The first time I saw Paul McCartney in concert was 2002 in Cleveland Ohio. It was the concert of a lifetime. Having been a Beatles fan for as long as I could remember, it was a treat to see this legendary performer doing what he did best. His voice was spot on, the band was tight, the fans were showing their love for the artist and his songs, and it was a night that seemed to be over before it started, but the memory of it has lived on.
Fast forward to early 2017, my buddy Tom, potentially McCartney’s biggest fan, called me to tell me Paul was touring again for his One on One tour. There was zero hesitation, no concern of the calendar, no worries about where I’d find the cash, the answer to the question he never had to ask, was “yes, I want to go!” Quite some time ago, I vowed to never miss the opportunity to see one of my favorite artists. Life is short. You never know when an artist’s touring days are over or your concert going days are done. I want to go through life saying I’m glad I went, not I wish I’d gone.
As the day of the concert approached, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It had been 15 years since the last time I saw him live. Would his voice still be as sharp? Would the band still be as tight? Would it be as memorable as the first time I saw him?
For those that don’t want to keep reading to find out the answers, they are Yes, yes, and no, it was more memorable!
For three hours, Sir Paul and his band entertained the star struck crowd with 32 hits from the Beatles, Wings, and his solo career. The energy was high, the interaction with the adoring fans added a personal touch, and the smiles were everywhere. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again, but I love watching performers that are later on in their careers. The pressure seems to be off, and they always seem to be enjoying themselves on stage as much as the crowd is enjoying watching them. McCartney and his band were no different. A group of world class musicians having fun, and who wouldn’t have fun playing in the company of such an accomplished songwriter, performer, and rock star.
But, this concert was different than the concert of 15 years ago. Yeah, the setlist had changed, but that’s not what I’m talking about. This time, Paul was in a storytelling mood…and it was unbelievable. Like a parent that wanted to share a bit of the family history with his kids while he had their attention, he entertained us with stories and tidbits of Beatles history that you won’t find on Wikipedia. We heard stories of Jimi Hendrix taking his guitar hopelessly out of tune while covering a Beatles song…with the Beatles and Eric Clapton in the audience. We heard about Paul and John writing “I Wanna Be Your Man” for the Rolling Stones while hanging out with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. We all laughed as he shared stories of meeting the Defense Minister of the Soviet Union while playing in Russia. There were heartwarming stories of George and John, and a fun guitar lesson on the riff that was the starting point of “You Won’t See Me”. …and these were just a few of the stories shared throughout the night. I wasn’t sure if I should be recording everything or taking notes. All I know was that I was hearing things about musical history from the guy that lived that history….and that’s pretty special.
Along with the stories, the music was more than a McCartney fan could hope for. From piano ballads like “Let It Be”, to the pyrotechnic laden “Live and Let Die”, and the ukulele accompanied “Something”, it was a musical journey that covered five decades of hit after hit from his extensive catalogue of songs.
As a teenager, I was always a bit sad that the Beatles broke up before my concert going days. As an adult, I am thankful for being able to have seen one of the most talented and influential musicians in the past 50 years, at a time in his life when he was eager to share a bit more of himself than the lyrics that we all know and love.
As the Beatles themselves wrote, “There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed”… having Paul McCartney bless us with his songs, his stories, and his passion for sharing both, was clearly one of those things I will remember…all my life.