Pyro! Fireworks! Dave Grohl! Bruce Springsteen! A virtual duet with John Lennon! Sir Paul McCartney takes no chances with his second-ever Pyramid Stage headline slot, one week after he marked his 80th trip around the sun. People talk about ‘Glastonbury moments’: Macca’s joy bonanza of a set is packed with at least – at least – half a dozen of them, including the audience spontaneously singing him ‘Happy Birthday’ and later taking over the universal ‘Hey Jude’ refrain. “I love that sound,” Paul beams. After all those years, you’re left with little doubt that he really does.
Last night (June 24), 20-year-old Billie Eilish kicked down the door for Gen Z, opening the festival up to a whole new generation of performers capable of topping the bill. Tonight, McCartney, a man six decades her senior – the artist who invented modern pop; whose work in The Beatles, she told NME in our latest cover story, “raised” her – brings things full-circle. It’s the last night of his Got Back tour – its title a nod to Get Back, the 2021 Peter Jackson documentary that reconfirmed his genius – and Macca squeezes magic from every single moment, shouting out the “magnetic ley lines of Glastonbury”.
After opening with ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’ he promises “some old songs, some new songs, some in-betweeners”, then spends the front portion of the show teasing with Wings tunes – including the Liquorice Pizza-rejuvenated ‘Let Me Roll It’ – and offering a potted history of the Beatles through song. This starts with the Quarrymen’s ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ and winds up at ‘Here Today’, the song he wrote in the wake of John Lennon’s death. “This is in the form of a letter I never got to write to him,” Paul explains. “If you wanna tell someone you love them… don’t wait.”
He’s fond of story time, is Paul: he spends the first 40 minute of the set punctuating the songs with endearingly aimless-seeming anecdotes that he drifts in and out of; you worry that the tale of his friendship with Jimi Hendrix could outlast the festival. You can’t argue with the tunes, though: ‘Blackbird’, ‘Lady Madonna’ and under-appreciated randy banger ‘Fuh You’. The helter-skelter-style sense of a steady climb that’s about to lead to a dizzying rush is halted only when a dubious music video of Johnny Depp accompanies ‘My Valentine’ – a song Paul wrote for his wife Nancy, released in 2011 – and cools the atmosphere somewhat. Yet this is soon followed by solo classic ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’; as effective a recovery as you could imagine.
From then on it’s an absolutely bonkers race through ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’, a slip of George Harrison’s ‘Something’ – played on a ukulele gifted to him by George, no less – and Paul’s promise that “I’ve got a little surprise here for you”. This leads him to introduce “My friend; your hero – from the West Coast of America… Dave Grohl!” And so you find yourself watching Dave Grohl grinning through ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, in the place where John Lennon once stood, just months after he lost his own musical soulmate, Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins. When Grohl tells Macca that he “would never miss being right here with you” and The Beatle replies, “Love you”, it’s a real heart-in-throat moment.
That would have done, to be honest. But just in case there was a sense that McCartney hasn’t quite risen to the occasion, he promises “another surprise for ya – from the East Coast of America; New Jersey” and Bruce Springsteen casually strolls onstage to roll through his own ‘Glory Days’ and The Beatles’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’. Springsteen meanders back offstage and Macca shrugs, “There ya go – a couple of little surprises for ya,” before settling down at the piano for ‘Let It Be’, an all-in fireworks and flames display for ‘Live and Let Die’ and the ‘Hey Jude’ that literally everyone in this field has been waiting for since at least Thursday.
‘Hey Jude’ continues to ring out from the audience after he’s left the stage, before Paul returns for one last Glastonbury moment: a tech-enabled duet with rooftop-era John, who appears in the form of Get Back clips on the screens either side of the stage and – thanks to strings pulled by Peter Jackson – helps to deliver a heart-bursting rendition of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ via the magic of isolated vocals. Maybe there’s something in those Glastonbury ley lines after all.
“That is so special for me, man,” Paul says of the duet. “I know it’s virtual, but come on – it’s John. We’re back together.” Bowing out after a Grohl and Springsteen-assisted ‘Abbey Road’ medley, the 80-year-old goes over his billed time by a good 30 mins, having thrown absolutely everything he has – which is saying something for an actual Beatle – at Glastonbury 2022, sounding like a man who, frankly, knows he might not do this again. Macca was preceded on the line-up by Noel Gallagher, who famously told the audience at Oasis’ seminal Knebworth Park show in 1996: “This is history.” So was this.
Paul McCartney played:
‘Can’t Buy Me Love’
‘Got to Get You Into My Life’
‘Let Me Roll It’
‘Let ‘Em In’
‘Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five’
‘Maybe I’m Amazed’
‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’
‘In Spite of All the Danger’
Love Me Do
‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’
‘You Never Give Me Your Money’
‘She Came in Through the Bathroom Window’
‘I Saw Her Standing There’
‘Band on the Run’
‘I Wanna Be Your Man’
‘Let It Be’
‘Live and Let Die’
‘I’ve Got a Feeling’
‘Carry That Weight’