As the curtain falls on another festival season, cast your eye back over summer 2015’s finest moments – from Kanye silencing a 100,000-strong petition of doubters to Florence snatching victory from Foo Fighters’ injury-based defeat at Glastonbury. Here are the 25 best sets from the summer.
25 Circa Waves at Glastonbury
Voted NME readers’ favourite performance of the festival, Liverpool quartet Circa Waves brought their hook-laden hits to Glastonbury and emerged triumphant. With thousands of teens losing their minds front and centre, it’ll likely be remembered as the gig that tipped the band over into the next league.
24 The Chemical Brothers at Bestival
‘Galvanize’, ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’, ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’… the list goes on. The Chemical Brothers have been at this music biz lark for so long that they could probably headline a festival without breaking a sweat. Taking to Bestival’s stage then, the duo were the safest pair of hands out there; a guaranteed good time, had by all.
23 The Prodigy at T in the Park
The Prodigy have been down this road before – seven times in fact. But if their T in the Park set wasn’t exactly an original booking, then the crowd didn’t care. Anointing the festival’s new site, The Prodigy were a familiar slice of hedonism bring T into a new era. Long may they rave.
22 Lionel Richie at Glastonbury
He had a hard act to follow after Dolly Parton last year, but Lionel Richie tackled Glastonbury 2015’s legends slot with customary consummate, cheesy professionalism. Pulling comedy shocked faces, pretending to down a drink and uniting the huge crowd in mass sing-alongs, Lionel made the gig look easy like Sunday morning… well, mid-afternoon.
21 Missy Elliott at Bestival
Playing her first UK show in six years, Missy Elliott’s lost none of her power. At Bestival, she headlined the final night of the event with the kind of set that not only packed in the hits, but even played some of them twice see: ‘Lose Control’). Now that’s crowd-pleasing for you.
20 Slaves at The Great Escape
Over the summer, Tunbridge Wells duo Slaves provided some of the most high-octane, sweaty shows of them all. Topless drumming, crowd-surfing on guitars, feral moshpits and songs about mantarays – anything goes. But Brighton’s annual new band festival The Great Escape was the early first sign back in May that the duo had escalated into something special. Filling the festival’s biggest venue to one-in-one-out capacity, it was a timely taste of what was to come.
19 Bring Me The Horizon at Reading and Leeds
Bring Me The Horizon’s ascent to rock’s top tier continues and, at this year’s Reading and Leeds, they played their biggest slots yet. Second from top on the Main Stage, Oli Sykes and co brought the more mainstream bounce of new album ‘That’s The Spirit’ to a gargantuan crowd – you wouldn’t bet against them headlining the whole thing pretty damn soon.
18 Catfish And The Bottlemen at Reading and Leeds
It would take a minor miracle for Catfish And The Bottlemen not to feature high up on the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds 2016. Drawing the weekend’s biggest NME/Radio One stage crowd, their set was delivered like that of a headliner. They might not be the most progressive or the most original band out there, but by God do people love them.
17 Kasabian at V Festival
Playing the final shows of ’48:13’s epic, two-year tour cycle, it’d be easy for Kasabian to have got to the stage where they’re phoning it in. Of course, however, this was not the case, and Tom and Serge bounced around V Festival’s stage like two kids let loose in the world’s biggest candy store. With Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds headline slots already under their belts, Kasabian are well-practised in the art of pulling off massive gigs and V was no different.
16 Tame Impala at End Of The Road
Tame Impala took the quality over quantity route at this year’s festival season, playing their only UK gig of the summer at Wiltshire event End Of The Road. With the dancier angle of new album ‘Currents’ in tow, it was, of course, a masterclass. In 2015, Kevin Parker can essentially do no wrong.
15 Alt-J at Latitude
Stepping up to the plate as one of 2015’s only first time headliners, Alt-J proved that the subtleties of their intricate, intelligent indie could still prove weighty enough to justify their top billing. A perfect fit for Latitude’s more civilised clientele, the trio were one of the summer’s most elegant and tasteful top-billers (just don’t mention the crisp packet lyric).
14 Björk at Wilderness Festival
Shortly after the festival Björk would cancel all her forthcoming tour dates, citing the intense nature of performing ‘Vulnicura’ (written the wake of her recent separation from artist Matthew Barney) as reason. But at Oxfordshire boutique festival Wilderness, the singer was on as majestic and ethereal form as ever. A gorgeously dark set augmented by pink smoke, stunning visuals and an array of weird and wonderful outfits, it was an accomplished send off for an album of tragic beauty.
13 Muse at Download Festival
Teignmouth-born, conspiracy theorist prog fans Muse headlining the country’s biggest metal festival? It might have seemed like one of Download’s more controversial bookings among the likes of Slipknot, Judas Priest and Mötley Crüe, but Muse came out fighting and proved their hard rock cred. New album ‘Drones’ was the trio’s most Download-friendly album yet and their flying counterparts (the group weren’t allowed to fly their proposed mechanical drones over the crowd) were the only thing lacking.
12 Boy Better Know at Reading and Leeds
The Libertines might have topped the Main Stage, but over on Reading and Leeds’ BBC/ Radio One Dance Stage, Boy Better Know – the grime collective founded by Skepta and JME – were giving the boys in the band a good run for their money. Packing out the tent to bursting, with hundreds left outside craning to get a look in, the group were one of the weekend’s undoubted hottest tickets and ‘Shutdown’ a frontrunner for the biggest anthem of the festival.
11 Wolf Alice at Reading and Leeds
Of all the bands on the cusp of something massive, Wolf Alice have come out of festival season 2015 looking like indie’s Most Likely. Narrowly missing out on a Number One in June with debut LP ‘My Love Is Cool’, their summer sets showed their fanbase is equally as passionate in person. Across the season, Ellie Rowsell and co delivered show after show of fizzing, youthful fire and their Reading and Leeds shows were the cherry on top.
10 Jamie T at Glastonbury
Last summer, Jamie T announced his return with a low-key secret set at Reading. This year, however, he was back to his rightful place on the main stages. At Glastonbury, he not only popped up to guest with fellow South London pals The Maccabees, but also drew one of the Other Stage’s biggest crowds for his own set. A celebratory romp through hits old and new, it confirmed that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
9 The Strokes at Hyde Park’s British Summer Time
Things in Camp Strokes weren’t looking good. Following a prolonged bout of absence from the tour circuit, reports of a lacklustre return to the stage seemed to suggest that the most exciting band of their generation just couldn’t be arsed anymore. Not so at Hyde Park. Running through the best cuts of their back catalogue with a dollop of amusing stage chat thrown in for good measure (as far as crowd greetings go, Julian Casablancas’ “What’s up, sexys?” has to be up there), The Strokes seemed like they were having just as much fun as the rest of us.
8 Patti Smith at Glastonbury
“Yeah, that’s right. I fell on my ass at Glastonbury because I’M A FUCKING ANIMAL,” grinned Patti Smith after tripping during a particularly riotous cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’. It was just one brilliant moment of her Glastonbury set that proved that few are more iconic and inspiring that she. Bringing out the Dalai Lama to give a short instruction on peace and uniting the crowd in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him, it was a moment that was as touching as it was surreal. They don’t make many like Patti.
7 Kendrick Lamar at Wireless Festival
With recent LP ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ almost certain to finish in the upper reaches of the end of year album lists, Kendrick Lamar was the darling of 2015’s festival season. Drawing one of the biggest crowds to Reading and Leeds, he owned the historically rock-orientated festival with ease, while at Wireless he was the one that everyone was there to see. All hail king Kendrick.
6 The Maccabees at Reading and Leeds
“Well, that felt like a bit of a moment,” smiled frontman Orlando Weeks at the end of The Maccabees’ triumphant Main Stage set at Reading. He might have just been referring to the massive sing-along that accompanied closing track ‘Pelican’, but really the South London band’s whole set felt some something pretty special. Rousing, emotional and full of fling-your-arm-round-your-mate joy, it cemented the fact that The Maccabees have slowly but surely become one of the UK’s best-loved bands.
5 The Libertines at Glastonbury
Secret sets are rarely kept secret, but The Libertines managed to keep their last minute Glastonbury appearance under wraps until they stepped onstage. It made for a truly exciting moment: a unified roar of joy from the crowd and a set that felt like a hard-earned victory, finally won.
4 Florence + The Machine at Glastonbury
Many said that she should have been at the top of 2015’s Pyramid Stage billing from the beginning, but Florence + The Machine’s promotion to headliner came last minute. Stepping in for an injured Foo Fighters just days before the festival, Florence had little time to prep for the biggest gig of her career but come Friday night she pulled it off with aplomb. Proof that positivity and sheer force of will can go a long way.
3 Blur at Hyde Park’s British Summer Time
Returning to the scene of the crime, where Blur’s 2012 show was marred by sound problems so severe you could barely hear Damon past the first five rows, the band’s first big UK show in support of new LP ‘The Magic Whip’ could have been a disaster. This time, however, they nailed it. Passing out ice creams to the front row and digging into the deeper cuts of their back catalogue, it was a gig that rewarded everyone who’d stuck by them and given Hyde Park another shot. And for those that didn’t… well, more fool them.
2 Kanye West at Glastonbury
It was the one that everyone was talking about. Causing one of the biggest backlashes in recent Glastonbury memory, Kanye’s booking resulted in more than 100,000 people petitioning for his removal from the line-up. Did he care? Of course he didn’t. And Kanye came out confident, focused and fighting. On a motherfucking crane.
1 Foals at Reading and Leeds Festival
A stroke of tactical genius as much as it was a show of total sweaty, hedonistic joy, Foals resisted the lure of the Pyramid Stage (The Libertines’ secret Glastonbury set was originally offered to them) in favour of playing the long game. By August, the Oxford quintet had already flexed the live muscles of new LP ‘What Went Down’ at a host of European dates and, come Reading and Leeds, the group returned to UK soil for their first high-profile show in 12 months chomping at the bit.