MANCHESTER, Tennessee – Even a former Beatle needs a moment standing on the main stage at Bonnaroo.
A few songs into his 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 led a 2 1/2-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 revisited the Beatles, Wings and his own solo catalog. 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. “What are you doing to me?”
McCartney talked about several songs, explaining that his Beatles classic “Blackbird” was written about the civil rights struggle in Arkansas. He noted songs he wrote for his wives over the years and expressed support for incarcerated Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot after playing “Back in the USSR.”
He also paid tribute to late Beatles members John Lennon and George Harrison. He warned members of the crowd to never hold back their feelings, as he did with Lennon after the group broke up.
“If you wait to tell someone you love them, it’s too late,” he said.
The entire crowd joined in on “Hey, Jude” before McCartney and his four-piece band left the stage.