Last year, NME‘s 2016 Godlike Genius Award winners, Coldplay, headlined Glastonbury, making them the first band to have headlined the historic Pilton festival four times. Their previous slots were as fresh-faced 25-year-olds in 2002, fêted 28-year-olds in 2005, and world-dominating, technicolour-coated, confetti-drenched 34-year-olds in 2011. We’ve taken a look back at seven of their greatest Glastonbury performances to date – one for each of their albums so far.
7. Hurts like Heaven, 2011
In 2011 NME called the first song of Coldplay’s third Glastonbury headline slot “an uncharacteristically ballsy move.” That’s because no one had heard this unstoppable, neon melody from their fifth album, ‘Mylo Xyloto’, before. It was a good surprise.
Their similarly colourful seventh album ‘Head Full Of Dreams’ came out just two months ago, so we’re unlikely to the band open their 2016 headline slot with another song debut – but if they did, this firework-backed cracker would be the one to beat.
6. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, 2005
This gets points for sheer unexpectedness. Kylie was forced to pull out of her 2005 Glastonbury headline slot after she was diagnosed with breast cancer – later being replaced by Basement Jaxx. Coldplay’s tribute was this wildly received cover that goes down in Glasto history as a slightly mad, but truly memorable moment.
5. Politik, 2005
Coldplay opened up their 2005 slot with the anticipatory ‘Square One’, from the opener from third album ‘X&Y’, and followed it with the brutal ‘Politik’, the opener from second album ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’. This one goes down a storm, thanks to Chris Martin’s lyric-shifting at 2:10: “Give me weather that does no harm, yeah, Michael Eavis of Worthy Farm. Give me mud up to my knee; the best festival in history”.
4. The Scientist, 2005
Coldplay have played this at all three of their Glastonbury performances, but this one is perhaps the most powerful – a field-wide singalong of their most popular song, still fresh, but perfected by the band’s solid year of touring following Glastonbury 2002 and the months of touring leading up to their 2005 headline slot. “My best friend,” Chris says mid-song to introduce bandmate Jonny Buckland, “and the best guitar player that ever lived. Except maybe Slash”. The song’s closing ‘woah’s have the crowd at an admirable volume.
3. Viva La Vida, 2011
Opening with a touch of near-complacent showmanship, Chris tests the water with a light piano rendition of ‘Viva La Vida’’s undeniably chantable backing vocal. The crowd sings along immediately.
From then it’s almost perfect, even though Chris’ mic fucks up momentarily at the start of the song. It’s their first number one single, from 2008, but it didn’t get a Glastonbury outing until this point; when the chorus kicks in around 3:45 there’s no one in the crowd who isn’t singing along. Chris Martin is jumping around everywhere, the lights are blinding – Will Champion is hitting that bell almost hard enough to knock it out of shape. A triumph.
2. Yellow, 2002
It’s a slightly spaced-out intro that Coldplay’s first real hit received during their first Glastonbury headline slot, before heading back into the heart-on-sleeve simplicity of the single we know and love. In later years they went on to add big yellow balloons to the visuals, but there’s something unbeatable about this festival-defining, crowd-sung rendition.
1. In My Place, 2002
As NME put it back almost 14 years ago, this performance “pushed [Coldplay] to a whole different level. Mournful, tender and with a plangent guitar riff so classic-sounding it seemed to have been around for a hundred years. It was like an anthem for the whole festival… bedwetters no more, they’re now soul-stirring practitioners of The Big Music”.
True – but what really sticks out on this performance is the perfect, precocious synchronicity of the band, from Will Champion’s crisp drumming to the easy interaction between Guy Berryman bass and Johnny Buckland’s guitar. Chris Martin was only 25 at the time, but this song has him handling the gargantuan crowd like a Glastonbury veteran. A sign of what was to come, really.