1976 signature song, Everybody Loves The Sunshine.
75. Ian Dury and the Blockheads, 1985
They’d played the festival before and were past their commercial peak but the Blockheads lit up in 1985, especially after the crowd were enlivened by an empty van, stuck in the mud, exploding loudly into flames.
74. James Blake, 2011
The Park saw a mass exodus after a reformed Pulp played but those who stayed, high above the site as the warm evening sun lowered, were in for a gentler, more absorbing time, a massage by bass frequencies from the dubstep troubadour.
73. Deap Vally, 2013
Sunday lunch time, most festival-goers are eating a late breakfast, exhausted, trying to rev up but not there yet. To turn this ambivalence into fiery massed approval, as this rising female LA blues-rock duo did, is quite a thing.
72. The Wombles, 2011
Eavis disapproved but this comedy turn on the Avalon pulled the festival’s biggest crowd in that slot. With Wellington on guitar, Madam Cholet on bass, Bungo on drums, nostalgia in the air and solid Beatles pastiche songs, they couldn’t fail.
71. Plant & Page, 1995
Rumours every year suggest Led Zeppelin will reform for Worthy Farm but the nearest the festival may ever get was this performance. The band’s creative powerhouse, on fine form, attacked old and new songs with a delicious Middle Eastern twist.
70. Alabama 3, 2008
Some regulars make sense at Glastonbury in a way they don’t outside it. Alabama 3’s funked narco-cowboy shtick is a case in point, as with this rollicking gig, which included an appearance by Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six.
69. The Verve, 2008
Some might argue, with justification, that The Verve’s pre-reformation performances in 1993 and 1995 should be our choice, but those who joined in the gigantic 2008 crowd singalongs to Bittersweet Symphony, etc, would disagree.
68. Basement Jaxx, 2005
In the year that opened with two inches of rain falling in an hour, Basement Jaxx braved Bobby Gillespie’s onstage insults, as well as replacing Kylie, to deliver a fabulous dance blowout, including a carnival version of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades.
67. Jeff Buckley, 1995
The most influential singer-songwriter of his generation was only fully appreciated after his death two years later but, looking film star debonair in the afternoon sun, he bewitched an impartial audience, and kick-started his myth.
66. Tom Jones, 1992
Tom Jones’ first appearance instituted the Glastonbury tradition of a Sunday slot for glitzier old school entertainers, and proved in the process that Vegas had taught him to work any crowd with impeccable, likeable charm.
65. Stereo MCs, 1993
It’s hard to recall the ubiquity Stereo MCs’ hypnotising song Connected once had but their 1993 performance, captured in the film ’Glastonbury The Festival: In Flashback’ (as opposed to the Julian Temple one) is an ebullient reminder.
64. Stevie Wonder, 2010
On the festival’s 40th anniversary Michael Eavis joined the Motown superstar onstage to sing Happy Birthday, a slightly surreal moment among a plethora of golden funk-pop mega-hits delivered to a gigantic and adoring audience.
63. Katy B, 2011
With crowds spilling outside every side of the Dance East circus marquee, Londoner Katy Brien proved she was more than a pop-dance fad, especially when she led the throng in a roaring rendition of her hit Katy on A Mission.
62. Black Uhuru, 1982
Reggae ruled Friday of 1982’s festival. Aswad played in the afternoon but it was the pulsing bass of Black Uhuru, reaching a crest of success after their Sinsemilla and Red albums, that set things smoking.
61. Bruce Springsteen, 2009
The Boss played for three hours to a crowd more intrigued than fanatic but by about halfway through his evangelical demeanour and immediate, exuberant songs dragged almost everyone along for the ride.
60. Suede, 1993
The most hyped band in Britain that year, with a chart-topping album to their name, Brett Anderson’s pre-Britpop glam band played at the same time as the recently reformed Velvet Underground but by far, much more fun.
59. Aphex Twin, 1997
Amid a glutinous mud-fest, avant-electronic prankster Richard James set his cacophonous (yet moreish) racket going while eight foot high fluorescent orange and green teddy bears cavorted onstage. Truly something else.
58. Oasis, 1994
The NME Stage for Sunday was a taste of things to come. It included Blur, Pulp, Radiohead and, second on the bill (after Echobelly), a pre-Definitely Maybe Oasis whose rock star cockiness and contagious songs ruled all.
57. White Stripes, 2005
There were unfounded worries this blues-rock twosome didn’t have what it took to headline the Pyramid stage. They did – in spades – with Jack White dressed like a wild mariachi pirate and armed with an utterly killer ’Seven Nation Army’ encore.
56. Flaming Lips, 2000
After nearly 20 years together, the Oklahoma psychedelic rockers were finally on the cusp of success. This gig, in the New Tent overlooking the site, filled by hundreds of balloons and projections of dancing Teletubbies, was a key moment.
55. Franz Ferdinand, 2008
The Park is famous for its surprise guests, such as this corking performance. It was a surprise even to the band who only decided to do it while visiting the festival on a whim whilst on tour.
54. Super Furry Animals, 2003
While Radiohead attempted to repeat 1997’s glories on the Pyramid, these Welsh indie mavericks slew their audience, ending with a hammering, extended techno encore of The Man Don’t Give A F**k while dressed as yetis.
53. Fela Kuti, 1984
Unannounced on the programme, the politicised Nigerian Afrobeat kingpin played an hour and ten minutes of blistering funk, of which 40 minutes was an extraordinary version of his signature battle cry Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense.
52. Arctic Monkeys, 2007
(Picture: Ian Gavan/Getty)
The youngest act ever to headline the Pyramid stage (Ash were the youngest ever to play it in 1997), Sheffield’s indie sensation spectacularly won the crowd over, and featured an unexpected (and inaudible) cameo from Dizzee Rascal.
51. Primal Scream, 1992
The Orb served an appropriate warm-up to Bobby Gillespie and Primal Scream at their most loved up, served the cream of their recent Screamadelica album to a crowd, 70% of whom boasted T-shirts printed with its sun-on-red-background logo.
50. Green on Red, 1984
Arizona country punks Green on Red played two sets, one on both main stages, with the audience clearly enjoying lead singer Chuck Prophet’s scrumpy-addled riffing and rambling as much as the band were awed by Glastonbury’s wildness.
49. Galliano, 1994
In the annals of pop Galliano are a footnote, an acid jazz quirk in matching ponchos, but to early Nineties Glastonbury-goers they were a force to be reckoned with and could send a main stage crowd bananas with their stoned funk grooves.
48. Quintessence, 1970
Quintessence opened the first Glastonbury Festival and played at the second. They were a freaky, flute-laden, jazz-tinted prog rock outfit perfectly attuned to those hippy times and anyone who saw them truly was there at the start.
47. The Levellers, 1994
The core fan base for raggle-taggle Brighton folk-punks, the Levellers, were festival-goers, so it was apt that in 1994, at the peak of their powers, the band’s utopian hoedown drew the biggest crowd the Pyramid had ever scene.
46. Bon Iver, 2009
(Picture: Brian Rasic/Rex)
Far, far up Pennard Hill, while Bruce Springsteen threw down his blue collar rock’roll gospel on the Pyramid, an intimate, seated audience were mesmerised by Julian Vernon and band, lit blood red, on Emily Eavis’s new stage.
45. The Beat, 2004
Heritage acts to can suddenly find an unexpected tail wind amid Glastonbury’s wilds. When Eighties ska band The Beat played to 30,000 revellers amid the Wild West burlesque of Lost Vagueness the dynamic gelled, then exploded.
44. The Chemical Brothers, 2011
By 2011 the Chemical Brothers’ show had entered Pink Floyd-like levels of visual extravagance, capable of dragging any passer-by off on a retina-frazzling trip of clowns, cops and crunching techno.
43. Muse, 2004
That drummer Dominic Howard’s father died of a heart attack backstage after their festival-closing set must taint its success for the band.
Nevertheless, this was where two generations of stadium rock fans deliriously found common cause.
42. Jonathan Richman, 1985
A perfect match for Glastonbury, the popularity of Richman’s wide-eyed naif persona was at a peak in ’85 and, as rain clouds parted on Friday afternoon, he strummed gems such as ’Ice Cream Man’ and ’I’m A Little Dinosaur’ as if his life depended on it.
41. Underworld, 1999
Underworld originally came to Glastonbury as part of an unofficial rave sound system in 1990. Nine years later they had thousands jumping around the grass before them, most especially to their iconic breakout hit ’Born Slippy’.
40. Terry Reid, 1971
Clad in a striking sheepskin hat, the original choice for Led Zeppelin’s vocalist turned the opening morning of the second Glastonbury Fayre into a sizzling blues-funk ball, ably assisted by Brit soul perennial Linda Lewis.
39. Al Green, 1999
The Reverend Al Green appropriately played on a Sunday afternoon. He not only brought the first sunshine the festival had seen in four years, but a glaring white suit and a set of searing, raw gospel-soul.
38. Pet Shop Boys, 2000
For their first Glasto the Pet Shop Boys, squeezed between Ocean Colour Scene and Travis, feared the worst, but by the time they had reached a bombastically triumphant finale of ’Go West’ the whole place was eating out of their hands.
37. New Order, 1981
Despite singer Bernard Sumner falling over blind drunk and playing guitar from the floor, this was a punchy, post-punk invasion of the then hippy mecca (although overrunning into Hawkwind’s scheduled time caused a mini-riot later).
36. Suzanne Vega, 1989
Vega has played more Glastonburys than most, usually on the Acoustic Stage, but in 1989, at the height of her fame, she strummed away calmly on the Pyramid stage wearing a bulletproof vest as a result of death threats, seeming admirably sanguine and heroic.
35. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, 2009
Cave, fronting of a gang of pinstriped heavies, attacked his back catalogue with an astounding, ragged, swamp rock viciousness. Also featured an unplanned interlude where a paraglider swooped over the stage.
34. Bastille, 2013
Last year Bastille drew the biggest crowd the John Peel tent had ever seen, so large that security nearly had to stop the gig and so loud the chorus of ’Pompeii’ could be heard many fields away.
33. English National Opera, 2004
(Picture: John Alex Maguire/Rex)
91 musicians and 11 soloists woke late-sleepers on Sunday lunchtime, beneath gathering storm clouds, by tearing into Wagner’s ’Ride of the Valkyries’, encouraged by a muddy mass using rolled up newspapers as horns.
32. The Smiths, 1984
Glasto ’84 was still mostly about hippy acts such as Weather Report and John Martyn so The Smiths arrival came as a shock. An enthused set-ending stage invasion during ’Hand in Glove’ sealed their place in festival lore.
31. The Who, 2007
It sounds odd now, but following the Kaiser Chiefs, who pulled an immense crowd, looked tricky for these rock veterans. Despite being lashed by rain, they did it with aplomb, wrenching the guts from songs such as ’Won’t Get Fooled Again’.
30. Dizzee Rascal, 2009
This was, of course, always going to be about ’Bonkers’, summer 2009’s monster hit which sent the sunburnt hordes doolally, but it also proved to any doubters that Dizzee was a bona-fide British pop-rap superstar.
29. Peter Gabriel, 1979
Gabriel played for no fee in a jam band with Tom Robinson, Nona Hendryx and Alex Harvey, with Phil Collins on drums, performing each other’s hits alongside a scorching 20 minute version of the Stones’ ’It’s Only Rock’n’roll’.
28. Scissor Sisters, 2004
(Picture: John Taylor)
Some may prefer Scissor Sister’s 2010 turn, with its Kylie cameo, but we’ve plumbed for the original glam spectacle that pushed their debut album to No. 1 and established them as Britain’s favourite underground New York disco queens.
27. Jay-Z, 2008
The most written-about Glastonbury show ever. Following a public spat wherein Noel Gallagher said he was an unsuitable headliner, Jay-Z headed up an irresistible, if glitzy, hip hop extravaganza, starting with an acoustic version of ’Wonderwall’.
26. Portishead, 1995
After Evan Dando was booed off trying to sneak in an extra set due to missing his own slot, the jammed, steaming hot acoustic tent soaked up the sultry, sexy sound of ’Dummy’-era Portishead like a long, chilled cocktail.
25. Neil Young, 2009
While overkeen on squalling guitar solos, Young’s set was also big on his best songs, from acoustic folk to raging rockers, and concluded (excepting a Beatles-themed encore) with a gigantic take on ’Rockin’ in the Free World’.
24. Plastikman, 1995
On the new Dance Stage, a partisan audience, many with tattoos of Plastikman’s lysergic dervish logo, danced into an afternoon frenzy to DJ-producer Richie Hawtin’s relentless analogue drum tattoos.
23. Echo & the Bunnymen, 1985
At the end of a waterlogged weekend, Liverpudlian indie-psyche-pop outfit Echo & the Bunnymen tore into their songs with lean, stripped intent. They were at their best and threw in Doors and Stones covers, just for kicks.
22. Tony Bennett, 1998
Immaculately suited and emanating smiling charm, Bennett lifted a crowd who had been battered by the elements all weekend, unbelievably taking them with him to a place where smooth big band jazz made perfect sense.
21. Faithless, 2002
A classic Glastonbury turning-the-crowd-around moment. Following Irish punkers Ash few were expecting much from pop-trance outfit Faithless but soon 90,000 packed the Pyramid field leaping as one to ’Insomnia’ and the like.
20. Curtis Mayfield, 1983
The 1983 Festival had a lacklustre line-up but the fact it received a license at all under the new Local Government Act brought relief, and blazing sun along with soul prince Curtis Mayfield on his funkiest form saved the day.
19. David Bowie, 2000
Julian Temple uses Bowie’s ’Heroes’ to potent emotive effect at the end of his Glastonbury film. Bowie, looking like a fop-haired dandy and playing there almost thirty years after he first did, sounded just grand.
18. 808 State, 1992
Following Blur and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, the festival’s second stage became an ecstatic party on Sunday night, fuelled by the Mancunian electronic innovators’ driving synths (plus fireworks), the highlight being a merciless ’Cubik’.
17. Paul McCartney, 2004
There were naysayers but the truth is that people were singing the “lah lah lah la-la-la lah” refrain from ’Hey Jude’ four years later in commemoration of the night Macca bought his Beatles singalong to Worthy Farm.
16. Coldplay, 2005
“Give me mud up to my knees/The best festival in history,” sang Chris Martin, adapting the lyrics of ’Politik’, and the bedraggled crowd were his. If their 2002 Glastonbury set made them, 2005 proved Coldplay could deliver every time.
15. Fatboy Slim, 2007
Sets by Norman Cook’s larger-than-life DJ persona are a Glastonbury institution but perhaps his most memorable outing was when he gradually dressed as a bumble bee ballerina whilst keeping a packed Lost Vagueness crowd jumping.
14. Blur, 2009
Damon Albarn was overwhelmed during this peak in the career of the reformed Blur, becoming teary during the encore of ’The Universal’. Then again he’d earlier had the crowd hugging each other and blubbing en masse for ’Tender’.
13. Pixies, 1989
The John the Baptists of grunge had recently released arguably their greatest album, ’Doolittle’, and elected to play a pummelling, visceral set in alphabetical order, from ’Bone Machine’ to ’Where Is My Mind’.
12. Johnny Cash, 1994
Johnny Cash’s reappraisal, following his American recordings with Rick Rubin, had hardly begun in 1994 yet he received a hero’s welcome, which choked him up, before ripping into a set packed with 24 carat classics.
11. Pulp, Pyramid, 1995
Standing in as last minute replacements for the Stones Roses, Pulp had to camp on-site. Their set was a triumph of wit, style and pop suss, with ’Common People’ blooming from a smart song into a genuine anthem.
10. Baaba Maal, 1993
Late on Sunday night Senegalese star Baaba Maal closed the Jazz World Stage, giving a compulsive exercise in rhythms ancient and modern that had clubbers and world music lovers hypnotised, dancing together.
9. The Prodigy, 1995
Before they metamorphosised into the electro-rockers of ’Firestarter’, they were simply snarling rave-punks, and this was a deranged, energised pinnacle, with Keith Flint’s rolling stage entrance in a giant hamster ball.
8. The Cure, 1986
Headlining Saturday night, The Cure played a blinder, featuring three encores, and an unplanned but spectacular thunderstorm which broke early in the set so their green laser show played amongst the raindrops.
7. Beyoncé, 2011
Rising through the stage, three months pregnant, and blasting straight into ’Crazy in Love’ and ’Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’ amid enough fireworks to start a war, La Knowles couldn’t fail.
6. The Lost T-shirts of Atlantis, 1990
They did a fine hillbilly-punk version of Hawkwind’s ’Silver Machine’ but they’re here representing the multitude of splendid festival turns lost to history but caught by brilliant accident in some far flung field.
5. The Stooges, 2007
Apart from Iggy Pop the original Stooges are all now dead but only seven years ago they turned a mud-sodden, rainswept Somerset field into a howling blues-punk apocalypse, topped by a riotous stage invasion.
4. Rolling Stones, 2013
The Stones + Glastonbury = rock’n’roll myth. And so it proved. Mick stole the day, emanating svelte vitality, with blitzing guitar from Ron Wood and ex-Stone Mick Taylor, while Keith looked on like a gnarled Cheshire cat.
3. Radiohead, 1997
Amid a sea of sleet-swept mulch Radiohead, who had just released their epochal ’OK Computer’ album, headlined Saturday night in a career high that combined emotional nuance with their ambitious, widescreen rock.
2. Orbital, 1994
Aided by Glastonbury’s TV debut on Channel 4, the electronic dance duo from Kent proved to rock fans and the wider public that dance music could not only be truly gorgeous but was here to stay.
1. Leonard Cohen, 2008
The gravel-voiced 73-year-old songsmith’s greatest hits set, performed with wonderful graciousness under a balmy Sunday evening sun – and including ’Hallelujah’ with crowd-sung choruses – was sheer, unadulterated bliss.