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Paul McCartney Live at Wrigley Field Chicago, Sunday July 31, 2011
We took the "L" out about 3 hours early, walked around Wrigleyville & ducked in a small Italian place with
good air-conditioning & no waiting. We didn't want to do the typical beer soaked rowdy Cubs bar scene so one
of Michael's UD pals gave us leads on the local spots. Did I mention it was HOT? A steamy 92, 78% humidity,
KY hot, HELL NO, Vegas Hot! After a cooling dinner we strolled some more, ducking in & out of the many
Cubs souvenir shops, more to keep cool than to shop. Every sidewalk, parking lot, street & business all the way
around Wrigley was packed. We saw em young enough to be in strollers & all the way up to their 80's, many
with either their brand new or obviously prized "vintage" Beatles or Paul shirts. There was a palpable buzz of
electricity in the air, everywhere was a song & a celebration.
Shortly after we arrived I heard a few "check, 1,2 3, check, checks" coming from the stadium in a familiar
voice. I thought, "Nah, can't be", and then out of nowhere, BRAAAAANG, that unmistakeable chord that
begins A Hard Day's Night. Sure enough this was no roadie checking the mics & no recording, this was really
happening. It was Paul & the boys doing their sound check. Being an old & fairly porous stadium, Wrigley
didn't contain the sound like newer more enclosed ones might & the music flowed like fine wine into the streets.
They ripped through AHDN, Blue Suede Shoes, All My Loving (with a couple of stops for adjustments),
Midnight Special & a little taste of Sweet Home Chicago. People were singing along & dancing on the
sidewalks.
A bit after 7:00 we headed in. After passing the oh so thorough security battalion (sarcasm) we were directed to
another booth to get our "on the field lovely pink wristbands". Around a couple of winding corners in the
cramped, maze like underbelly of Wrigley, through a doorway & BAMMM, we’re on the playing field near the
right field foul pole. They'd covered the entire outfield with some kind of interlocking white Lego type panels,
on top of the regular tarp, to keep people & chairs off the famous grass.
Forgetting for the moment that we’d come to see half of the greatest song writing duo in the history of recorded
music perform the music that shaped our generation; also that he was once a member of a 4 piece skiffle group
from Liverpool that changed not only music but the culture of the world forever, we could feel the history of
this hallowed baseball ground. Here we were walking across a diamond where the greatest names in the game,
most now long gone, played as young men during the primes of their career. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Rose,
Banks, Mays & the famous trio, Tinkers to Evers to Chance all played America's pastime on the ground we
were walking across. Looking up into the grandstands you could easily imagine the cheering faces of 10
decades of fans; recent immigrants from the early 1900's, gangsters from Chicago's roaring 20's, Chicago's
infamous crooked politicians & all manner of royalty, dignitaries & ordinary Joes, all staring back through the
ages. The feeling of being on that venerable field where 100 years of baseball history has unfolded & so many
legends of the game have played was really special.
But back to the music, the stage was directly in front of us, a mammoth, lurking, all black contraption seeping
smoke & mist from its bowels like a prehistoric mechanical beast. The front of the stage was placed in shallow
dead center, about where the center fielder would play for the cleanup hitter. The outfield bleachers were
covered by tarps since they had no view of the stage. The field & grandstands were still mostly empty when we
hit the field so we strolled around a bit soaking in the atmosphere. We walked across the bullpen mound &
plate, which were not covered by Legos, & around behind home plate in the Wrigley brick dust. We stopped at
each of the dugouts to get an up close & personal view. Nowadays many high schools & most colleges have
nicer dugouts but it's a century old stadium & it shows. It's not run down, just intimate & very old school (as it
needs to stay).
By the time we'd gotten onto the field, the 3rd base grandstand was casting it's late afternoon shadow across the
entire field so that helped, but did I mention it was HOT! We grabbed a couple of $4 waters, by now I was
beyond glistening, I was into complete & total flop sweat melt down. Fortunately on this night I wasn't alone,
everyone was fanning & sweating, sweating & fanning.
We got to our seats, located at a deep shortstop position with a righty batting & no one on, a bit to the left of
center stage & about 25 rows back. Next to me were two boys, 17ish & best friends, one of whose grandmother
had gotten him the tickets for his birthday. Next to MB was a mid 40ish father & his two mid-teen daughters.
Behind us a pair of early 50ish daughters had brought their reluctant, 80 year old father for his first ever concert.
All around us were assorted fans of all ages, early 20's hipsters that were trying fervently to act too cool to be
here seeing some old fart from 20 years before they were born, a lot of 30 somethings who had obviously been
raised properly on a steady Fab 4 diet by their Beatle generation parents, tons of the expected baby boomers in
all shapes, sizes & varying degrees of preservation & surprisingly, quite a few from Nee Nee & Papa Clyde's
generation, several dressed to the nines (number 9, number 9, number 9) in their Beatle attire. How cool is that?
From the time we'd entered the field, a DJ was playing covers of Beatles, Wings & Paul solo works by groups
as diverse as Bob Marley to Blink 182 & several others that I had no freakin clue on. Most were respectfully
true to the originals, while still adding their own individuality. But a couple of the renditions, WOW, even a
devoted Beatlemaniac like me, could not recognize. We'd heard word that a power failure earlier in the day
might cause a delayed start & sure enough it was about 8:10 before the two monster 40' x 120' video screens on
either side of the huge stage flickered to life & started rolling scrapbook images of the 4 lads from their early
days in Hamburg through to the present. There were shots of girls fainting during the crush of Beatlemania,
scenes from Ed Sullivan, Shea Stadium & the final London rooftop concert. There were many pictures of
Liverpool landmarks that I visited last fall, the Barber Shop, Eleanor Rigby's grave, the gates to Strawberry
Fields, the lads homes, etc. Pictures of Beatle buttons, mugs, lunch boxes & a plethora of other memorabilia
were intermixed with what appeared to be personal snapshots from Paul & Linda's own family album. This
rolling slide show was accompanied by Beatles & Paul music & helped pacify the sweltering & anxious
audience until about 8:35.
Then it was on like Donkey Kong. No warmup band you've never heard of & don't give a crap about, no local
hippy dippy DJ to introduce one of the most recognizable people on the planet. The 5 piece band just walked
briskly on stage, a roadie tossed the strap of the priceless Hoffner bass over Paul’s head (complete with the
tattered playlist from the Beatles last performance on the Apple rooftop 42 years ago) & they tore into Hello,
Goodbye. OK, think about that for a minute. That tiny scrap of notebook paper with 6 of the word's most
famous songs scribbled on it by Paul in blue ballpoint pen in 1969, has been Scotch taped to that guitar longer
than a large percentage of tonight's audience have been alive.
You say goodbye and I say hello
(hello, hello)
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello
(hello, hello)
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello.
The crowd roared like a Saturn 5 rocket & leapt to their feet in unison as if the gaffers had sent 220 volts though
every seat. Most would remain on their feet for the entire 3 hour Magical Musical Tour that was about to
embark upon. By the second (hello, hello), all 40,000 plus were singing in unison like the world's largest
church choir. Like most choirs, some right on pitch, many half a step flat or sharp & several making up a word
here & there, but none of that mattered. The sound of 40,000 voices wrapped the stadium like a favorite old
shirt or a hug from your grandma. It was a magic communal feeling a mere 20 seconds in, that didn't subside
the rest of the evening. There would be no intermission, Paul was on stage & playing every song for 3 solid
hours. The younger band members took a break during a couple of Paul acoustic pieces but the 69 year old was
kicking it the entire show without a break & without missing a guitar lick or a note.
He was clad in a sharp Cubby blue double breasted jacket, dark slacks & the iconic Beatle boots but the jacket
only lasted about 3 songs. He quickly tossed it aside & rolled up his light blue shirt sleeves in acknowledgment
of the sweltering heat. By the end, his shirt was soaked but the shirt tail remained properly tucked & he never
once looked like the soaking wet mess me & many of the other fans would become.
Early on he mixed things up with a couple of Beatle standards, a newer solo piece & a Wings hit. Although all
were enthusiastically received, there was a noticeable difference in the volume of the "choir" when the first few
notes of a Beatles tune rang out. As we progressed, the Beatle classics took precedence & the momentum built
& built with each new song. The two young boys next to me were belting them out & convulsing (aka dancing)
like Joe Cocker at Woodstock, with an occasional YEAH, WHOOOO!!!!! PAUL, WE LOVE YOU, YOU'RE
THE MAN!!!!!!!!! thrown in for added emphasis. They were both filled with excitement & completely
uninhibited in showing their feelings for the man & music they obviously loved. I'm sure that displaying that
same interest, if a Beatles song came on the radio in the locker room back at school, would earn them a good
razzing from their peers, but on this night, in this place & with this crowd, they just didn't care. They were here
for a good time to see one of the greatest musicians ever & they poured their hearts out doing it.
Paul's guitar playing was nothing short of amazing, whether acoustic, electric or on the Hoffner bass. He ripped
through several guitar solos on songs like his homage to Hendrix, Foxy Lady, which would have made the old
lefty proud, Back In The USSR & a wild, mind melting rendition of Helter Skelter, that reminded you why this
song is credited by many music critics as the birthplace of heavy metal. AC/DC, Metallica, Megadeath or any
other head banging hair band couldn't have done it any better. The entire production of the Wings classic, Live
& Let Die, was a mind blowing assault on the senses, complete with a thunderous pyrotechnic display that
rocketed just over the heads of the folks packed onto the rooftops across Waveland & Sheffield Avenues. None
of those hundreds of folks could see anything but the crowd on the field, yet still they paid big bucks & came all
that way just to hear Paul & be part of the experience. Who else would people pay to go not see?
Sitting beside MB, the two girls were out of their minds with excitement. The one celebrating her birthday
tonight was a bit more animated than her sister but both danced & sang every word of every song. You gotta
feel better about the younger generation with this quartet of yutes we were sitting near tonight. If the girls had
been in black & white, you'd have sworn they were right out of the balcony from the Ed Sullivan Theater on
February 9, 1964. They were screaming & swinging their hair like they were possessed, which in a way I guess
they were, by the infectious music.
Two rows ahead of us was a group of four late 20's fashionista girls, who'd obviously spent more time worrying
about what shoes they'd wear than what songs some old dude was going to sing. After Paul's moving tribute to
John during Here Today, & his prefacing words about things left unsaid prior to John's untimely death, they
were all wiping tears away. After that they were assimilated & stopped talking & texting & joined the choir for
the rest of the show.
What about the night we cried
Because there wasn't any reason left to keep it all inside
Never understood a word
But you were always there with a smile
And if I say I really loved you
And was glad you came along
If you were here today
Ooh- Ooh- Ooh- for you were in my song
Ooh- Ooh- Ooh- here today
Behind us, the 80 year old dad started out more reserved & it was clear he didn't know many of the words to
even the Beatle hits & none to any Paul or Wings stuff. He seemed at first more than a bit out of his comfort
zone. After most of a beer, one of the son-in-laws supplied, his shields were lowered (YCWTMTV) & he was
soon trying his best to sing along. He was singing something whether they were the right words or not. By the
middle of the show he was belting it out with the rest of us & was especially into the choruses, after they were
repeated a time or two. Ob-La-Di, Let It Be & Give Peace A Chance, with their repeating verses, were right in
his wheelhouse. He even flashed a peace sign as he sang, All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance, over &
over. His dancing would not get him on DWTS, but he was swaying back & forth being ever so careful with
his, by now, 2nd beer. Catching an occasional glance as the daughters watched their dad was priceless. He was
absolutely enjoying the hell out of himself & the daughters were grinning from ear to ear. Likely as much from
seeing their elderly dad's reaction as actually seeing Paul for themselves.
That was the thing I kept catching myself doing, watching the hundreds of smiling happy faces all around me
that were absolutely glowing, not with heat induced delirium, but pure unmitigated, uncontainable joy. I could
only imagine what memories each song was bringing back to each person. Where they were when they first
heard each song, what special significance each had in their own lives, what they were doing the Summer of
Love when Sargent Pepper stunned the world, who they first danced with to All My Loving, the first kisses, first
broken hearts, cotillions & proms, blossoming social & political awareness prodded by songs like Blackbird or
Give Peace a Chance, all the memories of a lifetime tied irrevocably to the greatest soundtrack. How had all
these amazing songs helped shape the people many of these folks had become. All questions that can never be
answered but on this night the answers were barely contained behind the many beaming, moist eyes, including
several times, my own.
After 3 hours & 2 standing ovation encores, Paul drew a magical night to a close in the most appropriate
manner with the Golden Slumber/Carry That Weight/The End medley.
Once there was a way
To get back homeward
Once there was a way
To get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby
Boy you're gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight for a long time
Boy you're gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight for a long time
And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make
On this night, the true Beatle fans in the crowd certainly got back homeward, to that very special place in each
of our memories when The Beatles ruled the world, we were so incredibly young & the future was a misty,
distant dream of endless possibilities. Tonight Paul sang us many of our favorite lullabies &, being the most
public face & keeper of the flame for The Beatles legacy, he continues to carry the weight for John & George &
even to some extent Ringo. If the final lyrics are true, as Chris Farley asked Paul in that hilarious SNL skit,
then Sir James Paul McCartney took home an abundance of the love he made tonight. In exchange, each of us
fans took treasured memories & images that each will surely cherish for a lifetime.
Is there any other music or group that people are going to feel this passionately about 45 years after their last
public performance as a band, coincidentally enough on a baseball diamond? A band that only lasted in the
blinding white-hot spotlight of unfathomable fame for 6 short years, but whose musical & cultural influence has
already lasted 7 times as long. A band that helped us heal after JFK, & guided us thru the social upheaval &
divisiveness of the late 60's; Kent State, Nixon & Vietnam. John once said, "We were four guys. I met Paul &
said you wanna join me band? And then George joined & then Ringo joined. We were just a band, that made it
very very big, that's all." But we all know they were & still remain far more than that.
When the final two of the Fab Four are gone, or when the last of us boomers is gone, will that spell the end of
the magic? I don't see it, but am admittedly prejudiced because of my charter membership in their first
generation of fans. With the overwhelming love & passion exhibited by the multi-aged fans tonight, the
generation that might eventually lose interest in this magical, revered music has thankfully not yet been born.
Here's the complete set list from tonight's show.
Hello, Goodbye
Junior's Farm
All My Loving
Jet
Drive My Car
Sing The Changes
The Night Before
Let Me Roll It
Foxey Lady
Paperback Writer
The Long & Winding Road
Nineteen Hundred & Eighty Five
Let 'Em In
Maybe I'm Amazed
I've Just Seen A Face
I Will
Blackbird
Here Today
Dance Tonight
Mrs. Vandebilt
Eleanor Rigby
Something
Band on The Run
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Back In The U.S.S.R.
I've Got A Feeling
A Day In The Life
Give Peace A Chance
Let It Be
Live & Let Die
Hey Jude
Encore #1
Lady Madonna
Day Tripper
Get Back
Encore #2
Yesterday
Helter Skelter
Golden Slumber
Carry That Weight
The End
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