Paul McCartney’s historic set at Glastonbury was hailed as one of the greatest performances of this generation as a crowd of over 100,000 gathered on the festival’s famous Pyramid stage to watch him perform.
He was joined on stage by Foo Fighters’ Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl – and even sang a duet with his former bandmate John Lennon, using special effects pioneered by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that McCartney, who turned 80 last week, would headline, becoming the oldest headliner in Glastonbury’s 52-year history.
But all doubts were shredded when McCartney wrapped up a nearly three-hour set with a dramatic fireworks display and mass song for Let It Be, Hey Jude and Live and Let Die.
“It exceeded all expectations,” beamed Richard Martin, 75, who was part of the biggest crowd the Pyramid stage has ever seen.
He said: “Although I’m almost his age, I’ve never seen the Beatles – my wife did, she was one of those screaming teenagers – but he just pulled it off.
“He was brilliant. Of course, he’s a pro – he’s been at it for half a century. The people behind us were in their twenties and knew the songs inside out – it’s a tremendous testament to the durability of the songs.
Nearly 4 million people tuned in to watch from home and garnered rave reviews. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis said McCartney’s greatest hits were “about as exciting as pop music gets”, while the Independent described him as “far and away the best this writer has seen on the Pyramid stage in 30 years of Glastonburys”.
The Sunday Telegraph hailed it as “one of the most exciting, uplifting, banger-filled and star-studded sets this 50+ year old festival has ever seen”.
Some festival-goers had camped out all day to get closer to the Pyramid stage and it turned out to be a sensible decision. The crowd easily reached 100,000, ranking alongside one of the biggest crowds on the Pyramid stage alongside the Rolling Stones in 2013.
At 9 p.m., half an hour before McCartney took the stage, it was impossible to get near the front as huge masses of people poured in from all corners of the 365-hectare (900-acre) site.
“It was amazing. Musically, it was up there with one of the most defining moments of my life,” James Jack, 35, said after screaming with the hit Bond Live and Let Die – a moment which he says was fulfilling a childhood dream: “When you watch the movies with your dad when you’re about six years old. It was a childish moment for me, it really pushed me forward. That’s the kind things you talk to your grandchildren about.
Grohl, who had to step down from a landmark 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 joy.
Grohl and Springsteen, rock icons who had traveled from the United States especially for the shoot, seemed delighted to join McCartney on stage.
“It was phenomenal,” said Sorcha Ingram, 25. “I had the time of my life. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I was obsessed with the Beatles when I was younger, that’s where my musical tastes come from. It was the first time watching it, and my first time at Glastonbury. It’s a historic moment, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“He’s a real legend,” said Keith Burnet, 59. “He actually put on a really good gig that spanned his entire career at his own pace and pace.”
But he faced criticism for showing a “very ill-advised” clip of Johnny Depp during his Glastonbury title.
A clip of Depp appeared on the big screen during My Valentine, a love song written for McCartney’s wife, Nancy Shevell.
One Twitter user wrote: “I’m so sad that a man like Paul McCartney chose to give Johnny Depp a platform. Once again, victims of domestic violence are completely mocked.
McCartney and Depp are said to be close friends, and the American actor was featured in video footage during the 80-year-old’s recent Get Back tour of the United States.
However, there was no escaping the fact that most attendees wouldn’t get to see McCartney perform again – and that made the night extra special.
The NME said he threw “absolutely everything he had – which is saying a lot for a true Beatle – at Glastonbury 2022, looking like a man who, frankly, knows he might not do it again “.