Paul McCartney has always known how to put on a show. Within seconds of one of his concerts, the crowd is hooked, overwhelmed with the satisfaction of nostalgia as memories of The Beatles rise to the surface. This feel-good sentimentality is arguably the reason that, to this day, McCartney is able to sell out stadiums that Taylor Swift would struggle to fill.
On July 13, Paul McCartney took the stage once again, wearing his classic white button down and black jacket (later removed as McCartney joked, “This is the one costume change of the night”), for the last performance of the 2019 Freshen Up Tour. Immediately after McCartney made his ascent onto the stage, the audience was struck with the iconic opening chord of “Hard Day’s Night,” a humorous opening to a 38-song playlist McCartney seamlessly played through. It was the perfect start to the momentous evening ahead.
My family, like many music-loving households, grew up listening to The Beatles. The band often found a place in the background of family parties, was the highlight of road trip playlists and a frequent musical topic of conversation. To see Paul McCartney live was a culmination and actualization of these memories poured into a single night.
With every tour he plans, McCartney is immediately faced with the struggle of balancing old and new songs from his impressive repertoire. He even made light of this during the concert, commenting on the number of phones he saw lifted up for classic Beatles and Wings hits versus his newer songs. Regardless, he was able to capture fans’ attention with every piece he played, simply through his dynamic stage presence and memorable stories.
The concert itself was held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which is capable of holding 55,000 people. Regardless of the magnitude of this improvised concert hall, McCartney told personal stories and memories that made aspects of his performance feel like a conversation and, in a sense, made the massive stadium feel much more intimate. It was not just about the music, but rather, an interaction between a major historical figure and the audience’s experiences. It seemed as though Dodger Stadium, the location of the penultimate Beatles performance in 1966, put McCartney in an especially nostalgic mood, as much of the night was spent reminiscing on McCartney’s extensive career.
One of the most memorable anecdotes of the night was a story about George Harrison’s love of ukuleles, followed by a rendition of the first few verses of the classic Harrison song “Something” on ukulele in honor of his late bandmate. While McCartney performed, a slideshow of George Harrison pictures played in the background, making for a very tearful audience.
He even engaged with the audience, commenting on several signs in the audience, particularly two that stated: “You’re the only tattoo I approve of for my son” and “I just wanna fuh you” (in relation to McCartney’s new song, “Fuh You”).
Toward the end of the concert, for the quintessential Wings and James Bond song, “Let and Let Die,” McCartney performed with Bond-inspired effects: flames shooting out of the stage, fireworks cascading in the background and powerful instrumentation. This live performance rivaled the original recording, proving McCartney’s enduring musical and performative abilities.
When McCartney reached “Hey Jude” on his setlist, the crowd erupted into a full chorus as the concert cameras swung between audience members, even landing on celebrities like Mr. Bond himself, Pierce Brosnan, who sang along with McCartney.
To round off the night, Paul McCartney “got a little help from his friend,” Ringo Starr, during the show’s encore. This iconic duo has not been seen onstage together since the 2014 Grammys, and to say the crowd was excited is an understatement. Seeing both “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Helter Skelter” (though not the 27 minute and 11 second version) performed by half of the Beatles brought many audience members to tears.
And for the last encore, a somehow still-energized McCartney performed with guitarist Joe Walsh, famous namely for his memorable guitar solo on “Hotel California,” who played the song “The End.” This song, which is the last known recording done by the Beatles, aptly concluded the surreal evening filled with music that made up my childhood.
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