Paul McCartney and his Band
Live at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois-2nd Performance
August 1, 2011
I’ve seen the power of rock and roll at a concert before, but I may have witnessed a true, full-on miracle happen at the Paul McCartney show in Wrigley Field on Monday night.
Now I know the very idea of Paul McCartney performing at such a legendary location would qualify as miraculous for some, and indeed, the venue combined with the prospect of seeing Sir Paul performing there did prompt such a religious fervor in me that I devotedly shelled out a few hundred dollars at the opportunity of attending worship.
But while I may have forgone all common sense when it came to ticket pricing, I’m referring to an even higher power that McCartney may be channeling.
I’m speaking to Benny Hinn types of miracles, and the making of the one that I witnessed involved an elderly woman who was wheel chaired to a section directly in front of me. The seat they placed her in was in the back row of the section, rendering her with the worst view possible for someone who would be sitting down for the rest of the night. From her vantage point, she would have to negotiate through a couple dozen rows directly in front of her, all of which featured standing fans, trying to barter for their own decent sight lines.
The music wasn’t an issue for her, though. Paul McCartney’s band provides attendees of all sections with a perfectly tailored replica for each decade of Macca material. They strayed little from their research, providing just a few moments of spontaneity to show their chops.
Which each passing song (there were nearly three dozen of them performed on Monday night) the elderly lady moved and shook.
By the end of the main set she was standing, and during the first encore she began dancing. It was during “I Saw Her Standing There,” a song that I would list as an early Beatle classic that I had “outgrown,” had somehow transformed her from a spectator with limited mobility into that young girl who just flipped over “I Want To Hold Your Hand” for the first time.
That’s right: Paul McCartney is a performer of such holiness that even his friggin’ b-sides can cause the lame to walk. He can also cause the venue’s sanitation department to sing along while they clean the trashcans, regardless of the shift, the personnel, and the d.o.b, of said personnel.
It was a cross-generational event, delivered by a man who is quickly approaching 70.
And this near septuagenarian provided the young and old alike with nearly three hours of immediately recognizable music.
Well, almost immediately.
There was a mass exodus for the beer or bathroom line during “Sing The Changes,” Macca’s most obscure song for most of the audience. The song, culled from Paul’s partnership with The Fireman, remained just as anthemic as some of the other songs on the setlist, but it was immediately disqualified as “too unfamiliar” because it was recorded during this century.
There was movement during the lesser-known Wings material, who threw up that corny Wings hand signal, a gesture that ranks between Ronnie James Dio’s devil horns, and Sammy Hagar’s stupid Van Halen symbol that he made up when he should have been writing better lyrics for V.H.
Actually, there was quite a bit of Wings material, most of which pulled from the Band On The Run material. This is probably due to the record’s re-issue last year, one that shows the record in a very favorable light while none of the members on stage with Paul on Monday night had anything to do with B.O.T.R., except for going through the transcriptions until they could reproduce every note perfectly.
I’m fine with that, actually, because my focus was entirely on Paul for most of the show and I’m quite confident that during the most spontaneous moments, you could tell that he was definitely working hard and having fun while waiting for his paycheck.
The moments came at the strangest times too: a guitar solo (!) during an out-of-nowhere segue from the awesome “Let Me Roll It” into Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” And while it wasn’t the same caliber as Hendrix’s version, it was a testament to McCartney’s talent and knack for name-dropping. Of course, he ended “Foxy Lady” with the story of how he personally suggested that Hendrix be added to the Monteray Pop Festival and howd drew a corallation between his suggestion that Hendrix should be added to the Montery Pop Festival’s ’67 concert. And with that story camewith the a story of the night he saw a show where Hendrix asked Eric Clapton from the stage if he would come up and tune his guitars for him.He finished the song with quick story of his relationship with Hendrix.
You got the sense that there was something to these moments of recall. Yes, there were more: the stories about the members of the Beatles (alas, no Ringo ones!) and other hints of nostalgia projected on the screen, with each moment there was a sense of melancholia.
The song “Here Today” was a touching tribute to John Lennon, but even with such a heartfelt gesture, he brought his fallen friend up with a quick take on “Give Peace A Chance.”
Even George Harrison was mentioned. Paul told us of a time when he was visiting George and the two were having some fun with one of Harrison’s favorite instruments: the ukulele. McCartney sang for George a rendition of “Something,” and Paul brought back that version for this tour, complete with a full band reprise during the “I don’t know!” parts.
Could it be that McCartney himself is feeling a bit of his own mortality and is considering the end of the line?
He’s been doing it for a while now, from the cherry-picking venues to the album titles like Memory Almost Full, McCartney knows he’s getting older and know that he won’t be able to handle this kind of road schedule for much longer.
All of this was part of the reasons why I unleashed the amount of money that I did on this concert. It also could have added up to a complete disaster had Macca decided to simply treat the shows as a cash cow.
He didn’t. He performed forever, without breaks, and he touched my heart with recapturing the same work ethic that he demonstrated with The Beatles while playing in Hamburg.
And he also demonstrated that if you do something good for long enough, a few miracles may indeed pop up.
Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles
Junior's Farm - Wings
All My Loving - The Beatles
Jet - Wings
Got To Get You Into My Life - The Beatles
Sing the Changes - Paul McCartney
The Night Before - The Beatles
Let Me Roll It>Foxy Lady – Wings/Hendrix
Paperback Writer - The Beatles
The Long and Winding Road -The Beatles
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five - Wings
Let 'em In - Wings
Maybe I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney
I'm Looking through You - The Beatles
And I Love Her - The Beatles
Blackbird - The Beatles
Here Today - Paul McCartney
Dance Tonight - Paul McCartney
Mrs. Vandebilt - Wings
Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles
Something - The Beatles
Band on the Run - Wings
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da - The Beatles
Back in the USSR - The Beatles
I've Got a Feeling - The Beatles
A Day in the Life>Give Peace a Chance - The Beatles/John Lennon
Let It Be - The Beatles
Live and Let Die - Wings
Hey Jude - The Beatles
Lady Madonna - The Beatles
Birthday - The Beatles
I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles
Yesterday - The Beatles
Helter Skelter - The Beatles
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End - The Beatles
Differences between both nights
“Magical Mystery Tour” replaced “Hello Goodbye”
Bonus in my book. MMT is one of my favorite McCartney penned Beatles tune from early in my youth. What turns out to be a corny television special produced a killer post-Pepper glow opening song. Macca had a few noticeable struggles getting out that big “Roll on!” during those first belts, but we didn’t care. To do “Hello, Goodbye” during the opener on Monday night would have been a little punch in the gut, reminding us that Paul would be here today, and gone in a matter of hours.
“Got To Get You Into My Life” replaced “Drive My Car”
It was a real trip back during our country’s Bi-Centennial celebration to hear this decade-old Beatles track enter the American top 40. It was bright, poppy, and perfect for summer. Now that I’m older, I like “Drive My Car” better. It’s clever, which gives it a nod over Paul brass blast. I blame shit like Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears on this song.
“I’m Looking Through You” replaced “I’ve Just Seen A Face.”
I probably like “Face” a bit more, but I wasn’t complaining. I will take any amount of “Rubber Soul/Revolver”- era Beatles that Macca dishes out.
“And I Love Her” replaced “I Will”
Gotta give the nod to Monday night’s show. “I Will” always sounded out of place for me on the White Album, even more than “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” or “Wild Honey Pie.” “And I Love Her” is one of those early Beatle tracks that began demonstrating that their arrangements and songwriting crafts had grown by leaps and bounds since they delivered “Love Me Do.”
“Birthday” replaced “Day Tripper”
I’ve been burned out on “Birthday” forever, so I’d favor the ubiquitous guitar patterns of “Day Tripper”. But out of respect for “anyone celebrating” as Paul put it, I did not pout during the “I would like you to dance!” verse.
“I Saw Her Standing There” replaced “Get Back”
While I respect the Beatles’ early material, there’s nothing offered that would convince me that this band got a helluva lot better as they got older, more experienced, and a lot more competitive. I remember singing as a small child to “Meet The Beatles,” but I also remembers wondering what the hell Paul meant when he described Jo-Jo as a man who thought he was a woman. Inappropriate for a child? Maybe. Better than “I’ll never dance with another?” Absolutely.
Would it kill him to throw out a quick “Her Majesty” at the end of the “Abbey Road” trilogy? It would have been so cool to have him whip out an acoustic for an impromptu, and technically accurate, ending.