How have last-minute Glastonbury headliners fared?

Following Florence + the Machine’s promotion to the top slot at Glastonbury 2015, we take a look at the substitutes who’ve seized the moment – or been beaten by the big occasion

• Your tips on how to survive the world’s greatest music festival

By replacing an ailing Foo Fighters on the Pyramid stage at this year’s festival, Florence + the Machine continue a grand Glastonbury tradition: the late call up from the Glasto subs bench to become a festival headliner. But will their performance find its way into the scrapbook of big Glasto moments, or be reduced to a mere footnote? Here’s how some of the festival’s other last-minute headliners fared, from T Rex to Lenny Kravitz.

T Rex – 1970

Replaced: The Kinks, who officially pulled out due to Ray Davies having a sore throat (though Michael Eavis claims they were put off by Melody Maker calling the event a “mini festival”).

How did they fare? As disappointed as Eavis must have been to lose the Kinks at the time, in retrospect it probably was a good thing. Marc Bolan and T Rex were on the cusp of proper massiveness, lending some added credibility to the nascent festival: Eavis claims that their late booking encouraged people to bring their friends along, swelling the crowd. It certainly had the desired effect of attracting names to Worthy Farm: 1971’s lineup included Fairport Convention, Joan Baez and David Bowie.

Lenny Kravitz – 1993

Replaced: Red Hot Chili Peppers, who pulled out due to Flea suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.

How did he fare? Er, good question. Kravitz’s last-minute inclusion can’t have pulled up many trees, as he barely warrants a mention in any of the official write-ups of Glasto 1993. The Guardian decided instead to focus on the 60s feel of the festival – the Kinks actually bothered to show up this time, along with a reunited Velvet Underground (who also made the cover of the NME) – while Suede proved to be the weekend’s most buzzed-about band. Poor Lenny was asked back in 1999, but only as support to the Pyramid’s Sunday headliners ... Skunk Anansie.

Pulp – 1995

Replaced: The Stone Roses, after John Squire broke his collarbone while mountain biking.

How did they fare? Triumphantly. Pulp’s headline turn at the 1995 festival is widely regarded as one of the greatest Glasto performances ever, nudging the band on to Britpop’s top table. Featuring Jarvis at his most puckish and engrossing, it concluded with a communal sing-along to Common People that everyone – everyone – joined in with. All things considered, probably better than a disinterested Roses chugging through Second Coming.

Ash – 1997


Replaced: Steve Winwood

How did they fare? Ash had already topped the Friday bill on the Other Stage when they were asked to stand in for Winwood on the Sunday night, making them the youngest ever band to headline the Pyramid, and the first act to headline the festival twice in one year. All very impressive, but that year’s festival really belonged to the mud, and Radiohead’s brilliant breakthrough set.

Basement Jaxx – 2005

Replaced: Kylie Minogue, who had to withdraw after contracting breast cancer.

How did they fare? Basement Jaxx were widely considered a bit of an underwhelming replacement for Kylie – but then again, who wouldn’t be? In the event the Jaxx went down better than expected, with the assembled suddenly remembering en masse that Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe have written a fair few tunes themselves: “No other dance act has so many great pop songs and such a diverse remit,” wrote Dorian Lynskey in his round-up of the weekend. Bonus points awarded for currying favour with the crowd by covering Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head.

Gorillaz – 2010

Replaced: U2, who pulled out when Bono got a back injury.

How did they fare? A giant audio-visual show with appearances from Bobby Womack, Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed certainly hit all the Glasto headliner buttons, but Damon Albarn and co rather ruined things by including too many introspective songs. “Both Blur and U2 have a sackful of famous hits to snare the passerby. It quickly becomes apparent that Gorillaz, for all their charms, do not,” wrote Lynskey in one of many withering reviews of the show. U2 rocked up with said famous hits the very next year, and were received a little more warmly.


Gwilym Mumford

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Glastonbury 2015: Who should replace Foo Fighters as headliners? – open thread
Dave Grohl’s broken leg means Foo Fighters can no longer headline Glastonbury on the Friday night, leaving the door open for … who?

Tim Jonze

17, Jun, 2015 @7:20 AM

Article image
Glastonbury 2015: what to look forward to on Friday
The gates are open and the bands will soon begin to play. Here’s what’s happening on the first day of the Worthy Farm event - from Florence’s first-time Pyramid headline slot, to Run the Jewels’s rabble-rousing rap

Gwilym Mumford Rachel Aroesti Luke Holland

26, Jun, 2015 @8:00 AM

Article image
Florence + the Machine at Glastonbury 2015 review – infectious enthusiasm
Florence Welch seizes her Glastonbury moment and wrestles it to the ground with abandon in her storming Friday night headline set

Alexis Petridis

26, Jun, 2015 @11:42 PM

Article image
How Florence + the Machine won Glastonbury
Analysis of social media postings during the headliners’ sets shows Florence was the one who received the most praise while she played

Michael Hann

02, Jul, 2015 @1:14 PM

Article image
Florence + the Machine to replace Foo Fighters at Glastonbury 2015
The singer will top the bill on Friday night at the Somerset event, following the rock band’s cancellation

Harriet Gibsone

17, Jun, 2015 @11:16 AM

Article image
Glastonbury 2015 verdict: Florence + the Machine, Kanye West, the Who and more
Florence Welch pulled out all the stops, while Kanye’s set was faltering and relatively restrained. But everyone was talking about the rapper – even Sunday’s closing act the Who, says Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

29, Jun, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Glastonbury, Reading or Creamfields: which 2015 festival has the fewest female artists?
The charts are dominated by female performers, but this year’s British music festival lineups are 86% male. The Guardian’s data team crunches the numbers, while Jenny Stevens asks promoters why progress is so slow

Jenny Stevens and Ami Sedghi

23, Jun, 2015 @5:15 AM

Article image
Patti Smith, Pharrell Williams and more at Glastonbury festival 2015
The festival has announced a list of 75 artists set to play, including performances from Mary J Blige, Florence and the Machine and Motörhead. But there’s still no news on who the Sunday-night headliner will be

Tim Jonze

14, Apr, 2015 @6:00 PM

Article image
Glastonbury 2015: Friday evening as it happened – Florence + the Machine, Mark Ronson and more
It’s a Foo-less Friday, but we’ve got Florence headlining, the Libertines, Mark Ronson, and all the action from around the site

Michael Hann

27, Jun, 2015 @2:34 PM

Article image
Glastonbury 2015: Sunday daytime as it happened – Lionel Richie, Patti Smith and the Dalai Lama
Did the sun come back for a brief Sunday moment? Patti Smith didn’t need the Dalai Lama on stage to earn five stars, Lionel Richie warms everyone up, and Paloma Faith hits Instagram bigtime

Caspar Llewellyn Smith, Pamela Hutchinson and Gwilym Mumford

30, Jun, 2015 @9:11 AM