I’ve been lucky enough to catch some of the all-time greats at Glastonbury over the years, and witness some of the festival’s most memorable moments. Here are five performances that will always have a special place in my heart.
Iggy & The Stooges
Like many, I was already excited at learning Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney would be headlining this year’s Glastonbury. But I became even happier when it was announced Guns N’ Roses were tipped to be the third headline act. Now that Glastonbury has been cancelled this year, I’ll have to drown my sorrows by playing the Guns N’ Roses video slot game at Casumo casino instead, which includes an interactive setlist of the band’s classic tracks. However, I was lucky enough to see the original rocker Iggy Pop with his seminal band The Stooges in 2007. And surely Iggy taught Axl Rose everything he knows. Incredibly, Iggy & The Stooges had never played Glasto before, but their appearance was undoubtedly one of the most memorable performances I’ve ever seen. The Stooges set was frenzied from start to finish, as they ploughed through proto-punk classics like Funhouse, 1969, and I Wanna Be Your Dog. But I’ll always remember Iggy provoking a mass stage invasion during No Fun, the most.
I never got to see alt-rockers The Killers when they debuted at Glastonbury in 2004. But ten years later in 2017, I was lucky enough to see them play a 10-song set on the John Peel Stage. What made the show so special was, nobody knew The Killers were going to be playing. Unannounced, Brandon Flowers’ band took the stage and worked its way through such signature hits as Somebody Told Me and Mr Brightside, to an ecstatic crowd.
In 2014, ten years after the release of the band’s critically-acclaimed debut album Funeral, Arcade Fire played one of the most magnificent sets I’ve ever seen. With such an array of instruments in their musical arsenal, from synthesizers and French horns to glockenspiels and harps, it’s always a joy to see these multi-instrumentalist guys swapping instruments for each song played. And when they started playing Wake Up, the whole crowd sang along. The band’s Glastonbury performance was made even more memorable by a fake group wearing giant papier-mâché heads taking the stage before the encore. The crowd boogied away to a medley of songs by the likes of Oasis and Jay-Z before Arcade Fire returned to the stage.
It seems a little ridiculous now. But back in 2008, despite having had an extensive range of different musical-genre artists for many years, Glastonbury was still primarily seen as a festival for “proper bands”. You know: ones that play guitar. A hip-hop artist had never headlined the festival before. And when Jay-Z was announced as a headliner, many regular Glasto-goers were outraged. That was perhaps spawned by Noel Gallagher, who was an outspoken critic of Jay-Z’s inclusion. In response, Jay-Z went onto stage with a guitar and played the iconic Oasis song Wonderwall. It was one of those moments that as it happened, you simply knew it would become a defining moment in the festival’s history. Jay-Z went on to perform a collection of songs that really got the crowd moving; ending on Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) and Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love).
It’s strange that in 43 years, one of the most famous and hard-working bands in the history of rock ‘n’ roll had never before played the world’s greatest music festival. But in 2013, the Rolling Stones finally headlined Glastonbury for the first time. Despite some writing-off Jagger, Richards, Watts, and Wood as being too long in the tooth to pull off an iconic set, the Stones proved their critics wrong. With the opening chords of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, the crowd went wild. And throughout the set, Jagger made sure that he danced as energetically as he did when he was a teen. If he had something to prove, he certainly proved it. The performance, which included a string of classics like Paint It Black, Gimme Shelter, and Sympathy for the Devil, not only confirmed the Stones were still able to deliver mind-blowingly thrilling live shows. It also cemented the band in the hearts of a new generation.