Even a former Beatle needs a moment standing on the main stage at Bonnaroo.
A few songs into his transcendent first set at the massive Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Paul McCartney wrapped his arms around his signature Hofner bass and surveyed a crowd of 80,000 adoring fans.
“Hey, listen, I’m going to take a moment just to drink all this in for myself,” McCartney said.
McCartney is one of the world’s most recognizable musicians and showed why as he led a massive 2½-hour sing-a-long of three dozen songs that included two encores Friday night.
Playing for a crowd consisting mostly of fans who were born a decade or more after the Beatles broke up in 1971, he lavishly revisited the Beatles, Wings and his own solo catalog, laying down hit after hit and playing two Beatles cuts he only recently began playing live for the first time – “Lovely Rita” and “Mr. Mustard.”
McCartney, who turns 71 next week, acknowledged some cultural similarities between the generations, however.
“That’s some pretty good weed I can smell,” McCartney said as wispy puffs of smoke rose from hundreds of spots in the crowd. “What are you doing to me?”
McCartney took the time to talk about several songs, explaining his Beatles classic “Blackbird” was written about the civil rights struggle in Arkansas.
He noted songs he wrote for his wives over the years, took a moment to express support for incarcerated Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot after playing “Back in the USSR” and told a humorous story about Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.