VO5 NME Awards 2017: The bill-topping brilliance of the nominees for Best Festival Headliner

These six artists made last summer great for many different reasons

Allow us to introduce a new award for the VO5 NME Awards 2017 – Best Festival Headliner. Every summer and beyond, hundreds of thousands of us traipse across the country (and continent and even further afield) to experience a ton of live music in a field. Often they’re some of the best moments of the year and sometimes headline sets at these events reach mythical, iconic status. Memories are made during those performances, whether they be trying to pretend you’re not weeping to Adele at Glastonbury or forming the biggest circle pit during Biffy’s set at Leeds with your best mates. Here’s why the following six artists are up for the trophy this year.


Adele apparently doesn’t like festivals. At least that’s what she said in 2011, anyway. Could you tell when she strode out on stage at Glastonbury and completely owned the Saturday night slot? Not at all. Her Worthy Farm headline set had it all – teary ballads to make you drunkenly throw your arms round your mates, between-song banter about everything from spotting a Brian Harvey from East 17 lookalike in the audience to telling everyone she’d been warned about swearing by the BBC before going on to curse 33 times, and providing enough good vibes to make you forget about all the political madness going on in the outside world for an hour-and-a-half. Basically, she owned it and even those begrudgingly dragged along to her set against their will couldn’t deny that.

Biffy Clyro

Kilmarnock trio Biffy Clyro first closed the bill at Reading & Leeds in 2013 with an ambitious tree-based stage production. Last August, they opted for something slightly simpler – big square frames of screens – but no less impressive. After all, who needs elaborate fixtures on stage when you’ve got riffs as big, bold and bruising as Biffy’s?


Chris Martin’s gang are old hands when it comes to topping festival line-ups. As you’d expect, that meant their Glastonbury headline set last year was a flawless marvel. Like all Coldplay shows, it included a ton of confetti and streamers, and those neat light-up wristbands that turn their audience into the light show. Glastonbury, though, also had a duet with Michael Eavis (classic) and a heartfelt and very moving tribute to Warrington band Viola Beach.


Foals‘ secret set at Reading & Leeds in 2015 proved that on new album ‘What Went Down’ they were more than capable of delivering a headline-worthy set. In 2016, they got the chance to do just that, co-headlining the twin festivals with Disclosure. They could easily have handled those responsibilities alone, though, taking R&L hostage with an almost endless stream of massive tunes from start to finish. There were no gimmicks (unless you count the simple flashes of fire that occasionally shot from the stage), just a great band using ferocious spirit and brilliant songs to enrapture whole fields.


The UK might have to wait until this year’s Glastonbury for a Radiohead festival headline performance, but, in 2016, the Oxford band took their new album ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ around European and US festivals, including Primavera and Austin City Limits. They were some of their first shows in four years and it was a joy to have them back on stage.

The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses released their first new music in 20 years last year and what better way was there to celebrate than watching them headline T In The Park? Whether you were there in person or watching it on the TV from home, there was no denying the Manchester legends haven’t lost an ounce of their star power over the years.