Paul McCartney’s history-making Glastonbury set was hailed as one of the greatest headline performances of this generation as a crowd of more than 100,000 people gathered at the festival’s famous Pyramid stage to watch him play.
He was joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl – and even sang a duet with his old bandmate John Lennon, using special effects pioneered by the Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
Eyebrows had been raised when it was announced that McCartney, who turned 80 last week, would top the bill, becoming the oldest headliner in Glastonbury’s 52-year history.
But any doubts were shredded when McCartney finished a near-three hour set with a dramatic pyrotechnics display and a mass singalong to Let It Be, Hey Jude and Live and Let Die.
“It exceeded all expectations,” beamed Richard Martin, 75, part of the biggest crowd the Pyramid stage had ever seen.
He said: “Although I’m almost his age, I’ve never seen the Beatles – my wife has, she was one of those screaming teenagers – but he just nailed it.
“He was brilliant. Of course he’s a pro – he’s been at it for half a century. People behind us were in their 20s and they knew the songs backwards – that’s terrific testimony to the durability of the songs.”
Almost 4 million people tuned in to watch from home, and drew rave critical reviews. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis said McCartney’s biggest hits were “about as thrilling as pop music gets,” while the Independent described it as “far and away the best this writer has seen on the Pyramid stage in 30 years of Glastonburies”.
The Sunday Telegraph hailed it as “one of the most thrilling, uplifting, banger-filled, star-studded sets this 50-plus-year-old festival had ever seen”.
Some festival-goers had camped out all day to get close to the Pyramid stage and it turned out to be a sensible decision. The crowd easily reached 100,000 people, ranking alongside one of the biggest Pyramid stage attendances alongside the Rolling Stones in 2013.
By 9pm, half an hour before McCartney took to the stage, it was impossible to get anywhere near the front as huge masses of people packed in from all corners of the 900-acre site.
“It was incredible. Musically it was up there with one of the most seminal moments of my life,” said James Jack, 35, after screaming along to the Bond hit Live and Let Die – a moment he said was fulfilling a childhood dream: “When you watch the films with your dad when you’re about six. That was a boyish moment for me, it really got me going. It’s the sort of thing you tell your grandkids about.”
Grohl, who had to pull out of a headline show in 2015 after breaking his leg, became Macca’s surprise sideman for I Saw Her Standing There, immediately followed by Band on the Run. Even before Bruce “the boss” Springsteen arrived, the crowd was levitating with delight.
Grohl and Springsteen, rock icons who had flown from the US especially for the set, looked utterly overjoyed to be joining McCartney on stage.
“It was phenomenal,” said 25-year-old Sorcha Ingram. “I had the time of my life. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I was obsessed with the Beatles when I was younger, it’s where my music taste stems from. This was the first time I’d watched him, and my first time at Glastonbury. It’s a historic moment, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“He’s a proper legend,” said Keith Burnet, 59. “He actually did a really good gig that covered his whole career at his own time and pace.”
But he faced some criticism for showing a “very ill-advised” clip of Johnny Depp during his Glastonbury headline set.
A clip of Depp appeared on a large screen during My Valentine, a love song written for McCartney’s wife, Nancy Shevell.
One Twitter user wrote: “I am so sad that a man like Paul McCartney has chosen to give Johnny Depp a platform. Once again, domestic abuse survivors are completely mocked.”
McCartney and Depp are reportedly close friends, and the American actor featured in video footage during the 80-year-old’s recent Get Back tour in the US.
However, there was no getting away from the fact that most in attendance would not get the chance to see McCartney perform again – and that made the night more special.
The NME said he had 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.”