When in Frome ... Paul McCartney surprises fans in Somerset town with pre-Glastonbury warm-up gig

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Sir Paul on stage at the Cheese and Grain on Friday night - MJ KIM
Sir Paul on stage at the Cheese and Grain on Friday night - MJ KIM

Sir Paul McCartney may be just hours away from headlining the famous Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, but on Friday the former Beatle treated a handful of lucky fans to a concert on a fraction of the scale.

Sir Paul was playing a surprise gig at the Cheese and Grain, a venue in Frome, Somerset, with a capacity of just 800.

Tickets for the sold-out gig were announced at short notice and needed to be collected in person, leaving the town of 26,000 gridlocked.

The historic market hall is developing a tradition of hosting warm-up gigs for its giant festival neighbour. Four years ago, the Foo Fighters played the venue, while Wolf Alice did so last year.

Emily Eavis, daughter of Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis and a co-organiser, is a patron of the venue.

Sir Paul delighted the crowd at the Frome venue - which has hosted the Foo Fighters and Wolf Alice - MJ KIM
Sir Paul delighted the crowd at the Frome venue - which has hosted the Foo Fighters and Wolf Alice - MJ KIM
Sir Paul McCartney arrives at his show with his wife Nancy Shevell - APEX
Sir Paul McCartney arrives at his show with his wife Nancy Shevell - APEX

Jane Lamb, a self-professed super fan, stood opposite the Cheese and Grain holding a Beatles scrapbook she had made aged eight in the hope Macca would come out and sign it after his show.

The 68-year-old from Frome said: “This is one of four scrapbooks I made between the ages of eight and 10, I'm hoping if I don’t get to see him at least I have this version of him. I didn't manage to get tickets, I was close.”

She added: “I think they kept this gig quiet because I guess they didn’t want people coming down in their thousands to try and get a ticket so they wanted it to be last minute when everybody had a reasonable chance of getting in.

“I think it’s amazing he is headlining Glastonbury at his age, I have heard people say his voice has gone but I don’t think it has.”

Tickets for the sold-out gig were announced at short notice and needed to be collected in person - APEX
Tickets for the sold-out gig were announced at short notice and needed to be collected in person - APEX
Sir Paul arrives at the Cheese and Grain in Frome - APEX
Sir Paul arrives at the Cheese and Grain in Frome - APEX

Security staff were asking ticket holders to seal their phones in opaque bags so no recordings or pictures could be made during his surprise performance on Friday.

Sarah McDonald, who was attending with her family, said: “We’re excited to see him, we’ve been listening to Paul McCartney all day.

“We got here and were the first in the queue, when the post about tickets went up and everyone heard about it people were sprinting down.”

Crowds gather to see Sir Paul - Connie Evans/PA
Crowds gather to see Sir Paul - Connie Evans/PA

Not the only ageing rocker

Sir Paul, 80, is the oldest headliner at this year’s festival, but he is far from the only ageing rocker to grace the stages at the Somerset musical mecca.

The Pet Shop Boys will headline the Other Stage at Glastonbury Festival on Sunday, and on Friday they admitted they were making use of a nap room to keep them going.

“It is so I can have a proper lie-down. Because some dressing rooms, on the rider, you get a settee but sometimes it’s not long enough to lie down on, so I have a fully made, inflatable bed which is very comfortable,” Chris Lowe, 62, told the BBC.

“It’s great, it inflates itself. You just push a button and up it goes,” he added.

His bandmate, Neil Tennant, 67, claimed Lowe “has turned around from fast asleep to being onstage in probably less than 15 minutes”.

The Pet Shop Boys will headline the Other Stage at Glastonbury on Sunday - Harry Herd/WireImage
The Pet Shop Boys will headline the Other Stage at Glastonbury on Sunday - Harry Herd/WireImage

The artist “rider” is, traditionally, a classic item of rock excess detailing down the smallest item what musicians expect in their dressing rooms, tour buses and on stage. From copious amounts of alcohol to very specific foods.

But with more and more of the 20th-century’s classic acts choosing neither to burn out nor to fade away, the rider appears to be developing a softer edge.

For the Pet Shop Boys, it’s all a far cry from 1999.

Popstars’ riders

One rider, bought alongside a signed programme by fan Kevin Church, and apparently from the New York stop of their Nightlife tour that year, showed large amounts of alcohol, including two bottles each of champagne, “good red wine” and chablis and 24 bottles of beer.

The pop duo and their entourage also requested fresh vegetable juices, fresh fruit and fruit juice as well as six cans of “draught pub Guinness”, 12 bottles of Corona and six cans or bottles of Coors Lite and more wine for each of their two tour buses.

On stage, however, it was a much more sober affair, with only soda and still water required.

The Pet Shop Boys are far from the only band to approach things differently as they have aged.

In one apparent rider for venerable Australian rockers AC/DC from 2008, published by the Smoking Gun, which keeps a rider hall of fame, the band allegedly insisted on being provided with three oxygen tanks and three masks.

Only a single case of beer was on the list and there was to be no alcohol in the dressing room until after the concert.

Of course, riders are about much more than just refreshment.

Sir Paul, who will headline the main Pyramid Stage on Saturday, allegedly insists on there being no animal products backstage when he performs. The former Beatle is a vegetarian and long-standing animal rights campaigner.

More than 200,000 people are attending this year’s four-day festival - RP / SplashNews.com
More than 200,000 people are attending this year’s four-day festival - RP / SplashNews.com

The details on riders can be exacting and this has led some observers to dismiss overly long documents as the divaish tendencies of pampered artists.

Spinal Tap parodied the idea in a now-famous scene where guitarist Nigel Tufnell complains to his manager as he fails to wrap his head around “miniature bread”.

The musicians themselves, however, see it differently. Perhaps the most infamous example of a supposedly over-the-top rider is also the most misunderstood.

Van Halen, the 80s hair metal band, would insist on there being no brown M&M chocolates to be found anywhere backstage at risk of the concert being scrapped with no refund from the band.

As lead singer David Lee Roth later explained, however, this was a way of guaranteeing that venues had read the rider in detail and made all the appropriate preparations for the band’s very expensive and potentially dangerous equipment.

“If I came backstage and saw brown M&Ms on the catering table that would guarantee to me that the promoter did not read the contract rider and we had to do a serious line check because we often had danger issues or accidental issues,” Lee Roth said.

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