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Iconic Moments: Top 10 Pyramid Stage Headliners at Glastonbury of All Time

Posted on Tuesday 18th June 2024 at 15:48

Bethan Boast

Written by
Bethan Boast

 Top Ten Glastonbury Performances


The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival stands as a hallowed ground where music legends etch their names into history through unforgettable performances. From electrifying rock anthems to soul-stirring ballads, each show is a testament to the transformative power of live music. Join us as we journey through the top 10 Pyramid Stage performances that have left an indelible mark on music and festival culture.

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Top 10 Headliners

1. David Bowie (2000)

David Bowie’s triumphant return to Glastonbury in 2000, after nearly three decades, was more than just a concert; it was a cosmic experience. With each chord of "Heroes" and every verse of "Life on Mars?", Bowie transported the crowd to a realm where music and magic intertwined. His iconic outfits—a shimmering suit that reflected the stage lights—became part of the spectacle, enhancing his magnetic presence. The crowd, a sea of faces illuminated by the stage's ethereal glow, mirrored Bowie's energy with every cheer and dance move.


2. Radiohead (1997 & 2017) 

Radiohead's appearances on the Pyramid Stage have become legendary moments in Glastonbury's storied history. In 1997, fresh off the release of "OK Computer," an album that reshaped the landscape of alternative rock. From the ethereal strains of "Paranoid Android" to the cathartic crescendo of "Karma Police," each song reverberated through a crowd of over 100,000, with Thom Yorke's haunting vocals piercing through moody stage lighting that mirrored the album's dystopian themes.

Their return to Glastonbury in 2017 was a triumph of sonic exploration and emotional resonance. The setlist, spanning their expansive discography, transported listeners through a journey of introspection and innovation. Hits like the anthemic "Creep" and the poignant "Fake Plastic Trees" cast a spell over the festival grounds, reaffirming Radiohead's status as pioneers of art-rock.



3. Beyoncé (2011)

Beyoncé's headline performance in 2011 was a historic moment, marking her as the first woman of colour to grace the Pyramid Stage solo. From the moment she strutted onstage in a dazzling gold bodysuit, she commanded attention with hits like "Crazy in Love" and "Single Ladies." The stage transformed into a playground of pyrotechnics and LED screens that pulsed to the beat of her powerful vocals and intricate choreography. Beyoncé's performance wasn't just a show; it was a cultural phenomenon that united fans in celebration of empowerment and artistry. Attendees of Glastonbury 2011 were truly in the presence of a queen.


4. The Rolling Stones (2013)

When The Rolling Stones finally made their Glastonbury debut in 2013, they brought with them a lifetime of rock 'n' roll glory. In his iconic sequined jacket, Mick Jagger prowled the stage like a panther as Keith Richards' guitar riffs echoed across the fields. Hits like "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Paint It Black," and their electrifying rendition of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" ignited a frenzy among the crowd, who sang and swayed under the canopy of lights and giant screens that transformed the stage into a cathedral of rock.


5. Paul McCartney (2004 & 2022)

Paul McCartney's presence on the Pyramid Stage is a testament to his enduring musical legacy. In 2004, he led fans through a journey of Beatles classics and solo hits with an effortless charm that belied his status as a living legend. His simple attire—a crisp shirt and tailored trousers—allowed his music to take centre stage, resonating through the crowd as they sang along to "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be."

Returning in 2022, McCartney proved he still holds the power to captivate, blending nostalgia with new energy in a setlist that spanned decades of musical evolution. A standout moment was his rendition of "I've Got a Feeling," featuring a virtual duet with John Lennon, creating a poignant and memorable experience for fans. His stage, adorned with state-of-the-art screens and dynamic lighting, created an immersive experience that transcended time, uniting generations of fans in a shared love for timeless melodies.


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6. Arctic Monkeys (2007, 2013 & 2023)

The Arctic Monkeys skyrocketed to rock royalty with their headline show at Glastonbury 2007, unleashing hits like "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" that set the crowd ablaze. Their stripped-down stage setup showcased their raw talent and undeniable connection with fans, who packed the stage in sheer awe.

Returning in 2013, the band proved their evolution with a magnetic performance on the Pyramid Stage. Alex Turner's swagger and the band's electrifying presence had the audience on their feet, vibing to anthems like "Do I Wanna Know?" and "R U Mine?"—tracks that echoed through the festival grounds long after they'd left.

By 2023, the Arctic Monkeys were back for more, delivering a triumphant set that cemented their legacy at Glastonbury. Mixing old favourites with new hits, they once again commanded the stage, uniting the crowd in a euphoric celebration of music. Each performance at Glastonbury has been a milestone, marking their journey from rising stars to one of Britain's most influential rock bands.



7. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (2009)

Bruce Springsteen's marathon performance in 2009 was a testament to the enduring spirit of rock 'n' roll. With his trusty E Street Band in tow, Springsteen commanded the stage with anthems like "Born to Run" and "Dancing in the Dark," each song stretching into epic tales of heartache and triumph. A standout moment was his heartfelt rendition of "The River," where he captivated the audience with his harmonica playing, showcasing his storytelling prowess and emotional depth. His denim-clad figure moved fluidly under the spotlight, a beacon of authenticity amidst the elaborate stage setup that paid homage to classic rock aesthetics.


8. Pulp (1995 & 1998)

Pulp's unexpected ascent to Pyramid Stage headliners in 1995 became a defining moment for Britpop. Jarvis Cocker, in his velvet suit and irreverent charm, led the band through a setlist that captured the zeitgeist of '90s England. "Common People" and "Disco 2000" became anthems of a generation, punctuated by a stage setup that eschewed extravagance for intimacy, allowing Cocker's magnetic persona to shine through amidst the sea of ecstatic fans.


9. Adele (2016)

Adele's 2016 performance was a masterclass in vocal prowess and emotional connection. Dressed in an elegant black gown that shimmered under the stage lights, she enraptured the audience with hits like "Hello" and "Rolling in the Deep." A particularly moving moment was her rendition of "Hometown Glory," which brought a profound sense of nostalgia and emotion to the crowd. The Pyramid Stage became a canvas for her soul-baring lyrics, enhanced by close-up shots on the LED screens that captured every nuance of her passionate delivery. Her interactions with the crowd turned strangers into a unified chorus, echoing her melodies across the festival grounds.


10. The Cure (1986 & 2019)

The Cure's dual performances at Glastonbury—first in 1986 and then in 2019—underscored their enduring appeal across generations. Robert Smith, with his signature dishevelled hair and smudged lipstick, cast a spell over the audience with ethereal hits like "Lovesong" and "Just Like Heaven." A standout moment from their 2019 set was their rendition of "Friday I'm in Love," which brought a joyous energy that contrasted beautifully with their darker tunes. The stage, cloaked in atmospheric lighting and swirling fog, became a dreamscape where melancholy met euphoria, drawing fans into a timeless reverie.


The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival has witnessed the evolution of music and culture through performances that defy time and genre. These top 10 performances are not just moments in history; they are milestones that have shaped the collective experience of music lovers worldwide. As we celebrate these icons and their unforgettable shows, we invite you to share your favourite Pyramid Stage memories and join us in anticipating the next chapter of musical brilliance at Glastonbury.

Don’t worry if you’ve missed out on Glastonbury this year; there are still numerous festivals and outdoor concerts on sale via Gigantic Tickets. Take a browse and seize the chance to witness a potentially iconic moment that could shape music history and be cherished for years to come.

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