When it was announced that Adele would headlineGlastonbury’s Saturday night, she admitted to being extremely nervous at the prospect (well, she put it more bluntly than that, but if I were to start quoting Adele verbatim I would risk running out of asterisks). She questioned her own ability to pull it off. “I froze with fear,” she confessed, confronted with the sheer size of the audience during a visit last year. “I just thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do that.”
On the one hand, she seems the obvious choice. Adele is the biggest music star in the world right now by a hefty margin, with three albums worth of songs that everyone can lustily sing along to. On the other hand, she has never headlined a festival before, and indeed only recently graduated to performing in arenas.
There is a massive difference between singing indoors to 20,000 of your own dedicated fans and performing in the open air to 175,000 festivalgoers who bought tickets before the bill was even announced.
Instead of the usual gamut of four hairy men with all the lasers and fireworks money can buy, Glastonbury’s seasoned revellers will be treated to a solo chanteuse in a nice frock whose forte is middle of the road piano ballads about failed love affairs.
Some ticketholders have not been shy in expressing their doubts, conjuring images of a field full of people weeping while trying to get enough signal to send their love to their exes. In the rain.
Such scepticism has only hardened Adele to the task in hand. “To the people who say I am too boring to headline, you’re more —ing boring for moaning about me headlining,” she recently proclaimed. Personally, I’m convinced she’s going to kill it. But then I said the same about Kanye West last year, and look how that turned out.
So to aid Adele in winning over Glastonbury 2016, I have consulted the experiences of former festival headliners to put together this 10 point plan.
1. Do your homework
“Lots of people told me that it’s quite a difficult gig, so I was ready for it to be,” Mick Jagger said of the Rolling Stones’s headline slot in 2013. Jagger watched DVDs of previous Glastonbury sets and consulted famous friends who had played before. “And it was difficult. You have to have your wits about you to play Glastonbury. (It’s) a super intense weekend. People haven’t bought tickets to go and see (you), they’ve gone for the whole experience. It’s more than just a music festival. It’s a mad social event.”
To be fair, Adele probably knows more about Glastonbury than most old rockers, having grown up in the era of wall-to-wall BBC coverage. Although she has only performed at the festival once before, a lowly acoustic slot at 10 in the morning on the Park stage in 2007, she has often attended as a VIP guest. “To be honest, those people moaning about it, I’ve probably been more times than them anyway, so shut up,” is how she put it herself.
Still, fellow headliners Muse have an idea for how Adele could settle any lingering nerves. “The best thing would be to come the night before and sing a song with us,” suggested Matt Bellamy. “Sing ‘Feeling Good’, take the pressure off. Or just watch a few acts, and get a feel for the stage before you go on.”
I like that idea, but why not go the whole hog: fly in over the crowd on a giant drone and dive-bomb Muse during space rock epic Knights of Cydonia?
2. Arrive early
“You have to go and see the hippies don’t you?” as Guy Garvey of Elbow puts it. Before Metallica headlined in 2014, they walked the site in disguise. “This is something that penetrates at a whole other level to any other festival anywhere, it’s a part of culture and history,” explained drummer Lars Ulrich. “So I figure I’ve got my access AAA laminate and I’m going to soak up every second. We saw bands, we walked everywhere, and saw every little area and every little village and every little tent. It was such an amazing experience, by the time we’d done that we felt like we knew what the vibe was. Went back and slept for a couple of hours and felt like we were ready to take this on.”
3. Play your hits
“There are a hundred thousand people there and maybe about half of them have got one or two of your albums,” notes Damon Albarn, who has headlined twice with Blur and once with Gorillaz. “If you surprise people, you piss ’em off. Can you imagine Blur not doing Parklife at Glastonbury?”
“You’ve got to try and make sure the first number really cooks,” explains Jagger. “It’s got to be something you’re super confident with. It’s no good doing a slightly unknown number that the audience isn’t going to deal with.” Of course, it helps if you can open with Jumpin’ Jack Flash but Hello will probably work just as well for Adele.
There was no messing about for Beyoncé in 2011, either. “I was a couple of months working on that set list,” she claimed, although it doesn’t sound like there was much room for debate. “I did all my singles and some Destiny Child songs.”
Dolly Parton admitted she was worried about her 2014 Glastonbury set. “I thought I can’t do a bunch of sad slow songs, cos everybody’s drunk and high,” explained the country veteran. “I don’t want to bring them down that bad.”
But the Blur frontman thinks otherwise. “I’ve never seen a succession of fast songs to go down well at Glastonbury,” says Albarn. “People want big, emotional, in-yer-face s—.” In which case, Adele should be fine.
4. When in doubt, consult Chris Martin
This year will be Coldplay’s sixth appearance at Glastonbury, a festival frontman Chris Martin says he considers home from home. “I sent Chris my set list and made sure he approved it,” admitted Beyonce. “Because he is the master.”
5. Pray for sunshine
The weather is the biggest factor over which performers have absolutely no power. “We played Glastonbury but the rain was bitingly cold and the audience were soaked and covered in wet mud and it was dark and dismal and every time I opened my mouth I swallowed rain,” moaned Morrissey of his 2011 appearance. “Under such conditions you can’t really expect much.”
But after two days of torrential rain, thunder and lightning, it miraculously cleared up just before Coldplay went on stage. “I asked Bono to have a word with God,” Chris Martin later explained. Adele might be better appealing directly to her deity herself, since it bucketed down during U2’s set, suggesting Bono may not be quite as close to his maker as some people think.
Alternatively she could just have a word with the Boss. “I heard the weather is always bad,” said Bruce Springsteen in 2009. “But it’s all right, we’re not afraid of a little rain.” Are you listening to that, Morrissey?
You can read the rest at the Telegraph