Paul McCartney review, Glastonbury 2022: It’s a historic privilege just to be alive at the same time as him

McCartney’s available canon is the greatest in music by such a vast degree that any couple of hours plucked from it at random would be the best gig of any particular year

Paul McCartney performs at Glastonbury 2022

The garish velvet Pepper bands roaming the site all day might be here to celebrate the retro-pop cheesiness of Glastonbury’s oldest headliner but, getting real, let’s not spare the superlatives here. Glasto 2022 has got break-out bedroom pop superstars. Critically worshipped rappers. Pop legends, rave icons and Mel C DJ sets aplenty. But it has only one name that will be etched into history books centuries from now, as one half of the greatest songwriting partnership of the rock’n’roll era. It’s not just a tell-your-grandkids honour to watch Paul McCartney make his second Worthy Farm headline appearance, where pretty much every act bar Kendrick Lamar is indebted to him for their existence. It’s a historic privilege just to be alive at the same time as him.

McCartney’s available canon is the greatest in music by such a vast degree that any couple of hours plucked from it at random would be the best gig of any particular year, as he proved on Friday night at a warm-up gig speckled with relatively obscure Beatles and Wings tunes, in nearby Frome. Tonight, after an anticipation-building megamix of Macca classics that threatens to be longer than Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary, he indulges in roughly the same set, plus surprises. An enlivening opener of “Can’t Buy Me Love” gives way to the bluesier end of Wings (“Junior’s Farm”, “Letting Go”), then Revolver’s magnificent Motown homage “Got to Get You Into My Life”. A McCartney lucky dip keeps turning up winners: “Let Me Roll It”, extended in tribute to Hendrix; “Getting Better”; a charming “I’ve Just Seen a Face”. Even 2018’s soulful glam “Come on to Me” holds its own, despite being, like “Fuh You” later, far raunchier than is fitting for any knight of the realm, let alone pop’s kindly grampa.

There’s more wobble to the voice then the head these days, particularly when Macca is solo on acoustic guitar, hoisted above the flags on a neon pillar for a stunning “Blackbird”. When draped over piano wonders like “My Valentine” – dedicated to his wife Nancy – and “Maybe I’m Amazed” though, it’s as rich, raw and acrobatic as any of the mullet years.

Like any communal dig through a crate of unlimited treasures, the show takes turns into fond reminiscence. McCartney recalls making the debut Beatles demo – the country tumble “In Spite of All the Danger”, played beautifully – for a pound each then having to buy it back from their old bassist who made “a considerable profit”. The tale flows naturally into a reverent “Love Me Do”, then an emotion-wracked “Here Today”, his undelivered open letter to John Lennon.

Once the big showstoppers start coming, they don’t stop. “Lady Madonna” on a Pepperesque piano. “Something” expanding from his solo ukulele rendition into full majestic flow. “Get Back” accompanied by archive visuals specially compiled by Jackson. All of McCartney’s bits from the Abbey Road medley scattered across the set. You might query the inclusion of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, but for the Mike-wide skank the breadth of the field.

When those surprises arrive, they steal the weekend. Dave Grohl appears, fresh from several cancelled flights, to relish the camp of “I Saw Her Standing There” and add grunge gristle to “Band on the Run”. Then, in a truly momentous Glastonbury moment, here comes Bruce Springsteen for a romp through his own “Glory Days” for McCartney’s birthday.

By the time “Live and Let Die” fills the sky with flames and drama, and “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude” have broken then repaired 100,000 hearts, the show is far and away the best this writer has seen on the Pyramid stage in 30 years of Glastonburies. When Macca returns to duet with the isolated Lennon vocal of “I’ve Got a Feeling”, creating the closest to a Beatles reunion we’re ever likely to see and giving Glastonbury all the feelings, it’s probably the best I’ve seen on any stage. “I know it’s virtual,” he says, “but there I am singing with John again, we’re back together”. Then he straps on a guitar and plays “Helter Skelter”. We’re gonna need a bigger star rating system.

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