Glastonbury at 40 – still cool, or in the throes of a mid-life crisis?

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Line-up for landmark festival divides opinion among music fans

As every ageing rocker knows, it's not easy turning 40. Exactly how should you blend the mix of old and new to celebrate the dreaded milestone in appropriate and dignified style? For this year's Glastonbury Festival, the line-up for the party to mark its big four-o is proving no exception to the rules of ageing, dividing devotees and opponents of the great summer music and mud ritual.

The festival's founding father, Michael Eavis, insisted yesterday – as he announced that Dizzee Rascal, Scissor Sisters and the controversial rapper Snoop Dogg would be playing the Pyramid Stage – that this was the most impressive list of acts ever to grace Pilton Farm. They will be joining U2, Muse and Stevie Wonder as the headline stars.

While there were rumblings of discontent on the internet and among some critics, Mr Eavis said he was satisfied that people would not be disappointed come 25 June. "It is the most staggering line-up, to match the 40-year reputation of the festival. I have been trying to get U2 to play at the festival since 1982, and Muse have never headlined Saturday here," he said.

The inclusion of Snoop Dogg will rekindle memories of the controversy that surrounded the appearance of Jay-Z as the Saturday night headliner two years ago. His appearance infuriated devotees of guitar music such as Noel Gallagher – although in the end, the US rapper won more fans than he alienated, after starting his set with a version of Oasis's "Wonderwall".

The Flaming Lips, Pet Shop Boys and Orbital will headline the Other stage, while the veteran country artist Willie Nelson will play on the main stage on Friday. At least five major acts have yet to be announced. Such is the allure of being at Glastonbury, however, that all 175,000 tickets costing £185 each for the three-day event sold out within 12 hours of going on sale – long before any acts were announced.

Initial reaction was mixed. Comments on Facebook's Glastonbury Festival page ranged from the overexcited to the distinctly underwhelmed. "The only surprise is how unsurprising it is, weakest line-up since 1982," said one contributor.

However, negative comments on the Glastowatch website were outnumbered three to one by positive feedback, including one posting from "Mart, aged 53": "Over the moon. Not stuck in the past. Yes I'll see some old bands, can't wait for Faithless and Stevie Wonder, but half the joy for me is seeing up-and-coming bands. Yours very excitedly..."

For the full list of who is performing during the festival, visit:

Hit or miss? The critics have their say

Andy Kershaw

Broadcaster and DJ

Last year, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young headlining was a very difficult bill to top, but we have got Willie Nelson, which is about the only thing Michael Eavis – who is a god, in my opinion – could have done for this not to be a disappointment. All the others are third-raters. U2 have been a big bag of wind since I heard their first two singles 30 years ago; Stevie Wonder has been a tremendous bore for the past four decades. There are just not the stars any longer of that magnitude. When you are offering me Dizzee Rascal as the second-most tempting thing on the Friday night, that is a very telling indication of the awful state of things. The drugs changed Glastonbury. In the 1990s, it was no longer a meeting of herbalists but a gathering of amateur chemists. Glastonbury has got too big and too corporate. It used to be like a village fair – everyone knew each other, rubbing shoulders, drinking in the bar under the stage. Now there are too many arrivistes wandering around calling it "Glasto".

Kanya King

Founder, Mobo awards

In the past, Glastonbury's image was dominated by white rock and indie acts, but Jay-Z changed all of that with his performance on the main stage two years ago. That was the breakthrough moment. The fact that there are more urban artists now at Glastonbury reflects urban musicians' position at the forefront of music internationally. Glastonbury has had a lot of diverse acts playing on the jazz and world music stages, so what they are exploring now is nothing new. The difference is that these acts have made the move to the main stage. The Mobo ethos is to honour the past and to inspire the future, and with artists such as Stevie Wonder and Dizzee Rascal performing it is clear that Glastonbury is doing just that.

Mira Jessani

Live Magazine

There are bands in the line-up this year that might not have been there five years ago. When Jay-Z played Glastonbury, a lot of people were split over it. But the festival is opening doors to lots of different types of music, which is good because it reflects the public's diverse taste in music. It creates an opportunity for collaboration between different artists and cross-over between different genres. Collaborations introduce different music to different audiences, which can only be a good thing. It will be interesting to see what these bands will showcase to a wider audience. But I don't think the festival will present much new music to different generations. With the amount of access people have to music now, older people know Dizzee Rascal from his performance at the Brits, and younger audiences will have been introduced to songs by people such as Stevie Wonder through their covers by more recent bands. It's impressive that the festival has been going for 40 years, and the new kids on the block will be performing alongside the bands who laid the ground stones for their music.

Nick Kent

Rock journalist and author

You have all the big names there – Muse and U2 are probably the biggest rock bands in the world. It seems eclectic, but I wouldn't go near it. There is nothing on the main stage that I would waste my time watching, except Willie Nelson perhaps. It seems like they just picked up on what is happening at the moment. There is no context to it. In the 1970s, people went to festivals for the same reasons – to see the music and to mix with their own lifestyle tribe. I find rap acts very boring to watch live. U2 were crap when they began and are still vastly overrated and are one of the reasons why rock music is in such a pitiful state. When groups such as Muse and U2 are the most popular bands in the world, that is really shocking to me. There is plenty of good stuff out there. I like Beyoncé, Radiohead and Weezer, though I listen as much to jazz and classical music now as anything else.

Jamie Fullerton

News editor, NME

At Glastonbury you get headliners whose performance you'll remember for the rest of your life, but I don't see anything like that here. There were no massive surprises in the line-up; all the names had been rumoured for a long time. Snoop Dogg is the only one that stands out. I was surprised that Pendulum didn't make it on, as they were huge at Glastonbury last year and we thought they might be headlining this time. I think that Dizzee Rascal will be one of the highlights, and Foals always get ridiculous crowds. As Scissor Sisters have been off the radar for the past couple of years, it will be interesting to see if they can pull it off. I don't think there will be a rigid plan to commemorate the 40th anniversary, but the festival has such an amazing history, it doesn't need to lean on it too much.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


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