Paul McCartney makes me sick. See? That got your attention, didn’t it? Now you’re asking ‘well why would someone who says that Paul McCartney makes him sick want to go and review one of his shows?’ Well, I tell you, if only you’d shut up and let me get a word in edgeways... god.
Glastonbury 2004. I’d been a good little boy all day – I’d not drunk too much; made sure that I’d had a decent amount of sleep the night before; had a little pre-gig nap, and a hotdog to eat so I wouldn’t have to run to a falafel van halfway through the set… my whole weekend – well, life - had been building up to this, you see.
And so – there we were – standing in a good position in the crowd, about four songs deep into Macca’s legendary set, when I squatted. My friend thought I was crying because we’d arrived at ‘Let It Be’. In fact, I was vomiting… a lot – uncontrollably - so much so that my friend had to guide me out of the tight-packed Glasto crowd, just as I was being generous enough to share some of my stomach lining with them. I remember being in the foetal position in my tent as ‘Helter Skelter’ permeated the canvas from the direction of the Pyramid Stage. I was fine half an hour later.
That will teach me to eat meat before a Macca gig… whatever sort of meat that was (I’m thinking… badger?) call it instant karma, I guess. Anyway, he has a lot to prove to me tonight, so he must be feeling the pressure.
I am not a fan of the O2 as a venue – arenas in general. They tend to sap the soul out of whatever’s happening on stage – from Madness to Radiohead; from Prince to Coldplay (it was a free ticket, okay?). But out Macca strolls, and the warmth is palpable. People have come here to see their hero, the man who helped them fall in love with music.
And why wouldn’t you start with the best ever opening chord if you’d come up with it? ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ reminds us all of who is standing on the stage – a genuine history changer. ‘Fuh You’ is a better pop song than any septuagenarian has any right to make, and, in relative terms, it’s the low point of the show. We become so used to songs like ‘Blackbird’, ‘From Me to You’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Hey Jude’ – so salubrious, that they’re often not appreciated for the masterpieces that they are – like when you repeat a word over and over again and it loses its meaning. But they’re here tonight – glorious, perfect – and written by the man standing in front of us.
The goodwill fills the cavernous twenty-thousand capacity venue, making it seem almost intimate, even during the bombastic pyrotechnics for ‘Live and Let Die’ (best Bond theme ever, by the way). A slim and healthy-looking Paul slumps on his piano afterwards, inferring that the loud bangs are far too much for his heart these days.
The set lasts for three hours (lazy bloody Baby Boomers), and it only scratches the surface of what you might call a strongish back-catalogue – it has to be pretty formidable when he can afford to omit a song like ‘Yesterday’ from a set. He intersperses his tour-de-force with well-worn anecdotes about his Liverpool days and song writing process, but well-worn doesn’t mean boring – Macca’s clearly a man who still relishes interacting with the crowd; still loves composing, and does not attempt to brush off or belittle his legacy.
Some bloke called Ringo is brought on stage to perform ‘Get Back’ (there’s also a guitarist called Ronnie Wood who was in Herman’s Hermits or something). It’s quite simply a pinch-yourself moment.
“I don’t know about you,” he says, “but that was a thrill for me.” Well, quite.
And just when the O2 is fit to burst, along comes a children’s choir and ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ (yes can sneeze out a festive classic too). And we end on ‘The End’ or more accurately the medley that starts with ‘Golden Slumbers’ – one of the finest pieces of music the Beatles ever scratched on to vinyl, and a fitting crescendo and climax to an evening that will ring out far beyond the Greenwich Peninsula. The ghost of Glastonbury is almost banished.
We all run to get the final tube, as, after a mere eleven years, TFL still haven’t managed to work out that large crowds need to get home after a Sunday sell-out gig at one of the most prominent venues in London. I (and thousands of others) didn’t make it.
But at least I hadn’t had a hotdog.
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Words: Matt Charlton / @matt_charlton
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