Remembering Paul McCartney’s Amazing 2004 Glastonbury Festival Headliner

Everyone knows old songs are the best, right? Anyone who doubts the wisdom of booking Sir Paul McCartney for one of this year’s coveted Glastonbury Festival titles shouldn’t underestimate the sheer magic of seeing one of the world’s greatest living songwriters perform treasures from its overflowing catalog.

The last time Mr McCartney took to the Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm was the Saturday night of the 2004 festival and he completely stole the show – for me, Michael Eavis and I would be risking a good chunk of the assembled crowd. It was one of those “you had to be there” moments. Watching on TV could not have captured the exceptional bond between this man and his audience, nor the outpouring of pure love for his songs.

Paul put absolutely everything into his passionate greatest hits performance. Heavily leaning towards Beatles classics, there were also solo and Wings numbers, and he also paid a nice tribute to his former bandmate George Harrison with a version of All Things Must Pass. He looked happy and at ease on the world’s most iconic stage, punctuating his set with charming, sometimes poignant anecdotes from his life and career. It was as if he had been waiting for this sight all his life.

Paul McCartney performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival, Saturday June 26, 2004

As the set drew to a close, Paul sounded the chords of Hey Jude on the piano as 100,000 people stood side by side in a muddy field, farther than the eye could see, singing along with the chorus for seven whole minutes. Fireworks lit up the night sky, flamethrowers came to life on stage and liters of red, white and blue confetti were sprayed on the crowd. And then there was the encore of seven songs… yes, seven.

I don’t know how you do better than that, but if Paul takes to the Pyramid stage in 2022, I bet he’ll give it a try, 80 or not.

An excerpt from Paul McCartney's setlist from Glastonbury Festival 2004
An excerpt from Paul McCartney’s setlist from Glastonbury Festival 2004

Here is this 2004 setlist in its entirety: Jet, Got To Get You Into My Life, Flaming Pie, All My Loving, Let Me Roll It, She’s A Woman, Maybe I’m Amazed, The Long And Winding Road, In Spite Of All The Danger (a Quarry Men number), Blackbird, We Can Work It Out (Beatles), Here Today, All Things Must Pass, Yellow Submarine (Beatles), I’ll Follow The Sun, Calico Skies, Eleanor Rigby , Drive My Car, Penny Lane, Get Back, Band On The Run, Back in the USSR, Live And Let Die, I’ve Got A Feeling, Lady Madonna, Hey Jude. Encore un, Hier, Follow Me, Let It Be, I Saw Her Standing There, Helter Skelter, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), The End.

Did you see Paul McCartney’s set at Glastonbury in 2004? What would you like him to play in a headliner in 2022? Let us know in the comments below.

Jan G. Gilbert