After 18 months of on and off lockdowns, it feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel here in the UK. Summer is in the air meaning garden BBQs, complaining about the heat and trips to the coast are all on the horizon. Unfortunately, this summer came a little too soon for one of Britain’s most iconic summer events — Glastonbury. Although Glastonbury Festival 2021 was a streaming event only, we wanted to look back at the best and most iconic live Glastonbury performances.
Glastonbury Festival is a five-day festival hosted by Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily Eavis that takes place every year in Pilton, Somerset. The first festival took place in 1970 (albeit under the name of “Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival”) and has since become a major event in British culture that welcomes between 200,000-300,000 people each year. Having welcomed some of the world’s greatest artists to its stages, there are many wonderful performances to choose from. Nevertheless, here are our top five Glastonbury Festival performances.
David Bowie (2000)
There is no need to introduce the legend that is David Bowie. As one of the world’s greatest live acts and influential musicians, David Bowie played at Glastonbury Festival back in 1971, meaning this performance in 2000 was a return to the famous Pyramid Stage.
The magical show was a setlist of almost all of his greatest hits and was eventually released as a live album in 2018. The performance was so memorable that Emily Eavis described it as the greatest Glastonbury set that she had seen. It is hard to disagree with her opinion.
Few bands defined a decade in the UK like Oasis did in the 90s. Before they gained huge commercial success with the release of “Definitely Maybe”, they gained recognition across the country for their effortlessly cool demeanour and unforgettable live shows.
Their first performance at the festival in 1994 was short but memorable and definitely one of the lesser-known Glastonbury live performances. Although they returned to perform on the Pyramid Stage ten years later, this early Oasis setlist epitomised the band’s swagger and style. You can even find Oasis posters and memorabilia documenting the performance.
After a horrendous start with multiple technical problems, Radiohead’s 1997 set at Glastonbury became one of the Pyramid Stage’s most memorable evenings.
Having just released their astounding “OK Computer” album, Radiohead were one of the festival’s most anticipated live acts. Although the torrential rain threatened to make the performance a washout, thousands turned out to watch Thom Yorke and the band produce a powerful, mesmerising performance that goes down in history as one of the best live performances in the history of the festival.
From the most recent Glastonbury festival in 2019, there was one performance that really had people talking. Stormzy, London’s king of grime, produced a performance that was not just perfect musically but also sent a powerful political message that embodied an artist who involves himself with more than just music.
While wearing a stab-proof vest with the Union Jack emblazoned across it, Stormzy managed to walk the line between powerful anger and tender emotion. Everything about the set was flawless and will undoubtedly go down as one of the best Glastonbury performances ever and certainly a historic moment for grime.
Dolly Parton (2014)
There are few country stars as widely celebrated as Dolly Parton, so when she appeared on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury in 2014, there was certainly a fair amount of anticipation.
At 68, she was one of the oldest headliners in the festival’s history, but you would never have known it. Dolly Parton produced one of the most memorable performances the Pyramid stage had seen and had the crowd singing and clapping along to her biggest hits like “9 to 5”, “Jolene”, and many more.
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With Glastonbury 2021 an online-only experience, you may not be able to quell your appetite for live music this summer. However, we hope that the list of our Top 5 five Glastonbury Festival Performances will remind you why British festivals are an essential part of the summer experience. So look forward to Glastonbury 2022 and what is sure to be a momentous return with many more memorable performances.