This Glastonbury epic had Something for everyone: ALISON BOSHOFF watches almost three hours of Macca magic as Paul McCartney performs a headline set of defining brilliance
They expected 100,000, which counts as a capacity crowd at the Pyramid stage in Glastonbury.
But on Saturday night more like 120,000 crammed in to watch Sir Paul McCartney – a new record for a headline gig.
‘How are all my little Glastonburgers doing?’ enquired Macca tenderly, marvelling at the throng stretching back and back… and back.
‘Dad you made history,’ his daughter Stella wrote on Instagram.
‘The largest crowd ever at Glasto. I am so proud to be your baby. Xx epic epic.’
They expected 100,000, which counts as a capacity crowd at the Pyramid stage in Glastonbury. But on Saturday night more like 120,000 crammed in to watch Sir Paul McCartney – a new record for a headline gig
At 80 he is the oldest headliner ever, surely also the biggest figure in popular music.
And he gave the crowd – sunburned, slightly whiffy and delirious with the sense of occasion – a demonstration of just how significant he is.
It was a set of defining brilliance, with Macca’s message of peace and love unchanged since the Sixties.
I asked members of the crowd – most of them 50 or 60 years his junior – what had brought them to this field in Somerset.
‘There are famous people and then there’s Paul McCartney,’ explained one. ‘To actually see him… you know, it’s a chance of a lifetime.’
A corporate lawyer to my left, smart in a lambswool sweater, insisted: ‘He’s the centre of everything.’ A music student chimed in to agree.
In the flesh, Macca’s a groovy old dude; long grey hair kinking delicately over his snowy collar, artfully trimmed white stubble, slight and spry thanks to decades of yoga and a love of hummus.
There are no moves like Jagger’s, though. When Macca’s really getting down there isn’t much more than a waggle of the head and a smile. That said, his energy barely seemed to dip and he came roaring to a close as late as 12.20am.
He curated this show as a final musical testament. Friends say the man with the most astonishing back catalogue in popular music spent weeks working out just what he wanted to play and how. And at times it did feel like a farewell of sorts.
Paul was joined on stage by two huge stars – Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl. It was the supergroup to end them all, with a combined net worth of £1.5billion
You didn’t have to look far for intimations of mortality. Many were brought to tears by his tribute to his late friend and song-writing partner John Lennon.
He duetted with Lennon on a video screen on the 1970 track I’ve Got a Feeling – director Peter Jackson had been able to isolate John’s vocals in an original recording.
After, McCartney said: ‘That is so special for me. I know it’s virtual. There I am singing with John again, we’re back together.’ He took just a quiet moment to compose himself.
Earlier he had also talked about Lennon, who was murdered in 1980. ‘Back in the day you didn’t tell anyone, ‘I love you man.’ You were too busy being cool. I wrote this next song after John died. Let’s hear it for John.’
He then sang Here Today, which he meant ‘as a kind of letter to John’ and urged the crowd: ‘If you love someone, tell them that you love them. Don’t put it off.’
He is sometimes derided for that peace-loving, thumbs-up cheery optimism. But McCartney is the nation’s grandad or, as he would prefer, ‘grandude’.
But much of the show was about the sorrows he has suffered, and his pain and isolation as a survivor.
Watching him perform while images played behind of him mucking about with the Beatles in their youth – four glorious handsome young men, friends who were conquering the world – it was impossible not to feel his sense of loss.
He played Harrison’s Something, beginning on a cheery ukulele given to him by George, before the band swept in in sorrowful harmony. Images of George and John flashed up on the screen. George’s widow Olivia – he died in 2001 from cancer – was in the audience at McCartney’s warm-up show in Frome on Friday night, and it felt as if he was with us on Saturday.
Of Ringo, in Los Angeles and apparently not keen to travel because of Covid, there was no mention. But Paul was joined on stage by two huge stars – Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl.
It was the supergroup to end them all, with a combined net worth of £1.5billion.
Grohl, himself a bereaved rock god after the death of Foo Fighters bandmate and friend Taylor Hawkins in March, came on stage and visibly lifted Sir Paul a notch. Their delight in each other, and his sudden energy, elevated I Saw Her Standing There. ‘I would never miss being with you right here right now,’ said Grohl.
Watching him perform while images played behind of him mucking about with the Beatles in their youth – four glorious handsome young men, friends who were conquering the world – it was impossible not to feel his sense of loss
Macca responded: ‘I love you Dave, thanks man. We all love you.’ And when Bruce Springsteen came on, he and McCartney took delight in singing Springsteen’s hit Glory Days, a hymn to the joys and pitfalls of nostalgia on this very nostalgic occasion.
McCartney’s vocals, which show signs of age particularly in the upper register, were no match for Springsteen’s trademark rasp and muscular stage presence.
McCartney had opened the show with a crowd-pleaser – Can’t Buy Me Love. Three songs later we had Got To Get You Into My Life which so delighted one romantic soul near the front that he proposed to his girlfriend.
But there were long periods where he stubbornly resisted the crowd’s longing for a jukebox of hits. At one point, a group behind me decided to head off. ‘This is ****. I’m going back to the tent,’ one said. Sir Paul was well aware of the sentiment. ‘We know the songs you like,’ he said, ‘because when we play a Beatles song the place lights up with phones like the galaxy. And when we play something new, it’s like a black hole. But we don’t care. We’re going to play them anyway.’
Among his choices was New, which he wrote for the film Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2.
We also got My Valentine, ‘for Nance’, his third wife Nancy Shevell, accompanied by the song’s original pop video featuring Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman. Depp’s appearance didn’t please the crowd one bit. Among those in the audience were Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, Jamie Carragher, John Bishop, and Noel Gallagher.
Daughters Mary and Stella were there too – I hear Stella missed his gig in Frome as she was at the front of the Billie Eilish set that night with Stormzy. It was in the closing hour that the crowd finally found the ecstatic togetherness they were longing for.
At 80 he is the oldest headliner ever, surely also the biggest figure in popular music. And he gave the crowd – sunburned, slightly whiffy and delirious with the sense of occasion – a demonstration of just how significant he i
Let It Be was followed by Live and Let Die (with terrific walls of flame and fireworks) and then Hey Jude. Everyone sang their hearts out. It finished with The End from Abbey Road. Grohl and Springsteen came back on for the finale, with the three goofing about and trading (and fluffing) guitar riffs.
McCartney sang his final words: ‘And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.’
It felt very much like a final message from him to us. Some commentators snarked about choosing the former Beatle as Glastonbury’s Saturday night headliner, saying it proved the past has a ‘death grip on our culture’. But after two hours and 50 minutes, and 36 songs, it felt as if he had proved something quite different, that optimism and empathy – and sheer musical brilliance – transcend generations.
A friend in the music business who has worked with the Rolling Stones, INXS and Guns N’ Roses described it as ‘the best performance I have ever seen at a festival… genius’.
McCartney stayed on site until about 3am with family and friends, including Grohl and his team.
His post-gig ritual involves margaritas and veggie bagels and very good red wine. He hung out with friends including actresses Gillian Anderson, Cate Blanchett and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
The designer Tom Ford was there, as was actor Woody Harrelson and artist Peter Blake, of the Sgt Pepper cover, who was celebrating his 90th birthday.
As they partied, the crowd poured away peacefully into the cool June night. Every few minutes a voice would start up ‘Nana, na, na. Na, na, na…’ and a hundred would sing the reply: ‘Hey Jude.’
Will Paul still be on stage at 90? I bet he will try
By Hunter Davies for the Daily Mail
When he started his Glastonbury set, tightly buttoned up in a stiff high-collared, old-fashioned jacket, hardly moving his body at all, showing little energy and enthusiasm, I thought oh no, he’s lost it, poor sod.
It was a tease of course. He was pacing himself, knowing what was to come, the fireworks and special guests, saving his voice and body so it would last the whole two hours.
In your eighties, as I know only too well, you mustn’t rush things. You might dry up, get confused or fall over.
Paul never thought he would last this long. In the Sixties I remember him and John being unable to imagine performing in their thirties. The notion was grotesque.
So what would they be doing? John presumed he would be a bum, like his Dad. Paul envisaged becoming a teacher. When Paul wrote When I’m Sixty Four, the idea of anyone being 64 was mythical, the oldest he could think of anyone ever being. At the time he was only 16.
Now look at him. Especially when he eventually took his jacket off. ‘The only wardrobe change this evening.’
A good joke. Well, as jokes go, at live open air concerts. The songs, especially his own classics, were fab. OK, so he cannot quite reach all the high notes and gets a bit croaky on the low notes.
He was wise not to attempt Yesterday. That has to be a solo, with no effects, and would have given away his age.
Mr Kite was probably a mistake. His heart did not seem in it. It is a John song, which needed John’s voice.
When Paul wrote When I’m Sixty Four, the idea of anyone being 64 was mythical, the oldest he could think of anyone ever being. At the time he was only 16. Now look at him. Especially when he eventually took his jacket off. ‘The only wardrobe change this evening’
But when he did a George song, Something, playing a ukulele which George gave him, that was funny and touching.
He was just beginning to wilt slightly when he was joined by two guests – Dave something from I think the Poo Fighters, whose name I never got – and then Bruce Springsteen. Wow, what a surprise. Bruce was clearly thrilled to be there, even for just a couple of songs.
They immediately had a rejuvenating effect. Paul always liked singing with John, trying to impress each other.
At the O2, a year or two ago, he had no help on stage with the singing, though a pipe band in kilts suddenly arrived to play Mull of Kintyre. I think that might have been wasted on a Glasto audience.
I did ask him at a family party afterwards how he had managed two hours without a break.
‘Drugs,’ he said. I took that as a joke. Anyone watching him live on Saturday must have seen how fit and healthy he is for 80. Lucky beggar.
I did notice him though having one swig of water. What a cheater.
Her Majesty, when she did a two-hour session giving out honours, never had a drink. Or so I observed six years ago. At the young age of 90.
Will Paul still be performing at 90? I bet he will try. It’s what he enjoys most. He began Wings because he wanted to go on stage again when the Beatles packed up. At the end after brilliant, belting performances of Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, Helter Skelter, Get Back, I had tears in my eyes. No really, what a softy.
Not just for days gone by, and memories and images of Paul as he was in the Sixties.
Or thoughts of my own life and memories and mortality. But tears of gratitude.
We are so lucky to have had the Beatles in our lifetime. And to have Paul still with us. Still pleasing us. Still pleasing himself…
Hunter Davies is the author of The Beatles, the only authorised biography, Ebury £14.99.
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