The best festival performances of all time
18 June 2022, 17:00
Were you at any of these? Do you wish you were at any of these? Let's take a look at some of the greatest performances ever witnessed in a field or beneath canvas.
Arctic Monkeys - Reading, 2005
Their debut single I Bet The You Look Good On The Dancefloor hadn’t even been released when Alex Turner and his merry men played to a packed New Bands tent. "Don't believe the hype, Reading," Alex Turner muttered, but he was fighting a losing battle.
Nirvana - Reading Festival,1992
Nobody knew it at the time, but Reading was to be the band’s final UK appearance. With rumours of Kurt Cobain’s shaky health circulating, he took the piss magnificently by being pushed onto the stage in a wheelchair… and then delivered one of the group’s landmark performances.
The Killers - Glastonbury, 2004
Hidden away on the NME stage early on the Saturday evening were the Las Vegas wonders. Fresh from releasing their debut album Hot Fuss, the buzz about them was huge - as evidenced by the huge crowd that struggled to get into the tent to see them. The lights cut out during Mr Brightside, then came back on during All These Things I’ve Done. Drama! But what drama!
Radiohead - Glastonbury 1997
Just as the rain and the mud had almost washed away all goodwill at Worthy Farm, on came Thom Yorke and co to deliver a blinding set a mere month after the release of OK Computer. Demonstrating their supreme confidence, they opened with Lucky, closed with Street Spirit and even threw in Creep for good measure. Who needs sunshine?
The Libertines - Reading And Leeds, 2010
Who’d have thunk it? After years of estrangement, it was all back on, and while they cautiously appeared just before headliners Arcade Fire, any doubts were cleared away with a rousing and often emotional set.
Pulp - Glastonbury, 1995
Talk about the changing of the guard - with The Stone Roses pulling out, the official death knell of baggy was rung when the Britpop heroes stepped in as subs. They played Disco 2000 and Sorted For E’s And Wizz for the first time, making this a major moment in the summer of Britpop (listen to the total lack of response Disco 2000 gets from the crowd!)
The Smiths - Glastonbury, 1984
Glastonbury was making the transition between hippie haven to rock stronghold and yer ‘Miffs were at the forefront of the change. Playing early on the main stage, they gave sneak previews of the forthcoming Meat Is Murder album (Nowhere Fast, Barbarism Begins At Home) and chucked out a few hits: This Charming Man and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now included. You should have been there!
Jimi Hendrix - Woodstock, 1969
The grandaddy of all festivals, this sprawling free event in New York State marked the end of the 1960s and a coming together of like-minded people. And, if they were still awake at dawn on the Monday morning, they could have seen Jimi play one of the most iconic festival sets in history, tearing through his hits and a scorching version of The Star Spangled Banner.
Metallica - Download, 2003
Sunday afternoon at second stage at Donington was not the most likely of places to see one of the biggest bands in the world, but it happened. The huge stack of Marshall amps was a bit of a giveaway as to who the “special guests” were going to be, and they did not disappoint.
Oasis - Glastonbury, 1994
A couple of months before Definitely Maybe arrived and changed the world forever, Liam and Noel scraped themselves onto the NME Stage on Sunday afternoon and unleashed a stunning display of arrogance, confidence and so much Manchester swagger people didn’t know where to look.