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Diana Zagorodnya

The 13 best festival performances ever


Here’s a run-down of the 13 most iconic festival performances, from Nirvana at Reading to Beyoncé at Glastonbury.

Best festivals

13. Nirvana - Reading 1992

Nirvana’s last UK performance was one of the most iconic festival scenes of all time - Kurt Cobain being wheeled on stage to respond to his critics.

Haters can forget about hating - their performance was epic.

12. Stone Roses - Spike Island 1990

A gig held on a reclaimed toxic waste site? Right, as if health and safety would allow that today. But back in 1990 this was one of the most talked about events.

11. Pulp - V96 1996

Back then it was V96 but now it’s known as V Festival. Hats go off to Jarvis Cocker and team Pulp as the festival wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for him.

10. Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue - Big Day Out 1996

The unlikely duet from Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue at the Big Day Out event in ’96 received mixed reviews.

But who would say no to their undeniable chemistry in the haunting “Where the wild roses grow”?

9. Bob Dylan – Newport 1965

Bob Dylan’s set caused a bit of a controversy when he performed on an electric guitar instead of his usual acoustic. Given that this was at a folk festival, the crowd weren’t too happy.

Sure, it wasn’t one of the best received performances but it’s one that will definitely go down in history.

8. Libertines - Reading and Leeds 2010

It marked the boys’ reunion after a six year hiatus - it was as if they were destined to play this immense show.

The gig got such a positive response from fans and critics that it paved the way for the band officially reforming in 2014.

7. Arcade Fire – Reading and Leeds 2010

Some may say the crowd wasn’t the biggest, but who cares when delivered such a technically jaw dropping 90-minute set.

6. Jay Z - Glastonbury, 2008

It was one of the most written-about Glastonbury shows ever. “A rapper headlining Glastonbury?” some questioned. By “some” we mean Noel Gallagher.

Despite that, Jay-Z headed up an irresistible, hip hop extravaganza, starting with an acoustic version of Oasis’s ”Wonderwall”.

5. The Rolling Stones - Isle of Wight 2007

It was their first performance in more than three decades, and it blew all the newcomers and the crowd away. An epic finale to a three-day weekend. Fact.

4. Arctic Monkeys - Reading and Leeds 2005

It was one of those moments where you’d be proud to say “I was there”. This was just before Arctic Monkeys got big and “I bet you look good on the dancefloor” became a hit.

3. Beyoncé - Glastonbury 2011

At three months pregnant, rising through the stage, Queen B was making history as the first woman to headline Glastonbury.

She definitely blew the knee-length socks off Glastonbury’s wellie-wearers. Boy, that woman can sing.

2. Queen - Live Aid 1985

Everyone who was there would give anything to re-live those 20 iconic minutes. For everyone who wasn’t, well, that’s why YouTube was invented.

1. Jimi Hendrix - Woodstock 1969

The granddaddy of all music festivals. And to top it off, Jimi Hendrix performing ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was one of the most iconic moments in festival history.

If only time machines existed...


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