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Eight of the best: Glastonbury headline moments

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

From Jay-Z's Noel Gallagher retort to Pulp's era-defining Britpop anthem, here's a look at eight of the best Glastonbury headline performances.

Make no mistake, over the years Glastonbury has established itself as a staple of Great British culture. Millions across the country are glued to their television sets in anticipation of music's most iconic festival.

A select few are even luckier. Almost 200,000 attend Worthy Farm in Somerset each June, a tradition now in its fifth decade, with a weekend of mud and chaos guaranteed. This is all worth it, of course, for the chance to see musical legend being created and a host of established and upcoming artists keen to make their mark.

What better way to celebrate the festival than to take a look at a few of our favourite moments over the past few years.


Jay Z - Wonderwall/99 Problems (2008)

Upon the announcement of Jay-Z's headline slot at Glastonbury, a few heads were certainly turned at this seemingly left field choice by Michael Eavis. Of course, Noel Gallagher being Noel Gallagher had to butt in and stoke the flames by claiming such a headliner would result in a lesser crowd. The Oasis guitarist went on to reveal his contempt for a rapper headlining what had traditionally been a rock-centred festival. A backlash was expected, but undeterred, the New York legendary rapper opened his set with a botched version of 'Wonderwall' before launching into a guitar-friendly version of his hit '99 Problems'. Jay-Z knocked it out of the park time and again during his set, leaving Noel and doubters with plenty of Worthy Farm egg on their faces.


Pulp - Common People (1995)

1995 may be remembered in British music folklore as the year Blur and Oasis battled it out for chart superiority, but Pulp cemented their status as icons of the Britpop scene with an explosive performance of their seminal hit 'Common People' at Glastonbury. Amazingly, the song had only been released a month prior, yet 100,000 people collectively sang along and bounced in unison. It's rare for a Glastonbury headliner to be as current and relevant as Pulp were in 1995.


Blur (ft. Phil Daniels) - Parklife (2009)

Following Graham Coxon's departure almost a decade before and years of hiatus after 2003's Think Tank, Blur's reuniting announcement in December 2008 was met with a mixture of shock and excitement. Before long, they were announced as Glastonbury headliners, performing with the same exuberant gusto you'd have expected from them in their mid-90s heydey. Amongst the highlights was a frenetic performance of 'Parklife' with cockney actor Phil Daniels. It was hard not to feel jealous of those in attendance!


Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know (2013)

In 2007, Arctic Monkeys headlined Glastonbury as a young band fresh out of their teens. Whilst their set had its moments, they understandably appeared overawed at the occasion. Six years later Arctic Monkeys returned in triumph, signally the beginning of their AM-era and confirming their status as one of Britain's greatest bands of all time. Frontman Alex Turner was the epitome of cool as the Sheffield band introduced a more polished set, opening with the stylish, sexy guitar grooves of 'Do I Wanna Know'.


Radiohead - Karma Police (1997)

The Oxford band have headlined Glastonbury on three occasions, but it's their first occasion that's worthy of most acclaim. What makes it so special is that it came only two weeks after the release of their iconic third album OK Computer, delivering a perfect version of 'Karma Police' as a taster to the greatness the album was soon to offer. In 2006, festival organiser Michael Eavis even proclaimed this Radiohead set as the best Glastonbury performance of all time. He'll have seen a few so it's tough to argue!


The Killers (ft. Johnny Marr) - This Charming Man (2019)

After admitting their initial 2007 headline set had been an absolute disaster due to poor sound, The Killers Glasto headline redemption was completed in 2019 with a fantastic performance full of classic anthems, covers and special guests. Amongst these guests were The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr whose guitar intro to 'This Charming Man' sent the crowd into oblivion. What is also so enjoyable is watching a grinning Brandon Flowers live out a lifelong fantasy, singing those famous Morrissey lyrics and appearing in awe standing next to his hero. Sure it was a little raw at points, but it was a truly memorable moment in recent Glastonbury history.


Arcade Fire - Reflektor (2013)

Despite establishing themselves as one of the biggest names in the rock world, it's amazing that it took Arcade Fire a decade to finally headline the festival. All the loveable quirks and peculiarities were on show for their 2013 hit 'Reflektor' from their fourth album of the same name. Slightly unnerving, funky and joyful, the Canadian band's set was anything but forgettable!


The Cure - Burn (2019)

Any number of songs by The Cure could've been picked from their 2019 headline performance, but 'Burn' from the 1994 superhero film The Crow was a particular highlight. Fresh from being inducted into the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the band delivered a flawless and intense performance, epitomised by an impassioned Robert Smith. Goosebumps central over this 6 and a half minutes epic!


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