Rock marathons: why Paul McCartney longs for the days of half hour gigs

<span>Photograph: AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Name: Marathon gigs.

Age: First emerged in the early 1970s, before falling out of fashion. Now back in again.

Appearance: Like an ordinary gig, except it’s still going four hours later.

Who wants to go to a four-hour gig? Think of the parking. It’s a mystery. Speaking on the Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend podcast, Sir Paul McCartney noted that in the 60s, the Beatles performed half-hour sets.

Those were the days. “Now people will do three, four hours,” he said. “I blame Bruce Springsteen.”

Does Bruce like a long gig? Despite being in his 70s, the Boss routinely plays for more than three hours. He once did a gig in Helsinki lasting four hours and six minutes.

He’s the Boss. The fans love it. Yes, but the authorities don’t always approve. At a 2012 concert in Hyde Park, London, Bruce threatened to stray over the 10.30pm curfew, coincidentally while duetting with McCartney.

Did the organisers get fined? No. They pulled the plug halfway through Twist and Shout.

I guess he’s created marathon expectations for everyone else. That was certainly the contention of Sir Paul, who himself performed for almost three hours when he headlined Glastonbury last year at the age of 80.

But it’s not as if Bruce invented the long gig. No. The Grateful Dead, who could make a single song last 45 minutes, supposedly played for five hours at the Bickershaw festival in Wigan in 1973.

Yeesh. And in 2010 in Santiago, the Pixies came on and played 33 songs straight – one for each of the rescued Chilean miners. But the record for a solo performer seems to belong to the Canadian musician Chilly Gonzales, for a 2009 gig in Paris.

How long did that last? He started the show on Saturday night and finished early on Monday morning, 27 hours and 300 songs later.

Does anyone still play short gigs? Lana Del Rey only managed an hour at this year’s Glasto – she started late, and they cut the power at midnight.

Why was she late? Something to do with her hair.

Hmm. There’s a fine line between “Always leave them wanting more” and “Always leave them wanting their money back.” The White Stripes once played an impromptu set in Newfoundland consisting of a single note – they were on stage for all of 50 seconds.

Why did they do that? So they could say they’d played a gig in every province in Canada.

Every musician’s dream. Chilly Gonzales will never get there at his rate.

Do say: “We love you Bruce, but the last train leaves in 15 minutes!”

Don’t say: “One more song! Then we can go to brunch.”