The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Nirvana, Reading, 1992 Post-‘Nevermind’, the backlash had begun. Kurt Cobain was labelled an over-hyped drug addict. How did KC decided to respond to his critics? By being brought on stage in a wheelchair of course. A blistering set followed including new songs ‘Dumb’ and ‘All Apologies’. Dave Grohl later saying that it was a pivotal moment for the band.

Photo:
Added: 9 Mar 2011

Photo: Danny North/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Blur, Glastonbury, 2009 Reunited and it felt so good. Blur closed Glastonbury with all the mind-blowing pomp you’d imagine. A set full of hits and memories, highlights included ‘Tender’, ‘End Of A Century’ and ‘The Universal’. It was so good that even Phil Daniels turning up for ‘Parklife’ didn’t spoil the fun.

Photo:
Added: 15 Mar 2011

Photo: Andy Willsher/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

The Strokes, Reading, 2002 ‘The Garage Rock Revival’ - remember that ole chestnut? At a time when we were getting very excited at the sight someone decked out in one colour and carrying a guitar, Jack White joined The Strokes onstage for a bawdy version of ‘New York City Cops’. There was also time for a quick ‘Happy Birthday’ for Julian.

Photo:
Added: 17 Mar 2011

Photo: Retna

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Oasis , Glastonbury, 1994 Ok so there was no (literal) ‘syun-shiiiiiine’ in Pilton but it was original line up Oasis’ first Glastonbury and it was their best. They topped a Britpop heavy bill (Blur, Radiohead) and Liam and Noel were on brilliant, louche form. It was a performance full of believable bluster and an innocence they wouldn’t quite ever recapture.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

The Prodigy, V Festival 1997 The band’s popularity had reached its peak with ‘The Fat Of The Land’ (Keith Flint had officially become "that scary man off Top Of The Pops") and their V performance was so packed that they had to stop their set for 15 minutes to stop people getting crushed. Liam Howlett later said it was one of their best gigs ever.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Muse, Isle Of Wight, 2007 Two reasons to celebrate with a space-rocking high five at IOW in '07; firstly the success of ‘Black Holes And Revelations’ and secondly Matt Bellamy getting to the milestone of 29 years of age. Bona fide hits, a lavish light show and a couple of unhinged, alien based conspiracy theories ahoy, The New Age Of Muse had officially begun.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Pa Photos

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Pulp, Glastonbury 1995 Jarvis Cocker got his index finger ready and Pulp became Britpop anti-heroes thanks to a blissful eight minute version of ‘Common People’ and other zeitgeist summarizing anthems from ‘Different Class’ like ‘Mis-Shapes’ and ‘Disco 2000’. The Jacko-bum flash and ‘This Is Hardcore’ seemed like a lifetime away.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Pa Photos

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Stone Roses, Spike Island, 1990 Stone Roses, Spike Island, 1990 The unglamourous setting didn’t exactly look like the scene of the birth of a new movement; opposite a cement factory, on a reclaimed toxic waste site. But there it was; the beginnings of ‘Madchester’ and the moment when The Stone Roses stepped into the spotlight making good on their early promise.

Photo:
Added: 5 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Pet Shop Boys, Glastonbury, 2010 PSB ran through their 25 year history with the help of avant garde stage props, brightly dressed dancers, a poppers o’clock rendition of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ and enough rousing hits (‘Go West’,’Suburbia’ and closer ‘West End Girls’) to make people forget about Muse (who were playing at the same time).

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

PJ Harvey, Reading 2001 With a set drawn heavily from the all-conjuring ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’ and dressed like someone who’d definitely forgotten to pack their wellies, PJ Harvey caught the mood of Reading festival perfectly from the triumphant pop ‘Good Fortune’ to the dirty blues strut of ‘This Wicked Tongue’.

Photo:
Added: 17 Mar 2011

Photo: Danny North/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Iggy and the Stooges, Glastonbury, 2007 Iggy having ‘special time’ with the bass amp, an unforgettable version of ‘No Fun’, a huge stage invasion and then Iggy deciding that,ooh, he actually wanted the crowd to leave the stage provided The Igster and The Stooges with several Glasto 'moments'.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Retna

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Manic Street Preachers, Reading and Leeds, 1994 Following Richey’s 48 hour disappearance (and return from an apparent suicide attempt) the band play Reading without him. When the band returned in 2008, Nicky Wire said: “I think we last played this here in 1994. Richey was in the hospital then, we had to play it as a three-piece just to pay the bills.”

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Flaming Lips, Glastonbury, 2003 Dancing furry animals and huge paper mache hands; was it a rock performance or was it art? Neither, it was Sesame Street on crack. Clearly having the time of their lives (they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to two gig goers) and with Wayne Coyne in fervent preacher mode, it was unforgettable.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Big Brother & The Holding Company, Monterey Pop Festival 1967 The moment when Big Brother front-woman Janis Joplin went from salty voiced frontwoman to proper star. Six minute closer ‘Ball And Chain’ made jaws drop. Mama Cass is caught mouthing ‘Wow, that’s heavy’ in the film of the festival, which we're pretty sure means: 'that was jolly good, wasn't it?'

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Daft Punk, Wireless, 2007 The French duo bought hit medleys (‘Human After All’!/’Together’!/’One More Time’!/’Music Sounds Better With You’!), chunky robotic helmets (ou est le breathing holes?), a stunning light show and a general sense of ‘Le Cool’ to Hyde Park. The rumours that the duo weren’t actually in the suits at all just added to the mystique. Sorry, le mystique.

Photo:
Added: 18 Apr 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Hole, Reading, 1994 Just months following Kurt Cobain’s suicide and the death of bassist Kristen Pfaff, Hole played Reading. Brutal, cathartic, teeting on the edge and a little bit nutty, Hole's performance was half car crash, half unsettlingly brilliant. Changing the lyrics to tracks like ‘Asking For It’ to reference their tragedies made the spectacle all the more compelling.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Pa Photos

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Bob Dylan, Newport Folk Festival, 1965 Dylan’s performances at the revered folk festival in 1963 and 1964 had made him the toast of the cardigan-wearing massive. But, like a puppy you get for Christmas who makes a mess on the Santa-themed carpet, in 1965 he debuted his first ‘plugged’ performance to general boos and the sound of a thousand beards being twisted in anguish.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Radiohead, Glastonbury, 1997 Before concept albums about twigs and songs named after rabbit diseases came this Glastonbury performance. Bookending the ‘major label’/’golden age’ ear, the band took to the Pyramid Stage for one of the most seminal performances in their and the festivals history. And yes, they played ‘Creep’.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Andy Willsher/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Biffy Clyro, Reading and Leeds 2010 With a Mercury nominated album under their belts and a top 10 hit, Simon Neil decided to celebrate Biffy Clyro at the tipping point by standing directly under a vat of bleach and going blonde. Festival veterans they might have been but this performance cemented their iconic reputation. Blondes definitely have more fun.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Tom Oxley/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Jay-Z , Glastonbury, 2008 A rapper headlining Glastonbury? Whose stupid idea was that? But, of course, the Jigga man proved these people (for ‘these people’ read: ‘Noel Gallagher’) spectacularly wrong. The highlight for many was a tongue in cheek version of ‘Wonderwall’ with Jay Z sporting a Gallagher-esque parka.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

The Rolling Stones, Altamont, 1969 The Stones didn’t play Woodstock, but appeased their fans by creating their own festival. Unfortunately, they got that well known, reputable security company The Hells Angels to do the security. Big Mistake. The whole thing ended in tragedy when a Hells Angel stabbed and kicked a concert goer to death.

Photo:
Added: 26 Apr 2011

Photo: Retna

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

The Smiths, Glastonbury, 1984 A look at 1984’s Glasto line up and it’s clear things are in transition. A mix of stuff old bores (Joan Baez, Tangerine Dream) and hot young things (The Smith and…well, that’s it really), Mozzer may have ruffled a few feathers but Michael Eavis later said that the band’s appearance “changed the whole event.” *waves Gladioli triumphantly*

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Guy Eppel/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

The Verve, Glastonbury, 2008 Despite Michael Eavis wanting Keane to headline (presumably this is some sort of ‘farmers humour’ that most of us don’t get), Emily Eavis rightly went for The Verve instead. Calling it ‘an epic end’ to the festival, their set had the crowd in raptures singing along to the post-millennial shrug of ‘Sonnet’ and ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Primal Scream, Reading 1994 The debauched rock circus came to Reading town and dragged a pre-rehab Dave Gahan (from Depeche Mode) onstage with them to play harmonica on a fuzzy version of ‘Loaded’ and a bawdy set drawn from the Rolling Stones-tastic ‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up’.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

U2, Live Aid, 1985 Probably the moment when U2 became superstars. Their set was only 20 minutes long, and yet it seemed to capture the passion surrounding the Live Aid cause. Notable too for the appearance from guest star: Bono's Massive Mullet.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Tom Oxley/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Rage Against The Machine, Reading and Leeds 2008 They’d only played a few shows since 2000 but their political message seemed ever-relevant and important. With their orange boiler suits (that were either a reference to Guatanamo or Sainsbury’s plastic bags) and blistering performance of ‘Killing In The Name’, they rose to the occasion.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

T-Rex, Glastonbury 1970 It was the very first Glasto (then known as ‘Pilton Festival’) and T Rex frontman Marc Bolan arrived in a velvet covered Buick. According to legend when Michael Eavis stroked his car, Bolan barked ‘DON’T TOUCH MY CAR MAN!’ Totally in the spirit of peace and love then...ahem... Their set saw them transition from long haired folkers to glam rock stars.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Underworld, Reading 1996 As The Stone Roses painfully imploded on the Main Stage, Underworld were forcing people to use the word ‘banging’ about their rave-tastic set. Surfing on a wave of ‘Born Slippy’ ubiquity (thanks to ‘Trainspotting’), Underworld made the most of their moment with an unforgettable performance. Banging. (sorry).

Photo:
Added: 17 Mar 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Queens Of The Stone Age, Glastonbury, 2002 Has there been a more rousing festival chant than ’Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol’? And no, we’re not counting Chumbawamba’s ‘Tumthumping’. Joined by Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and his rotating band of comrades played did indeed bust out ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ in a raucous set.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Kevin Rowland, Reading, 1999 Kevin you look...different. It's the hair isn't it? Yes, the former Dexy’s Midnight Runner decided to mark his festival return by sporting suspenders, a white dress and eschewing the hits in favour of some odd covers (Whitney Houston’s ‘The Greatest Love Of All’, anyone?). “I’m a lay-dee” he insisted later (ok, he didn’t but he might as well have done).

Photo:
Added: 17 Mar 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Paul McCartney, Glastonbury, 2004 Thankfully staying away from ‘We All Stand Together’ and ‘Mull Of Kintyre’, Macca busted out the Beatles hits (and of course the comedy thumbs) for one of the ultimate Glasto headlining slots. A set of all-ages joy.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Madness, Bestival, 2007 For a festival that prides itself on being a load of ridiculous fun (they don’t have the fancy dress rule for nothing), who would you want to headline? No, the answer’s not ‘The Editors’, it’s got to be Madness. The reunited Nutty Boys' greatest hit set (‘One Step Beyond’, Baggy Trousers’, ‘House Of Fun’) hit all the right notes.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Andy Whitton/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

The Libertines, Reading and Leeds 2010 Several hundred court cases and some dodgy solo albums later, the gloss on The Libertines career had almost certainly been tarnished. But not enough that the reformed four-piece didn’t cause joy and havoc (the Leeds show was halted after three songs due to ‘safety concerns’) amongst ecstatic Libs fans. Albion 4eva!

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Queen, Live Aid 1985 By the early 80s, most considered Queen past their pomp rock sell by date. So it came as a massive surprise that Live Aid performance was so iconic. As soon as Freddie Mercury appeared on stage with his peacock-like stage strut, it was clear something iconic was taking place. All together now; ‘ALL WE HEAR IS/RADIO GA-GA/RADIO GOO GOO’ *claps hands in unison*

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Retna

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Pixies, Reading, 1990 On top of their game, this post-‘Doolittle’, pre-‘Bossanova’ headlining set from the Bostonians was filled with an embarrassment of riches, their 90 minute set saw them bust out an exhaustive set. Every Pixies corner was covered (‘Debaser’, ‘Gigantic’, ‘Where Is My Mind’ was played and everything in between).

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Franz Ferdinand, T In The Park, 2006 In 2006 we couldn’t work out whether we loved Alex Kapranos’ Ironic Wink or Knowing Point more. The art-poppers crested on this wave of adoration and played a jubilant homecoming show at the Kinross festival. Hot on the heels of second album 'You Could Have It So Much Better' the highlight was, of course, ‘Take Me Out’.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Retna

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

The Who, Woodstock, 1969 Performing much of Tommy at the festival, it was perhaps an audience ruckus that got the most attention. Guitarist Pete Townshend roared “Fuck off!” as Vietnam protester Abbie Hoffman ran onstage and grabbed the microphone during ‘Pinball Wizard’. Townshend smashed up his guitar and knocked the protester off the side of the stage as a counter protest.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

New Order, Reading, 1998 A final festival hurrah from the New Order we knew and loved. They hadn’t released a new album since 1993’s ‘Republic’ and it was Gillian Gilbert’s final performance with the band. The gig saw the band bust out the hits as well as tracks by Joy Division. Also included Bernard Sumner’s ‘dad’ dancing. Eek.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Orbital, Glastonbury 1994 Will history look kindly upon two men wearing year zero optician headgear pumping out beats to a gurning massif? Who knows, but there’s no doubt that this '94 performance was a pivotal moment for dance music, it was also considered by some to be one of the greatest live performances of all time.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Led Zeppelin, Bath Festival, 1970 Drummer John Bonham promised a performance that would show the band playing “as they’ve never heard us play before”. The audience responded rapturously to a set that included ‘Whole Lotta Love’, ‘Immigrant Song’ and closed with a medley of old time rock and roll classics (including ‘Johnny B.Goode’ and ‘That’s Alright Mama’).

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

L7, Reading 1992 Hot on the heels of their breakthrough album ‘Bricks Are Heavy’, L7 brought their own brand of,um, ‘grunge’ to Reading festival. In the L7 book the way to deal with a restless, mud-throwing crowd was to bark “eat my used tampon, fuckers!” and chuck said sanitary product at jeering audience. 50 Cent could have taken a note on how to deal with festival hecklers.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Monterey Pop Festival 1967 This was a pivotal appearance for The Jimi Hendrix Experience because US TV audiences saw his amazing guitar skills for the first time. Which included setting fire to his guitar, playing it on his back, behind his back and lying down. Pretty much the hard rock aerobics.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Grace Jones, Latitude, 2009 Sexagenarians aren’t meant to be seen hula hoping (unless they are on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’) but then Ms Jones isn’t like any other 60 something. Along with the hula hoop skill show, she played with a career encompassing set list, a bit of ‘kooky’ onstage banter (“Wow! Am I on the moon?”) and a few gravity defying hats.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: Andy Willsher/NME

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Arctic Monkeys, Reading and Leeds 2005 Monkey mania descended on Reading and Leeds this year, and we're not talking the Outbreak kind. A packed Carling tent saw a newish Arctic Monkeys (‘Fake Tales from San Francisco’ was their only single to date) wow the crowd and somehow knew the words to every single song. "We’re fucking fantastic" Alex Turner said. And he wasn’t wrong.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Girls Aloud, V, 2006 Headlining a small tent, Girls Aloud wowed a skeptical crowd thanks to a set culled from their career best ‘Chemistry’ album, a cover of Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘I Predict A Riot’ and enough fake tan to stun the cast of The Only Way Is Essex. Bottles were chucked at dancers but you wouldn’t really want to mess with Cheryl Cole, would you?

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Eminem, Reading, 2001 Friends of conservative middle America and the two most infamous rock stars of the early noughties were united, as Marilyn Manson teamed up with Marshall Mathers for a version of the blonde one’s ‘The Way I Am’. It was also notable for the odd juxtaposition of a one minutes silence in honour of the recently departed Aaliyah with some cartoon interludes.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

David Bowie, Glastonbury 1971 An early special performance from The Dame, which saw him play acoustically at dawn (5 am), strumming out such future classics as ‘Changes’ and ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Beck, V Festival, 2006 Orville, Mr Blobby, Leona Lewis. Puppets in music haven’t had a very distinguished lineage. That was until Mr Hansen kitted out his V stage with marionette version of himself and his band for a hit-tastic set which included tracks from his ‘Odelay’-like album ‘The Information’. This time it was 2 turntables, a microphone and some carefully placed strings.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Arcade Fire, Lollapalloza, 2005 "Anthemic", "triumphant", "There’s the Napoeon Dynamite guy!" are words regularly associated with Arcade Fire festival shows, but this was one of the first to evoke such a response. A euphoric performance which more than matched the mood of debut album ‘Funeral’.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Photo: PA

The 50 greatest festival performances ever

Basement Jaxx, Glastonbury, 2005 After Kylie pulled out due to health reasons, naysayers wondered if the Brixton duo could come up with the required spectacle (or the gold lamé hot pants) which would equal the Aussie pop princess. Well they did and then some, thanks to a troupe of Brazilian drummers, dancers dressed as monkeys and singers decked out like brides.

Photo:
Added: 4 May 2011

Comments

Please login to add your comment.