Chicago, IL, July 31, 2011 Sunday, July 31, was my son’s birthday. When he was a teenager in the ’70s, I took him to see Paul McCartney and “Wings” at Ames’ Hilton Coliseum. Tonight, I took my daughter (age 24) to see Paul McCartney, paired with his new sidemen, who include a fierce-looking drummer with earrings and a bald head (Abe Laboriel), Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards, and Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray on guitars. Even with slight heels, McCartney was by far the smallest musician, physically, but the biggest talent onstage.
I first saw Paul McCartney “Live” at the San Francisco Cow Palace in 1965 when he was my favorite Beatle, and I was struck with how often he would toss his head and set other teen-aged girls off in to screaming fits. He and Ringo seemed to have all the moves, while George was an absolute stick-in-the-mud and John did little of the crowd-pleasing physical stuff. I remember that a spectator (male) rushed the stage and stole John’s hat and Paul’s drumsticks.
I next saw McCartney “Live” in concert in Ames, Iowa in the 70s, with my son in tow. We were right down front, as my name was drawn first in the lottery in Iowa for tickets. Today (July 31, 2011) was his 43rd birthday; I offered to take him again. He pronounced Paul to be over-the-hill, so I took his much younger sister, who will remember this concert many years from now and can definitely tell her older brother that Paul McCartney is far from over-the-hill. In fact, he looked and sounded great..
It was a sultry, hot night and Sir Paul sweated through his long-sleeved blue shirt and removed his blue jacket by the time he reached the 6th song (of 37, total). His first song was “Hello, Goodbye” and later on, Paul would relate a story about how, when he played in the Soviet Union, a man came up to him and told him, “I have learned the English language from your records. Hello. Goodbye.” After the first song, “All My Lovin'” followed, with Paul telling the eager crowd that he was “glad to be a part of the history of Wrigley Field.”
“Baby, You Can Drive My Car,” his fifth song, was a hit, with the people in the infield seats standing the entire time. Jacket removed, Paul moved on to “The Night Before” (“Treat me like you did the night before.”). A priest in the crowd held up a sign that said, “I’m a priest. I’d like to do your wedding,” a reference to the recent announcement of Paul’s intention to marry his girlfriend Nancy Shevell, which will be his third marriage.
Moving from a normal guitar to a red psychedelic one, Paul played “Let Me Roll It” (Wings) and, in a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, “Foxy Lady.” He shared with the crowd a memorable night when Jimi Hendrix asked Eric Clapton, sitting in the audience, to come up and tune his guitar. Paul switched back to a more normal-looking guitar, declaring it to be the one he had used on “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
“Paperback Writer:” ended with one of the guitarists showing the word “Thanx,” printed on the back of his guitar, to the enthusiastic crowd and Paul then switched to the piano to play “The Long and Winding Road.” That classic was followed by “1985” (Wings); “Let ‘Em In”; “Maybe I’m Amazed”; “I’ve Just Seen a Face” (Beatles); “I Will” (Beatles); “Blackbird” (Beatles); “Here Today”; “Dance Tonight”; “Mrs. Vanderbilt” (Wings); “Eleanor Rigby” (Beatles); “Something” (Beatles); “Band on the Run” (Wings); “Ob-Ladi, Ob-La Da” (Beatles); and a rocking “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
It was some time in the middle of Paul’s touching rendition of “Blackbird” that a very loud man in the upper stands began shouting (“A______”) at a person standing in front of him. That was to the detriment of all, but, no doubt, motivated by the older crowd who came to hear the 69-year-old Beatle play only to have their view blocked by members of the younger generation who stood up in front of them well before the final songs.
“I’ve Got a Feeling”; “A Day in the Life;” “Give Peace a Chance” and “Let It Be” followed (ironic that 4 girls—all young—began fighting in the stands near me soon after this John Lennon sentiment). Then came the pyrotechnic high point of the evening, “Live and Let Die” from the James Bond film, complete with fireworks and flash pots exploding behind and in front of the proscenium. (This was Song #30)
Paul and the band took their bows and left, but were soon lured back by enthusiastic applause to sing “Hey, Jude,” “Lady Madonna,” “Day Tripping,” and “Get Back.” When that 4-song encore didn’t shut the crowd up, Paul and company played a second encore of “Yesterday,” “Helter Skelter” (Remember when it was said that playing this backward you heard “Paul is dead?” Not to mention the fact that Charles Manson will forever be associated with the title); and, finally, “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight.”
The concert, scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m., lasted over 3 hours and Paul McCartney, like his contemporary Mick Jagger, has not lost a step in all of his 69 years. A truly memorable concert.