Paul McCartney, Glastonbury review: One of the all-time great Pyramid Stage sets

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Paul McCartney shared a climactic guitar battle with Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl - WIREIMAGE
Paul McCartney shared a climactic guitar battle with Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl - WIREIMAGE

They may have to rename it Maccabury.

Sir Paul McCartney delivered one of the most thrilling, uplifting, banger-filled, star-studded sets this 50-plus-year-old festival had ever seen, including a duet with John Lennon from beyond the grave, more pyrotechnics than a Hollywood disaster movie and a climactic guitar battle with not one but two superstars of different American rock generations: Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl.

On Friday night, 20-year-old Billie Eilish became the youngest person to headline Glastonbury. On Saturday, McCartney became the oldest, at 80. If it was viewed in terms of competition, it would really be no contest. When it comes to knowing exactly what an audience wants and delivering it with pinpoint perfectionism, the Oldies rule. And even amongst rock's veterans, nobody has a more universally loved cross-generational back catalogue than McCartney, with the Beatles, Wings and solo. Famously a people pleaser, he was certainly committed to pleasing the festival faithful.

McCartney and his tightly drilled combo just kept knocking them out for three solid gold hours, one absolutely storming classic after another, sending waves of excitement up the packed hillside, and turning the biggest crowd of the 2022 Glastonbury festival into the world's biggest choir. I mean, really, you haven't heard a singalong until you've heard 200,000 voices doing the na na nas on Hey Jude.

Detractors say McCartney can't sing like he used to. And certainly his voice has thinned over the decades, grown weaker and more fragile. Nevertheless he is still singing in the same keys and hitting all the right notes, using warrior skills to make up for any loss of youthful vigour. He roared through Wings classic Let Me Roll It, weaving in a wild lead solo. He briefly paused the show for stewards to help a man in the crowd, joking: "It wasn't my solo was it?"

The show featured more pyrotechnics than a Hollywood disaster movie - REDFERNS
The show featured more pyrotechnics than a Hollywood disaster movie - REDFERNS
Springsteen joined McCartney for a storming rendition of Glory Days - AP
Springsteen joined McCartney for a storming rendition of Glory Days - AP

Indeed the rockier things got, the better McCartney sounded, howling through Helter-Skelter, tearing up Just Seventeen with star struck Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, and taking the high harmonies with Springsteen on a dirty, rocking version of I Wanna Be Your Man. They also knocked out a fierce romp through Springsteen's Glory Days.

That song contains the line "I hope when I get old I don't just sit around talking about it / But I probably will". The look 72-year-old Springsteen gave the octogenarian Beatle when he sang it was priceless. Neither of these old rockers are ready to give up the good fight yet. And why should they, when they can still put on shows like this?

A harmonic master, McCartney uses his band to envelop and beef up his own lead vocal. Nevertheless, when his voice is really exposed on intimate songs like the beautiful 2012 ballad My Valentine and Beatle's classic Blackbird, the sense of frailty adds a tender intensity.

McCartney doesn't (like so many others of his generation and younger, including Friday night's star Billie Eilish and Sunday's legend Diana Ross) use backing track trickery to create an illusion of perpetual youthful perfection. This is a vintage musician, singing his own songs, and we should really pay attention because he's not going to be here singing them forever.

McCartney duetted spookily with late great musical partner John Lennon - REUTERS
McCartney duetted spookily with late great musical partner John Lennon - REUTERS

Mind you, he's clearly not averse to a little bit of technological magic, duetting spookily yet movingly with his late great musical partner John Lennon on a version of I Got A Feeling with Lennon's vocal and image lifted from Peter Jackson documentary Get Back.

The Beatles broke up before the first Glastonbury festival in 1970, so it was as if they got to play it at last. It was unbelievably fantastic to hear Lennon's vocals sounding out in the English night, singing "Everybody had a good year..." Oh, if only.

A huge crowd of all ages spread in front of the mystically glowing Pyramid stage. Flags waved, flares blazed, voices were raised in song. When the Fab Four conjured hippie utopias in the Sixties, this might have been just what they were singing about. The world hasn't exactly been a vision of peace and love lately, but here was the Fab One to put things right.

For a couple of hours in a Somerset field, rising on harmonies and wreathed in smiles, you could almost believe that "it's getting better all the time."