In the latest instalment of his tour blog, Paul's UK publicist Stuart Bell reflects on that iconic Glastonbury headline performance earlier this summer.
“A masterclass from the greatest living cultural figure in this country’s history.”
The i. - June 2022
After only a few hours of restless sleep, I awoke early on the morning of Sunday 26th June with an incredible sense of elated disbelief. Had the night before all just been a dream? In those bleary first moments as I came to, I picked up my phone to check out Twitter. “I bet Macca’s already been jogging, made breakfast for his wife and done a tip-run by now,” tweeted presenter/author Richard Osman. “What a guy.”
I had to laugh. The world was celebrating the astounding energy and unstoppable drive of Paul McCartney, who had just headlined the legendary Glastonbury Festival for the second time, one week after his 80th birthday, and there was me having to literally drag myself out of bed to race back to London! How does he do it, I wondered. It’s a question I often find myself asking!
“About as thrilling as live pop music gets”
The Guardian ***** - June 2022
There had been such a huge outpouring of emotion in those vast Somerset fields that Saturday night. Those magical ley lines that run underneath Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage must have felt the radiant spirit through the ground above them, as more than 100,000 people gathered to sing their hearts out as Paul performed a string of hits from throughout his 60-year career. The sheer magnitude of this collective positive experience, this insane massive explosion of joy and love, is awesome and almost impossible to explain - which makes things difficult for me, considering it’s my job to do so!
To begin to describe why Paul’s performance at Glastonbury was so poignant and historic, we need to rewind a little. In 2019, Paul accepted an invitation to headline Glastonbury for the second time in the summer of 2020. His first appearance in 2004 was itself an extraordinary milestone event - the 33-song set of Beatles bangers and solo classics was a show-stopping set for the ages; “Every gig we go to from now,” NME reported at the time, “will fall short of this.” It would take a lot to beat that incredible night, but the prospect of doing so for the festival’s 50th anniversary, returning as one of its most memorable and iconic headliners of all-time, was one Paul was ready for.
“People talk about ‘Glastonbury Moments’: Macca’s joy bonanza of a set is packed with at least – at least – half a dozen of them, including the audience spontaneously singing him happy birthday and later taking over the universal “Hey Jude” refrain. “I love that sound” Paul Beams.”
NME ***** - June 2022
The appearance would be a significant one for Paul, too, marking the 50th anniversary of his first solo album in 1970 and the launch of his post-Beatles career. It would be a thrilling point from which to look back and celebrate his many achievements in that time. Anticipation was naturally high. We all know what happened next.
It almost feels unreal to think about the global pandemic now, how the world instantly paused and geared itself for a reboot. There was a real period of uncertainty, during which a constant bombardment of anxiety-inducing news kept us all wondering whether the world could ever be the same again. It gave us all a time to stop and think, and Paul was no different.
“It’s a historic privilege just to be alive at the same time as him. We’re gonna need a bigger star rating system”
Independent ***** June 2022
During lockdown, Paul recorded the brilliant McCartney III all on his own in his studio. It’s an album that perfectly reflects Paul’s unstoppable creativity, but just as Paul had adapted to the resourcefulness required of the times, so had the times adapted to his way of life. Like everyone else, I found myself considering personal betterment during lockdown, and it’s crazy to think that during that period of change, all the things that Paul has stood for over the years became even more appreciated and in focus around the world. His sense of fairness, his work ethic, environmental views, optimistic outlook and compassion, are all qualities that matter right now in this post-pandemic landscape.
Speaking of his work ethic, it was little wonder that while many artists took advantage of lockdown to grab a bit of well-deserved rest, Paul packed his time with a number of projects, all of which not only kept the man and his music firmly in the public consciousness, but repeatedly found us celebrating his genius.
“It was a set of defining brilliance, with Macca's message of peace and love unchanged since the Sixties.”
Daily Mail – June 2022
There was the Rick Rubin-fronted documentary series McCartney 3, 2, 1, in which the producer had Paul talk through some of his classic works as they deconstructed the recordings. Then came Paul’s award-winning and chart-topping book The Lyrics, in which the words to many of his songs were accompanied by fascinating stories and memories, which added a whole new dimension to these much-loved favourites. And, just like you, I was enthralled by the revelatory footage of Get Back, which retold the story of the making of The Beatles’ album Let It Be and the circumstances around their legendary rooftop gig in January 1969.
All those projects gave an opportunity for fans, critics and newcomers to Paul to take stock of his entire career, as well as reassess his artistry and his place in history. Separately, they were captivating insights in the creative mind of an icon, but together, arriving in quick succession, they felt like an exhilarating corroboration of and addition to the myth and magic of Macca.
“As headline sets go, it’s impossible to imagine one bigger and more steeped in history than this”
DIY – June 2022
Remember that moment in Get Back when we saw Paul spontaneously composing the title song out of thin air? It floored me. To see him shape something so sensational out of nothing was breathtaking, but considering how the song’s genesis was intended to stimulate The Beatles into action, it showed the resilience and conviction behind Paul’s sense of momentum, which has prevailed through all these years, and is still at the heart of everything he’s doing now.
When it was announced that Glastonbury was returning in the summer of 2022, with Paul still scheduled to rock the Saturday night, thanks to all that recent wondrous activity, the anticipation that had been there before suddenly felt bigger than ever. Having no major live events for two years, people were hungry for music, for that amazing communal connection, and Paul smashing Glasto was exactly the tonic we all needed. After everything we’d been through, this beautiful shared moment of togetherness would remind us how the core principles and messages of love, optimism, peace and unity can make us feel great.
Then the evening came, and that question again: how does he do it? Seriously. How? I mean, I know I’m supremely lucky to be so close to it all and to watch it all happen in close proximity, but in many ways that makes it even more mind-bending. When you see Paul backstage hours before hitting the stage and he’s hanging out with guests, he’s relaxed, smiling and laughing; he doesn’t seem like a man about to take the stage for a career-defining moment. And just when we (I think I can speak on behalf of the crew too) think our minds have been blown and we ask ourselves ‘How is he actually going to top this one?’ Well, he does it. He tops it and puts the bar even higher.
“Was This The Best Gig Ever?”
The Times – June 2022
Just how does he put those notes and words together that make us feel the way they do? Frankly it defies logic. How does he make it look easy? And that’s just the writing part! There’s the performing side, too. How in crowds of hundreds of thousands does he make it feel so personal? How does he communicate so directly with people? I’ve given up trying to apply any actual logic to this. Many reviewers around the world describe Paul’s performance as magic, and that really is the best explanation - or, as Glasto co-organiser Emily Eavis said following the show: “pure magic and love”.
Being there to see it in person is something I will never forget. From the first note of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, the audience were electrified, jumping and singing and shouting and screaming as if
Beatlemania had returned to the South West. And it was so infectious. Despite having had the privilege of seeing Paul live so many times, I got goosebumps when Paul got to ‘Here Today’, which he played alone on acoustic guitar out front. Then, halfway through the set, as the sun finally descended, ‘New’ seemed to kick things up a gear, setting us on our way to a fantastic climax.
Of course, who can forget the thrilling cameos from Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen? When they returned to jam on closing track ‘The End’, it felt like watching a roll call of legends. What a thing to see!
“The tonnage of hits in the last hour was frankly ridiculous. One all-timer followed another: a romping 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da', a fiery 'Get Back' with a video by Peter Jackson. Dave Grohl became McCartney's surprise sideman for 'I Saw Her Standing There', and 'Band on the Run', immediately followed by Bruce Springsteen. Even before McCartney got to 'Let It Be' and 'Hey Jude', the field was levitating with delight. An unforgettable night.”
The Observer - June 2022
The next day, when I finally arrived back in London, the enduring buzz of the night before overcoming my tiredness, the reviews were already running. And they were glowing, not to mention the fact that the BBC has smashed previous Glastonbury viewing figures, courtesy of our man.
The Times said the show was “so special”, Rolling Stone called it “phenomenal”. The Guardian hailed it “one of the greatest headline performances of this generation,” while The Independent suggested they might “need a bigger star rating system”, just for Paul!
After a couple of uncertain and difficult years we needed something extraordinary, and extraordinary we got! With each day that passes since Paul’s Glastonbury appearance the sheer impact of it feels bigger and bigger - a real testament to Paul’s lasting legacy and the fact that Macca Mania is stronger than ever.
If Glastonbury was a game then Paul won it - he won big and he won it in style. It feels like a defining moment in modern popular culture. How does he do it?!
“Sir Paul McCartney has delivered a Glastonbury headline set for the history books which included surprise appearances from Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl”
Evening Standard - June 2022
The day before Paul’s massive headline appearance at Glastonbury, something much more intimate happened on the spur of the moment about half-an-hour from the festival site. These are my diary entries for the 48 hours prior to the weekend, which give you an exclusive insight into the crazy circumstances of a last-minute gig that brought an entire town to a standstill!
THURSDAY 23 JUNE
Today, Paul will announce his surprise Glastonbury warm-up show, which will take place tomorrow in Frome, a small, picturesque but quite sleepy Somerset town just 20 miles from Glastonbury, at the local venue (a former cattle market) Cheese & Grain.
Last week, I got a call from Paul’s promoter, Barrie Marshall, which started with Barrie saying: “Paul’s had this idea…” which is always a very exciting way for any call with Barrie to begin! And what an exciting idea it is too! I finished the call buzzing.
When I arrived at the Cheese & Grain this morning, the place was completely unsuspecting of what was about to unfold! Normal life carried on, but a few canny locals spotted that there was quite a lot of extra activity happening around the venue. There were more people than normal, and a fewer bigger vehicles than they might be used to…. A small crowd started to form - and nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.
At 4:50pm the venue posted a message on their social media:
“Paul McCartney live in Frome? OK then! Tickets are available now from our box office in person only. First come, first served.”
At the same time, the venue put posters on the front of the venue that were met by an audible gasp from the already small crowd that had formed there. “OH MY ACTUAL GOD,” shouted one attendee!
Within seconds, people literally came flying out of the nearby woods and through the carpark. Like a surprise attack, the venue was surrounded! As they continued to appear, that line from ‘Eleanor Rigby’ kept circling in my head over and over again: “Where do they all
About 10 minutes later, Frome traffic had ground to a halt. We’d hit gridlock. The town of 26,000 had come to a standstill, with police now on the scene looking to restore some sense of order.
Meanwhile, the line had grown all around the venue and its car park, backing into the woods. There were school kids with their parents, office workers, shop workers, teenagers, retirees and everything in between - even the Mayor of Frome (a gardener by day) was in the queue!
Unsurprisingly, the 600 tickets got snapped up very quickly, disappearing within an hour. Such an amazing response points to tomorrow’s show being a huge success!
FRIDAY 24 JUNE
“Beatlemania grips Frome for surprise Paul McCartney Glastonbury warm-up gig”
The Times - June 2022
My phone and emails had been going crazy since 5pm yesterday. This was such a hot ticket but I couldn’t help anyone. It was a case of first come, first served.
But those locals who didn’t get tickets turned up anyway and set up camp in the car park, not wanting to miss out on their town’s big occasion.
“With love, Frome me to you… Macca plays warm up for Glasto. Sir Paul took a long and winding road and ended up playing a tiny venue in Frome as a warm up for Glastonbury. The legend played in front of 600 fans at the Cheese and Grain venue in Somerset”
Daily Mirror - June 2022
“It’s probably the best moment of my life,” said Richard Churchyard, owner of Frome’s independent record store Raves From The Grave. “The thought of actually seeing Paul in my own hometown… I can’t put it into words. It’s a dream.” He summed up the feelings of many of the locals who congregated at the venue today.
“Here Comes Macca! Surprise gig rocks town! Hall you need is Love”
Daily Express - June 2022
They were rewarded when Paul arrived for soundcheck, winding down his window to wave and give a thumbs up. All of a sudden, it started to actually feel real…!
“There’s no place like Frome… Macca’s secret Glasto warm-up in warehouse. Paul McCartney last night prepared for Glastonbury, one of the biggest gigs of his career, by playing one of the smallest."
Daily Mail – June 2022
In amongst the 600 lucky locals were some notable guests: Brian Johnson from AC/DC had turned up, as had Hollywood couple Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann, pop phenomenon Olivia Rodrigo, and another Olivia - Paul’s good friend Olivia Harrison, wife of the late, great Beatle, George.
You’d think that a warm-up show intended to get the juices flowing ahead of a huge, landmark concert the next day would be a fairly brief affair - check everything’s working, that everyone knows the chords, test some songs out - but no, not for Paul. TWENTY-SEVEN songs later, we all piled giddily out of the Cheese & Grain, blown away by the intimacy of the occasion, when star and fans were brought together under one relatively small roof for an unforgettable performance.
“Glastonbury headliner Paul McCartney's Frome gig is 'even better' than secret Foo Fighters concert”
Somerset Live – June 2022
Tonight was simply astonishing. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
Stuart Bell is Paul's long-standing UK publicist, who started the 'For Whom The Bell Tells' blog series way back in 2009! Check out his other blog entries here.