Music festivals don’t always lend themselves to classic performances. The majority of artists aren’t on stage as long as they’re used to and are playing to audiences featuring many people who didn’t turn up specifically to see them perform. Yet, there are some musicians who turn in a wonderful performance, creating memories that live on long after the festival has ended. Here is a selection of music festival performances that were worth getting stuck in the mud for. Spanning multiple decades and from both sides of the Atlantic, these are the moments that if you were lucky enough to see in person, you really do have some interesting stories to share.
Dolly Parton, Glastonbury, 2014
In her rhinestone-covered pantsuit, Dolly Parton was looking as glitzy as ever and put on a musical performance to match. The queen of country rocked with Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora for a version of Lay Your Hands on Me, grabbed her saxophone (covered in rhinestones, of course) to play the theme to the Benny Hill Show, and even rapped about mud. Her performance sparkled every inch as much as her pantsuit. All that was missing was Dolly being joined on stage by Kenny Rogers for a rendition of Islands in the Stream.
Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock, 1969
Woodstock went on well into Monday morning due to technical hiccups and the weather. Jimi Hendrix could have played the night before at midnight, but instead, he chose to close the entire festival beginning at 9 am. The 500,000 attendance had whittled down to 200,000, but those were the lucky ones who got to see a set that lasted close to two hours. Accompanied by a temporary band after the break up of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the music icon played such hits as Hey Joe and Purple Haze, along with a selection of new songs, and, of course, his famous three-minute version of the American national anthem.
Beyoncé, Glastonbury, 2011
Beyoncé hadn’t revealed that she was three months pregnant, and yet here she was putting on one of the all-time great festival performances. After opening with Crazy In Love, which a less courageous artist would have chosen to end on, she sang a number of solo hits, along with some Destiny’s Child favourites, and covers such as Sex on Fire (Kings of Leon) and At Last (Etta James). After telling the audience that she had long wished to be a rock star, she got to live out her wildest dream.
There are only a small number of music events in history that have been mythologised in the way that this Bob Dylan performance has. The politically-minded folk musician put on a literally electric performance with restlessly creative, smart music that would become the sound of the decade. Dylan performed just three amplified songs, including Like a Rolling Stone and Maggie’s Farm. While he did receive some boos from the audience (likely for failing to please his folk fans), he did introduce the world to a new kind of music.