Thoughts on Macca — from 125 miles away

The critic in The Times (I won’t dignify them with a name) complained that there were “too many Wings and solo songs”, which just about sums up the grudging four-star reviews you’ll find in the likes of that news outlet and The Guardian, an organ at which I’m convinced they’ll only let you work if you’re the kind of dork who claims not to like The Beatles.

Immersed in Beatles Twitter as I am, it can be a shock to the system to see that there are still people out there in the comments sections ready to dismiss McCartney, either because he’s not Bob Dylan or Neil Young, or because he’s not John Lennon. You want to take these people aside and whisper, you don’t have to choose, but it’s certainly not worth entering the arena.

The lesson, as always, is don’t read the comments.

I’ve become so fragile when it comes to Macca that I only have to think about “Hey Jude” and I start welling up, so it was slightly odd, watching the BBC’s time-delayed Glastonbury coverage last night, to find myself feeling every bit of the 125 miles of road between there and here. I’ll stick on a YouTube video (a recent example: Paul’s appearance at Roger Daltrey’s cancer charity concert) and watch through a veil of tears. But last night: not a wet eye in the house.

The problem is not Macca but Glastonbury itself, the very thought of which fills me with an eldritch horror. Everything I hate about crowds, big gigs, extroverts, and camping is there. Bodies pressed together: check. Crowdsurfing: check. People blocking the view of those behind by being on someone’s shoulders: check. Fucking flags, bleeding banners: check. Staying up past bedtime: check. People enjoying themselves late into the night: yuck. I read something in the Guardian earlier today in an article about couples who have dragged young children to the festival. One of the blokes, talking about his kid, quipped, “She was made here.” To which the only sane response is, ew.

There’s something so soulless about music at festivals, the visible paraphernalia of scaffolds and truckloads of gear, the tackiness of glittery pianos, purple microphones, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd. I get double vision: I see trampled grass and trash cleanup crews at the same time as the 100,000 crowd and the sun setting behind the Tor.

Also: I cannot rid myself of the image of the bloke at the back of the stage apparently aiming his iPhone camera up the short skirt of the 19-year-old pop singer.

So Glasto leaves me cold and keeps leaving me cold, and I couldn’t help noticing things like the poor sound mix and the patchy lighting, but Macca’s set was very special. Those journalists who complained that there was too much non-Beatles material really need to have a word. He played “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five”! He played “Let ‘Em In”! He played “Junior’s Farm”! “Maybe I’m Amazed!” And he played “Love Me Do”, “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”, and (a bit of) “You Never Give Me Your Money”. All this plus Dave Grohl and Bruce. It was odd, though, wasn’t it? The lighting on the stage wasn’t very good, especially when Springsteen was there. You could barely detect his presence when he emerged for “The End”. And (I guess because of the fucking flags and the bleeding banners) the television cameras kind of missed a lot of things, like Abe the drummer dancing. You just couldn’t really see him back there in the dark, and you barely saw Rusty and Brian who are such an important presence.

As to the voice: it was fine. With a little lift from his bandmates, it was all right. Better than Dylan’s vocal has been for the last thirty years or so. It compares well to Springsteen’s similarly shot voice. It’s not insignificant that McCartney is still playing the songs in their original keys, and his musicianship remains undiminished. I did wonder how his little chats to the crowd worked at the venue itself, but that was just me being distant: 125 miles away.

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