The 21 Best Pyramid Stage Performances of the 21st Century (with videos)
The iconic Pyramid Stage has seen some incredible performances down the years, from T.Rex and David Bowie at the original ‘Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues Festivals’ through to the likes of Adele, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys in recent years.
With more than 100,000 people in attendance, plus millions more watching the coverage at home, a headline slot on the Pyramid Stage is the pinnacle of any musician’s career. Fortunately, thanks to the wall-to-wall TV coverage over the past 20 years, we get to relive all the most recent ones.
So, to get you in the mood for Glastonbury 2017, here are 21 of the best performances on the Pyramid Stage since the turn of the century.
David Bowie, 2000
Captured here in Julien Temple’s film Glastonbury, David Bowie returned to Worthy Farm almost 30 years after he first appeared at the festival. His legendary set included many of his classics and went down in history as one of the greatest ever Glastonbury performances.
Blur rounded off Glastonbury 2009 with an epic headlining slot on the Sunday night, sending the crowd into a frenzy with hits like Girls And Boys, Country House and Song 2.
Arctic Monkeys, 2007
You could argue that their set in 2013 was even better, but to headline the Pyramid Stage so early in their career and get a reaction like this (see video) is remarkable.
Despite arriving at the festival as the biggest pop star in the world, some doubted whether Adele’s performance would work on a stage used to arena bands like Muse and Coldplay, who were 2016’s other headliners. She ended up putting on the weekend’s most memorable performance, getting the whole crowd involved and even inviting a couple of lucky fans on stage.
One of Glastonbury’s more controversial choices, many weren’t sure whether a metal band would be appropriate for the festival, and there was even a petition requesting Michael Eavis to remove them from the line-up. The band took it in their stride though and delivered a blistering 90 minute set which had the whole crowd screaming back the lyrics to hits such as Seek And Destroy and Enter Sandman.
Breaking the mould of the traditional Pyramid Stage acts, Faithless put on an unforgettable show which had the crowd jumping from start to finish. They would later return for another epic set in 2010.
Having headlined the festival on several occasions, Coldplay never fail to put on an incredible show. Returning just 3 years after their first appearance on the Pyramid Stage, their set in 2005 cemented their place as an all-time Glastonbury favourite.
Florence + The Machine, 2015
After Foo Fighters were forced to pull out, Florence + The Machine were pushed forward into the headline slot and more than lived up to their new billing. Florence Welch put in a performance of a lifetime and provided the highlight of the weekend with her cover of Times Like These.
Paul McCartney, 2004
100,000 people, at Glastonbury, singing along to Hey Jude…
Dolly Parton, 2014
Drawing one of the biggest crowds in the history of the festival, Dolly Parton’s set in 2014 made the Sunday tea time ‘legends slot’ as popular as the headliners.
In 2016 Muse made history by becoming the first act to have headlined all three nights on the Pyramid Stage. Their 2004 set was the pick of the bunch, and would later be voted #1 in NME’s ‘Best Ever Glastonbury Performance’ poll.
Closing the stage on Sunday night, Beyoncé pulled out all the stops to put on the perfect Pyramid Stage performance. From her opening song Crazy in Love right through to the encore of Run The World and Halo, the set was epic from start to finish.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, 2009
The ultimate Pyramid Stage headliner, this one was never in any doubt as The Boss delivered a rip-roaring set of rock ‘n’ roll classics.
Lionel Richie, 2015
Taking the legends slot which Dolly Parton had filled so brilliantly the year before, Lionel Richie prompted mass sing-alongs from one of the biggest crowds the Pyramid Stage has ever seen. This sunny Sunday afternoon will always be remembered as one of the most feel-good Glastonbury sets of all time.
Jay Z, 2008
Another controversial choice, and one Noel Gallagher famously disagreed with. The former Oasis frontman said in the build-up to the event “I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong”, prompting Jay Z to walk on stage with a guitar and cover Wonderwall at the start of his set. His hugely well received performance proved that there is plenty of room for hip-hop on the Pyramid Stage.
The Chemical Brothers, 2000
It’s not often an electronic act gets to headline the Pyramid Stage, so this was a pretty big deal. The duo’s live sets are almost as famous for their visual effects as they are for the music, and despite being almost 20 years ago, this was one of the most spectacular visual displays the Pyramid Stage has seen.
The Libertines, 2015
With Florence + The Machine’s original slot still empty right up until the day, rumours were flying around regarding Friday night’s surprise guests, with Blur and Taylor Swift both strongly rumoured. It was The Libertines who turned up though, all four of them this time, reminding the world just how good The Libertines are when they’re on form.
Stevie Wonder, 2010
An unforgettable set from a true music legend, Stevie Wonder pulled out all his greatest hits to provide a fitting end to Glastonbury’s 40th anniversary.
After having to pull out due to Bono’s back injury in 2010, U2 put on a spectacular show the following year. Their performance was backed up by stunning visual effects, with hits such Beautiful Day and Vertigo gaining huge reactions from the crowd.
Leonard Cohen, 2008
Performing his greatest hits set at Glastonbury 2008, Leonard Cohen’s rendition of ‘Hallelujah’ in the glorious Sunday evening sunshine has gone down as an iconic Glastonbury moment.
Their set in 1997 is regarded as one of the best in the festival’s history, so the pressure was on to deliver when they returned to headline the Pyramid Stage again six years later. This time they were even better.