Radiohead at the Glastonbury Festival 1997: one of the best sets of all time despite technical hell
Radiohead’s track at the Glastonbury Festival in 1997 is billed as one of the group’s best performances.
Q Magazine named it the best concert of all time. Far Out Magazine claimed to have “saved” Glastonbury. Festival founder Michael Eavis once set the scene in his five best Glasto performances of all time.
However, the set, which is rebroadcast in full on BBC Two this weekend, almost ended in disaster.
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Guitarist Ed O’Brien said in 2017 that the 1997 ensemble was “like a form of hell.” He continued, “We were doing something that felt like a dream, performing on the Pyramid stage on a Saturday night, it doesn’t get any better than that.
“[But] find yourself in a situation where you felt like you were in crisis mode – the hardware failure was occurring, [we were] trying to keep all the members on stage, people don’t walk away – it was like, ‘This should be heaven but it was like kind of hell.’
“Maybe it galvanized us somehow.”
Their headliner on the Pyramid stage, which arrived just two weeks after the release of their acclaimed album OK Computer, has been plagued by technical glitches. The on-stage speakers malfunctioned on several occasions and the band complained that they could not see the audience or hear their own instruments.
Lead singer Thom Yorke would later reveal that he almost left the stage because of the problems.
He told BBC 6 Music: “At one point I went to see Ed, patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘I’m not my mate, see you later. “”
“He turned around and said, ‘If you do, you’ll probably live the rest of your life regretting it.’
“I went, ‘Good point.'”
Yorke has also said he doesn’t want to play Glastonbury in the first place. “I would have burned myself,” he said. “We had a meeting on what we were going to do for the shows and I was like, ‘I can’t do Glastonbury’.
“I just needed a break. And I actually didn’t have one for a year and a bit, by then I was pretty much catatonic.”
Despite all the issues, the performance went down in history as one of the best of all time. You can watch it again on iPlayer now or on BBC Two on Friday June 25 at 10pm. For more on what to expect this weekend, check out BBC TV’s full schedule for Glastonbury.