From Beyoncé to David Bowie: 10 of Glastonbury’s Best Sets | Music



Jay-Z walked around so Beyoncé could run. Facing a reactionary backlash in 2008 (Hip-hop? A Glastonbury ?!), he left the future of the festival wide open. Three years later, Beyoncé was imperial from the moment it opened with Crazy in Love and Fireworks. Her glamorous show, peppered with artful cover versions, definitely reset expectations of what a Glastonbury title set could be.

David Bowie

Coming out of a decade of random experimentation, Bowie made peace with his catalog upon his return to Worthy Farm for the first time in 29 years. A dream setlist, executed with great charm and enthusiasm, instantly revived its reputation overnight and opened the door for future headliners like Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen. He was ready to be loved again.

Fall out

Blur’s big reunion was full of emotions that no one had really anticipated. Yes, there was Phil Daniels and “woo-hoo!” But the sad songs were the most important: the crowd singing Tender’s healing chorus between callbacks; Damon Albarn sitting down to cry after To the End; the dreamlike wonder of The Universal. Warmer and wise, Blur was not only reunited but subtly transformed.

Mary j blige

Photograph: Jim Dyson / Getty

Sometimes a song can make a set unforgettable. The skies opened for the duration of Blige No More Drama’s I-will-survive showstopper, turning it into a cosmic battle with the elements. Perhaps the greatest vocal performance of the festival, she achieved the impossible: to make someone thankful for the rain.

New order

New order
Photography: Local World / Rex / Shutterstock

The first time New Order played at Glastonbury, in 1981, it was a mess with just one album. They returned armed with confidence, hits and lasers at a time when the festival’s musical regime was still pretty full. A frenzied final version of Sister Ray illustrated how far and how fast they had traveled.

The killers

Between the booking and the performance, the Killers’ debut album turned into a supernova, with the result that the New Bands tent overflow nearly filled the surrounding field. Being within earshot was a thrill, but being at the epicenter during Mr. Brightside was like being strapped to a rocket.

Leonard cohen

Leonard cohen
Photograph: Luke MacGregor / Reuters

The 73-year-old was only weeks away from his return tour when he played in front of the biggest crowd of his life, and he was visibly overwhelmed by the love of a new generation. What remains in mind is Cohen’s expression of astonished gratitude as tens of thousands of people passionately sang Hallelujah with him to the accompaniment of the setting sun. A real moment.


Thank guitarist John Squire’s broken collarbone for what was arguably Britpop’s best hour, as it forced Pulp to replace the failing Stone Roses at the 11th hour and seize the opportunity by the throat. Like Radiohead in 1997 and Coldplay in 2002, they played future classics fresh out of the box and seemed to grow bigger with each song. At the right time, in the right place, in the right group.


Photograph: Mick Hutson / Redferns

The suggestion that live dance music could go hand in hand with rock was still hotly debated in 1994, until two humble men with machines and lights eclipsed even the rising stars of Britpop in terms of future euphoria. , cementing Glastonbury’s relationship with rave culture. “A religious experience”, according to fans and future headliners of the Chemical Brothers.


Stormzy brought gravity, but Lizzo threw the best party at the last Glastonbury before the lockdown. Having as much fun as it is possible for a human to have without suffering serious injury, she was part dance teacher, motivational speaker and best friend. The songs were also very good. The secret to Glastonbury’s success: looking like you’re thrilled to be there.


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