Glastonbury: Paul McCartney’s performance will be one of the most important in the festival’s history
The legendary singer’s headline set could be his final appearance at Worthy Farm
Thursday 23 June 2022. By Dylan Jones
If you’ve seen Francis Whately’s brilliant new documentary, Glastonbury: 50 Years And Counting, you’ll have noticed that the prism through which we view the world’s greatest music festival has shifted in the past five years or so. Using the recollections of organisers Michael and Emily Eavis, as well as various boldface Worthy Farm attendees such as Noel Gallagher, Billie Eilish, Radiohead, Stormzy and Johnny Marr, the film presents Glastonbury as a shape-shifting reflection of British alt-culture, and a living, breathing record of how that culture has changed. Sure, many will be trudging along the A303 in search of narcotic nirvana, yet the festival is no longer an agitprop smorgasbord but a rite of passage.
It is also like a live version of digital radio. At any moment you might hear the strains of Floating Points, Nadia Reid, Sampha or Kojey Radical wafting over the tents, but equally it offers the chance to take part in Spotify singalongs with the likes of Dolly Parton, Barry Gibb, and Nile Rodgers.
Or, indeed, Paul McCartney. Macca headlines the Pyramid Stage on Saturday (supported by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds), and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it will be one of the most important performances in the festival’s history.
'McCartney turned 80 on 18 June, and he’s unlikely to appear at the festival again. So, this is going to be a significant moment for anyone who witnesses it'
Yes, many people will remember T. Rex in 1970, New Order in 1981, Primal Scream in 1992, Pulp in 1995, Radiohead in 1997, The Killers in 2004, Beyoncé in 2011, and Kanye West in 2015, but I’d lay good money on McCartney’s appearance this weekend becoming the most iconic Glastonbury set of all time.
Why? Firstly, Glasto is now built for comfort, not speed; the audiences in the field and on the sofa expect big acts, and they expect those big acts to deliver.
Secondly, McCartney turned 80 on 18 June, and he’s unlikely to appear at the festival again. So, this is going to be a significant moment for anyone who witnesses it.
Thirdly, Covid. Can Glasto deliver a redemptive experience that makes us all happy to be out-out again? My money says yes. Which is why, for the first time in ages, I wish I were going rather than watching it on TV.
There is a tendency among all of us to take this generation of rock stars for granted. We think The Rolling Stones will be playing for ever (I’m going to see them, for the umpteenth time, at Hyde Park next weekend, and I am still excited); we think the Pet Shops Boys will be performing in perpetuity. We probably even think Tom Jones will go on eternally. But it’s simply not the case. Rock stars retire. Rock stars sadly die. Some of them even from natural causes. So, if I were you, I’d make as much effort as possible to see them while they can still be bothered to get out of bed.
As for Glasto, well, I’ve seen McCartney perform often enough to have a good idea of what he’ll play – and as long as it includes ‘Hey Jude’, I’ll be happy.