Paul McCartney confirmed as Glastonbury 2020 headliner

After dropping heavy hints, the former Beatle confirms he will be playing the Pyramid stage on Saturday night, making him the oldest headliner ever

Paul McCartney is the first artist to be confirmed as a Pyramid stage headliner at the Glastonbury festival in 2020.

Organiser Emily Eavis described the booking as “an absolute dream come true. There really was no one that we wanted more for the 50th anniversary”.

McCartney, who will perform on the festival’s Saturday night, had teased the performance earlier in the day on Twitter, with juxtaposed images of composer Philip Glass, actor Emma Stone and rock’n’roller Chuck Berry: Glass-Stone-Berry, or Glastonbury. He said in another tweet that he was “excited to be part of your anniversary celebrations. See ya next summer!”

— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) November 18, 2019

He will turn 78 the week before his performance, making him the oldest Pyramid stage headliner ever – beating Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, who was 73 when the band played in 2013. Other Pyramid performers further down the bill have been older, though, like 85-year-old BB King in 2011, and Burt Bacharach, who was 87 when he played in 2015.

He joins a group of artists to have headlined more than once: Arctic Monkeys, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison, Muse, Oasis, Pulp, Radiohead, REM and the Who. The Cure and Coldplay hold the record with four headline slots, but despite the latter band releasing a new album this week, Chris Martin told an Australian radio show earlier this month: “We won’t be playing at Glastonbury 50 – although I’ll probably be there because I love going.”

McCartney had been one of the most strongly rumoured names to headline the landmark edition of the festival. In April, Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis said he hoped McCartney would play again, “hopefully for the 50th”. In September, McCartney said in a Radio 2 interview: “People are saying that it will be good if I did it, so I’m starting to think about whether I can or whether it would be a good thing … It’s starting to become some remote kind of possibility.”

He is only the second artist to be confirmed for the festival, following the announcement of another septuagenarian, 75-year-old Diana Ross, as the Sunday teatime “legend” performance on the Pyramid.

McCartney has headlined once before, in 2004, when he played a mammoth 33-song set spanning the Beatles, Wings and his solo material, including two encores. It featured a segment paying tribute to his Beatles bandmates, with Here Today – his 1982 song that poignantly addressed John Lennon in the wake of his death – segueing into George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, and Yellow Submarine, originally sung by Ringo Starr. There was also an outing for In Spite of All the Danger, a song he recorded in 1958 with Harrison and Lennon in pre-Beatles band the Quarrymen.

The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis said of that performance: “Paul McCartney looked surprisingly nervous. His between-song patter wobbled a tightrope between charming and excruciating. There was much talk of ley lines and ‘vibes’. He displayed a worrying tendency to adopt a cod-Jamaican accent. It scarcely mattered: his back catalogue is unimpeachable, his voice fantastic.”

As the first headliner to be announced, McCartney is a rather more safe and crowd-pleasing choice than the one for this year’s festival, Stormzy: only the third rapper to headline the festival, and the first black British solo artist. His set was universally well-received, silencing some earlier grumbles that with only one album to his name, he didn’t have the catalogue to headline.

Paul McCartney performing at Glastonbury 2004.
Paul McCartney performing at Glastonbury 2004. Photograph: Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

No such problems for McCartney, who has long been touring perhaps the most beloved songbook in pop history. He last played the UK in December 2018, following the release of his 17th solo album, Egypt Station, where he worked with contemporary pop songwriters and producers like Ryan Tedder (Beyoncé, Taylor Swift) and Greg Kurstin (Adele, Lily Allen). In summer 2019, he toured stadiums across North America, performing with Ringo Starr at the final date at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles.

In September, he also published his second children’s book, Hey Grandude!, a picture book illustrated by Kathryn Durst about a grandfather taking his grandchildren on magical adventures.

With McCartney confirmed for Glastonbury, some will be hoping for more of a curveball Pyramid booking for Friday or Sunday nights. Among the rumoured artists are heritage acts who have never appeared before, like Fleetwood Mac and Madonna, as well as younger, edgier performers like Kendrick Lamar, the 1975 and Foals. Fans of Taylor Swift have spotted a conspicuous gap in her summer touring schedule over Glastonbury weekend, while the Chemical Brothers, who headlined the Other stage this year and the Pyramid in 2000, sparked rumours in October after band member Ed Simons posted an image of the Pyramid stage under construction with the caption “Soundcheck”.

In October, Liam Gallagher expressed a desire to play, but said: “I’m not arsed about headlining … A little small gig in a little sweaty tent will do me, man.”

Many hoped Elton John would include Glastonbury in the itinerary of his final ever world tour, but it now looks unlikely. He recently announced five new US dates, including ones on the Friday and Saturday nights of the Glastonbury festival.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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