“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love
Last night my son and I saw the soon-to-be 80-year-old (in ten days) ex-Beatle, ex-Wings guy Sir Paul McCartney play a 2:40 minute show in his 65th year of performing live. Let that sink in for a bit.
A friend of mine, his 18-year-old daughter, and I drove in together. Getting into and out of Boston is a nightmare at just about any time but especially when there are sporting or music events which is to say, constantly. So you pick your poison – subway or car. My friend’s daughter has zero time for whatever music is contemporary and has now seen McCartney, Elton John, and (twice) Billy Joel.
My 29-year-old son went with me and has now seen The Who (twice) and now McCartney. Unlike her, he likes a lot of non-classic rock but when he likes classic rock, he loves it. He was – to use the British expression – gobsmacked to see the person who wrote these iconic songs actually up there and singing them. For him, it’s as if Sir Paul jumped out of the pages of a musical history book which he will ooze back into after the tour. He was totally blown away by the whole thing and knew pretty much every song.
What they do for live shows at the world’s most uncomfortable (and entirely cashless) baseball venue is to put a stage out by the wall which everyone affectionately calls the Green Monster. We had pretty good seats on the turf (they lay down a floor and chairs) a couple sections back. Not one single person in my row knew what their seat number was and had apparently forgotten how to figure that out. So I wound up sitting in the wrong seat initially and spilling someone’s wine (long story) on their chair for which I reimbursed her ten bucks.
And in case you’re curious, these two tickets set me back 800 bucks (750 euros). Of course, it’s ridiculous money to spend on a show. But if your car mechanic said “You need an 800-dollar repair,” you’d drop it in a heartbeat. Why can’t we spend that much money on a once-in-a-lifetime (twice for me) experience? (McCartney pointed out a guy in the audience who had seen them 128 times. “A little obsessive, don’t you think?” Paulie said. Maybe, says the Music Enthusiast, but that sounds like the Springsteen sweet spot.)
Security at Fenway is actually outside on the street. That way you can go through it and still hang outside buying “loaded” (peppers and onions) sausages from street vendors. (The boy and I each had two as we like to support small businesses not because we fucking love sausages.)
We had gotten a note from Fenway management that the show might start promptly at 6:30 pm. I think we all knew it probably wouldn’t. But everyone was sufficiently worried that it might and no one who worked there knew if there was or wasn’t an opening act. One of the employees elaborately described the whole opening act procedure for, apparently, some other show.
As it happens, after about an hour of Beatles tunes pumped through the sound system (sound is great there I must say) ending with “A Day in the Life,” the show actually started at 7:20 pm. The boy, coming from band practice, just made it in the nick of time and starved through the whole show, not daring to leave his seat and miss even one moment of this iconic event. (Hence two sausages. I had no excuse.)
First up was “Can’t Buy Me Love” which we all sang lustily if not too well. (Yours truly always thinks of that scene in A Hard Day’s Night where they escape Beatlemania for a while, run outside, somebody yells “we’re out!” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” plays. This is from Seattle. I recorded some stuff but if you think I’m gonna record the whole show, forget about it.
For the record, out of a 36-song set, 22 were Beatles and the rest were either Wings or more current stuff. (Paul said we know you want to hear the old stuff but we’re gonna play some new stuff too whether you want to hear it or not. No problem Paul. Good time for a bathroom break. I note he dropped one tune from the listless McCartney III.)
Overall this was a great, often exciting show. Paul has the energy of a 20-year-old going from bass to guitar, to a piano up on a riser. I suppose the piano gives him a bit of a sit-down. His band – who have been touring with him forever – is crackerjack. Abe Laboriel on drums has always been the standout for me.
I know everybody loves All Things Must Pass but my favorite solo Beatles album has always been Band on the Run. As to McCartney’s voice, well it’s still notably him. But as they say on American Idol, he’s often a little ‘pitchy’, especially on the solo acoustic numbers. But we will give him a pass because, well, he’s Sir Paul and we are all going to marry him one day.
Here’s “Let Me Roll It” segueing into “Foxy Lady.’ The woman in front of us knew (loudly) that it was Hendrix and made sure everybody around her knew that SHE knew. (Hendrix is a particular band of supposed ‘cool’ for a lot of baby boomers. ‘Yeah, man,” they will tell you, true or not, “I saw him over in Maui. I was so stoned I barely remember it.” Really, nobody cares.) Paul is no Jimi but he gets off some creditable 12th position licks.
You might have read in other reviews about what is arguably the coolest if most bittersweet part of the show. Paul tells a story (he talks a lot!) about how Peter Jackson told him they could synch up him singing with John from the Get Back documentary. And so here they are dueting on “I’ve Got a Feeling.”
–I could have lived without “Junior’s Farm”, “In Spite of All the Danger” (at best, a novelty, a Harrison/McCartney tune), “Love Me Do” (primitive), and “Dance Tonight.” Replace them with “Back in the USSR,” “Drive My Car,” “Helen Wheels,” and maybe “Rock Show” just as a suggestion. How about “A Hard Day’s Night?” That wouldn’t suck. Maybe they can’t remember how to play the opening chord.
–Ms. Hendrix in front of me literally fell back in her seat like a sack of potatoes during “Let It Be,” thereby screwing up my beautiful singing.
–Paul read hand-written audience cards. One said “Macca-chusetts loves you,” (cute), another guy held a sign that said, “Please autograph my daughter’s body,” and the daughter held a sign saying, ‘I approve that message’ (fairly creepy if you ask me)
–Side note – Ringo had played in town a couple nights prior and picked up an honorary degree from Berklee while he was here.
–Somebody had an “early Birthday’ sign for Paul. So we sang Happy Birthday to him. Remarkable! Nick and I sang Happy Birthday to Pete Townshend just a month or so ago. I look forward to singing it to Keith Richards when he’s 183.
-During the song “My Valentine,” they played a black and white video of Natalie Portman (on one side) and Johnny Depp on the other, miming the words. (Odd timing for that.) They appeared to be signing for the deal. Odd, but affecting. (I initially wrote that Paul’s wife was the woman but an eagle-eyed reader corrected me.)
–Paul related the story to this all-white crowd about how “Blackbird” was written in tribute to Black people in the US South who were being discriminated against. We gave a half-hearted cheer. Probably half the audience couldn’t have cared less. That whole racism problem we had in this country? So 2020.
–There was a weirdly blase response to “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” almost as if no one recognized it. Might want to drop that one, Paul.
–Paul, no “Her Majesty’ for the Queen’s Jubilee? It’s like, two seconds long. Would it kill ya?
–In a nice touch, the guys left the stage and came back waving various national flags, most prominently that of Ukraine. If you’re reading this Vlad, fuck you.
–I know Paul plays the ukelele in honor of George but for me the uke is about as interesting an instrument as the accordion. I get nothing at all from it and its appeal is totally lost on me.
–This sign was outside the venue. The ‘stunt’, such as it was, involved people in the cheap seats holding up ‘We Love You Paul’ signs.
–I’m getting way too old for this shit. My feet were killing me at the end. I will say what I’ve said every year for (at least) the last 20 – this is my last year of concertgoing!
Here’s one you know:
Lastly, some enterprising soul recorded the entire May 25 show from Hollywood, Florida. In 4K! Feel free to enjoy the whole thing. But if you’re looking for a quick rush, the run of tunes from “Something” through “The End’ was as good as anything I’ve ever heard at a concert. The guys seemed to rock harder as the night went on.
The run starts at about :50
Can’t Buy Me Love
Got to Get You Into My Life
Come On to Me
Let Me Roll It
Let ’em In
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face
In Spite of All the Danger
Love Me Do
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
You Never Give Me Your Money (Paul said they hadn’t done it live for a number of years).
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
Band on the Run
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude (Paul’s “Free Bird” which he can never not play.
I’ve Got a Feeling
Carry That Weight
- Paul McCartney – lead vocals, bass guitar, rhythm and lead guitars, piano, ukulele, mandolin (1982–present)
- Wix Wickens – keyboards, accordion, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, harmonica, percussion, backing vocals (1989–present)
- Rusty Anderson – lead guitar, backing vocals (2001–present)
- Abe Laboriel Jr. – drums, percussion, backing vocals (2001–present)
- Brian Ray – lead and rhythm guitars, bass guitar, percussion, backing vocals (2002–present)
In addition, the Hot City Horns (Paul Burton on trombone, Kenji Fenton on saxophone, and Mike Davis on trumpet) have played with McCartney on tours since 2018.