The Glastonbury Festival has been around since 1970 and evolved into one of the biggest music festivals in the world. 2023 proved once again why that is. The number of exceptional artists that graced the stage and put on excellent shows is nearly uncountable.
There were surprises, like Dave Grohl showing up with the Foo Fighters, playing a surprise gig, then Grohl hopping over to play drums on a Pretenders set, and then later playing guitar with Guns N' Roses on "Paradise City." Grohl likely most personified this summer's Glastonbury Festival: He had fun, he rocked, and he was a bit of everywhere.
From the festival's origin as the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival, co-created by a farmer named Michael Eavis who had never organized anything like it, the festival has become a monster in the best sense. There are always great artists to see and those artists seem bent on playing fantastic sets. Here are three that stood out in 2023.
Glastonbury Festival 2023 standouts
What an artist Elton John is. For 50 years now he has almost never failed to create great music and is clearly one of the best performers in the history of, well...performance. In John's headlining set on Sunday, he played 20 songs and each one with his classic non-stop ability to connect with his crowd.
John set at his piano - rightfully so - during the whole set until the finale was done. And what a kick to the finish it was. If you were at Glastonbury 2023 you will remember forever that you saw Elton John play "Rocket Man" to close the show and it was completely brilliant.
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Alex Turner and his mates remain criminally underappreciated in the United States but thankfully the people in the native UK know better. Arctic Monkeys are one of the best bands you'll hear after crafting a tune and finding new sounds with each album. The band (unbelievably) is now 20 years in and still as fresh as ever.
There was some doubt that they could play after a recently cancelled gig in Dublin as Turner came down with a case of laryngitis. He appears to have fully recovered, though, and the band's 90 minute set was completely exhilarating just as one would assume from this band. "R U Mine" was a triumph with its Jack White-like stomp and Turner in fantastic voice.
Rick Astley and Blossoms doing Smiths covers
Yes, that subject line above is true. If you didn't know, Astley and Blossoms formed a band a couple of years ago to basically cover Smiths songs. I am a huge Smiths fan and hearing that Astley was basically in a cover band that did Smiths songs seemed stupid.
But Astley is so earnest in his approach to the songs, and is so clearly a fan of the band, that he pulls it off. Heck, the Smiths are never going to tour again so hearing someone like Astley do the tunes is at least interesting.
Maybe Morrissey was completely tongue-in-cheek when he said, "Anything that generates interest in that tired old Smiths warhorse is testimony to the wallop it packed. THANK YOU!" on his website in 2021, but the rest of us we will take what we can get with people playing Smiths songs live.