The 10 greatest Glastonbury performances of all time

Glastonbury-2009

Apparently it is Glasto this weekend. Who knew!?

Anyhow we asked some Glasto veterans to come up with their top ten performances of all time and here’s what they said

Johnny Cash in 1994 - Johnny Cash playing Glasto at the height of Brit Pop. Surely this wasn’t going end well!? Nevertheless the singer’s star had been rising over the previous few years thanks to championing by a new breed of American and British county influenced bands. His performance was a huge triumph and put in place the building blocks which would eventually lead to his classic 2002 swansong album American IV: The Man Comes Around. As Matt Hill aka The Quiet Loner says

‘It wasn’t that he played any better than normal it was for the sheer joy on his face at finding himself so fabulously out of context. I was on front row!’

Stevie Wonder in 2010 - Not everyone agrees but Stevie Wonder’s performance a couple of years back was a huge highlight for many Glasto goers. Stevie waltzed through his greatest hits set, and few in pop music have a back catalogue to rival him.

The Manic Street Preachers in 1999 – The year that the Manics played Glasto was a hot, dry festival and the heat definitely got to the Welsh band. Earlier in the day it had been reported that they had requested their very own backstage toilets, much to chagrin of Billy Bragg. They later claimed that this was a joke; the ‘reserved’ sign on the toilet was not at the authorisation of the management. Nevertheless it was a tetchy Manics who ploughed through a sparkling set composed mainly of tracks from their most successful album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. If you watch the video you can see how fired up the band are telling the crowd “I hope someone builds a bypass over this shithole” etc etc

Blur in 2009 – Having been not really on speaking terms for the best part of a decade, Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn set aside their differences and delivered an emotionally charged performance which you make a case for being the best Glasto performance of modern times. With a huge TV audience and coming off the back of a several low profile gigs, the band delivered a stunning greatest hits sets which climaxed unexpectedly with Tender. As The Guardian, who gave the gig a five star review, said

‘Weirder still is the reaction to Tender, a song never really rated (at least by me) as a classic, transformed into a joyous hug-a-long that reverberates around the crowd after the first encore and the second encore.’

The Pixies in 89 – There is a school of thought which suggest that 1989 was the year that Glastonbury made a significant leap from being the preserve of thousands of liberal, hippy types to the greatest fest on earth which its champions claims it is now. It was a vintage year and in among Elvis Costello, Van Morrison and Suzanne Vega were The Pixies. Fresh from releasing their stunning Doolittle album they blew the fest away with a set that was incredibly powerful, yet massively entertaining too.

Jay-Z in 2008 – There were of course a few people who weren’t best pleased that the American rapper got to headline the fest in 2008 among them Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher. Yet as Andy Madden said on Facebook Jay-Z smashed it out of the park. Can’t believe it was ever in doubt… That Oasis cover helped too.

Radiohead in 1997 – They have headlined the festival twice and the rumours were that they would be back for a third time this year, but if Radiohead did return though they would struggle to better than zeitgeist moment back in 1997 where they played an astonishing live rendition of tracks from Ok Computer which perhaps did more than anything to establish the band as being among the biggest on the planet.

Pulp in 1995 – Glastonbury’s Brit Pop moment was 1995 with Oasis and Elastica playing blinding sets alongside bands who had influenced them like The Cure. The band for whom the festival was career breakthrough though was Pulp. Only along for the ride after the withdrawal of The Stone Roses Jarvis had the audience eating out of the palm of his hands, and the gig ensured that Common People which had reached number two a few months earlier became not just the single of that summer but quite possibly the defining song of the decade.

Stackridge 1970 – The first Glasto was back in 1970 and kicking off the proceedings (and ending it too hence the inclusion in this list) were an eclectic bunch of art school rockers Stackridge. Resolutely English sounding but incorporating all kinds of other weird elements including music hall, progressive jazz and even a touch of reggae, the band sounded like no one else at the time. The first track they played that day was Teatime from their second album and fortunately it is corker. A lovely swirling piece of psychedelic/progressive rock whimsy with a gorgeous extended solo. They went on to make some great albums, briefly morphed in to 80s hit makers The Korgis and then reformed, to considerable acclaim, in the 90s.

The Rolling Stones 2013 – ‘After all these years they finally got round to asking us,’ quipped Mick Jagger before the Stones Glasto moment. And it was every bit as good as their fans hoped with You Can’t Always Get What You Want, complete with choral, backing one of the most amazing finales the festival has ever seen.

Well, there’s our ten? Who have we missed let us know in the comments.

Image Brian Marks Flickr

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Ashley



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AshleyThe 10 greatest Glastonbury performances of all time
  • Simon Malia

    The Stones were awful, whereas The Who in 2007 were brilliant. Stackridge were back in 2007 too – and better than ever.