The world is a very different place from the one that Paul McCartney would have played three years ago, when he was originally scheduled to take the stage at Glastonbury. To highlight the return to summers of old, the 100,000+ Glastonbury crowd were absorbed in a performance from a McCartney who rolled back the years and looked, played and sang like a man far younger than his eighty years.
First up, let’s address the elephant in the room. For at least twenty years, the primary consideration following any McCartney concert has been how well his voice stood up to the rigours of a three hour performance. Questions have been asked, rightly so, about how well Paul has taken care of the priceless commodity that is his singing voice, his choice of songs and the scheduling of his tours. Based upon last night’s performance he sounded great! I’m not going to ignore that there were some cracks and wobbles along the way [the start of Maybe I’m Amazed in particular] but with a carefully considered sound mix and some crafted assistance from his band contributing layered backing vocals Paul delivered a fine performance. Hey, he is eighty after all and we should relish the fact that we can still enjoy a show from Paul. This will not always be the case and for those there they will cherish having heard songs performed that have provided the soundtrack to generations.
His set, with just a couple of exceptions, mirrored the one he has toured the U.S. with over recent months and incorporated a mixture of solo, Wings and Beatles songs. His long established band were excellent, as always, and the horn section in particular added a depth and dimension to the show’s sound which hasn’t always been a factor of recent tours. With the best back catalogue in music to choose from, we can all name a number of tunes that, in our view, would have added to the show. The balance was about right, however, jumping from era to era as effortlessly as Paul jumped from bass to electric guitar to mandolin to ukulele to acoustic guitar and to piano. Hearing something like Let ‘Em In or Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five is just as special as hearing the essential and yet ever present Hey Jude or Live And Let Die for us die hard fans.
A Glastonbury headliner is always capable of providing a surprise guest and Paul welcomed two in Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen. Grohl making his first live performance since the sad passing of friend and bandmate Taylor Hawkins joined Paul in I Saw Her Standing There and Band On The Run. Springsteen like Grohl had flown over from the States specifically to join Paul and Bruce contributed Glory Days and I Wanna Be Your Man. Though both guests are friends of Paul’s they appeared giddy at sharing the stage for the aforementioned songs and the finale where each swapped guitar solos with Paul, Rusty and Brian for The End. A suitable ending …
Paul has refined the stage show over the years and the pyrotechnics of Live And Let Die are only part of the show now where fabulous imagery accompany each song and are now taken to another level when Paul plays along with John’s vocal to I’ve Got A Feeling. Surely a highlight for many the impact was palpable for those there or those watching from home.
Available to all generations this concert was an historic occasion, not just for Glastonbury but for pop and rock music as a whole. Why? Because this may never be repeated to this degree. Truly, this was a phenomenal, career spanning journey through the best that McCartney can offer and at this place, in this moment he reaffirmed his place at the top of the hill. Remember and cherish any moment that may follow … but remember and cherish this night in particular. Thank you Paul.
Review by Gwyn Jenkins.