Radiohead are confirmed as first headliners for Glastonbury 2017

Band to make their first Pyramid stage appearance at Worthy Farm since 2003

The last time Radiohead topped the bill at Glastonbury, Moby was still big enough to headline one night of the festival, and Suede and Super Furry Animals were both prominent in proceedings, having not yet split up, let alone re-formed. More shocking still, Tony Blair was still prime minister, albeit with personal approval ratings that had fallen to 31%. But now the band are to take to the Pyramid stage at Worthy Farm for the first time since 2003, when they headline the Friday night of Glastonbury 2017 on 23 June.

The festival gave clues that something was in the offing during the course of Wednesday, when the BBC’s webcam of Worthy Farm picked up a pattern in front of the Pyramid stage that looked remarkably like Radiohead’s bear’s head logo, prompting speculation on social media about the band appearing. Or that it was a Mickey Mouse head, and there might be something Disney-related on the cards.

Radiohead’s bear’s head
Radiohead’s bear’s head Photograph: PR Company Handout

Last week, the eFestivals website had Radiohead down as “to be confirmed” in its list of potential Glastonbury performers, with the Stone Roses and Lady Gaga both “strongly rumoured”.

Radiohead’s previous appearances are often held up as some of the finest performances in Glastonbury’s history. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, who also appeared that year, called the 2003 show “one of the greatest” he had ever seen. Their previous headline appearance, amid deep mud and shocking weather conditions in 1997, has topped polls for the best-ever Glastonbury set. It came just days after the release of OK Computer, perhaps their most beloved album.

Pretty much every year since that last headline set in 2003, Radiohead have been rumoured to be making an unannounced appearance. That finally came to pass in 2011, when their “surprise appearance” was so unsurprising that the Park stage attracted one of its biggest ever crowds. The Guardian’s review of that appearance was lukewarm, noting that a crowd standing in pouring rain would have preferred to hear their best-known songs rather than a selection of their more experimental material. “So when Radiohead closed the set with Street Spirit and the sodden crowd roared, you couldn’t help but feel that both the band and their audience had been cheated out of the gig they deserved,” wrote Rosie Swash.

Radiohead released their ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, in May this year, to glowing reviews. “The stuff about how the future is inside us and people have the power sounds authentically stirring,” wrote Alexis Petridis in the Guardian. “It also sounds like Radiohead achieving something they’ve never achieved before, a quarter of a century into their career: long may their neuroses keep them in constant motion.”

The band supported the release with a small number of shows, many of them festival appearances, across the summer. Their only UK shows, however, were three nights at the 3,300-capacity Roundhouse in London. Demand for tickets far outstripped supply, but those who managed to get in were treated to shows, the Guardian said, by “a band reaching an artistic peak nearly 25 years after their commercial breakthrough”.

Glastonbury 2017 is the band’s first UK performance since those three Roundhouse shows.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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