This lifelong Beatles fan's dream came true when I saw Paul McCartney live in concert at Fenway Park in Boston on July 9th. What follows is part review and part adventure story...I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing (and experiencing!) it.
DISCLAIMER: Our view was MUCH better than these photos suggest. Even zoomed in all the way, the pictures came out more distant...we were much closer. Also, as it got darker and the lights got brighter, the pictures got more washed out. But I put the best of the 120 photos I took so you can get a feel for what it was like).
As I'd mentioned before, I've been a hardcore Beatles fan basically from birth, at least from as far back as I can remember. I also mentioned how I was going to this concert with my mum, who has been a Beatles fan from the first time she saw them live on the Ed Sullivan show on that February night in 1964 when she was not quite 7 years old. We are both also huge fans of Paul and his work after the Beatles, both with Wings and solo, so we'd really been looking forward to this show all spring and summer.
The plan was that we'd meet at my house in New Hampshire and then drive in to the city together, which is only about an hour drive from where I live. Usually when I go into the city, I park on the outskirts and take the T (the Boston subway system, for those of you not from around here) in, but for this we decided to park as close as possible to Fenway, so I managed to find and purchase a spot at a garage on Landsdowne St, directly behind Fenway, for really cheap. The official times for the show were that the doors opened at 5:30pm and the show would start at 6:30pm, so we left the house at 4pm. We got to the Boston Garden in the north end of the city right around 5pm, but it took us almost another hour to get from there to Kenmore Square (where Fenway Park is). It was all traffic for the concert! By the time we got to Fenway Park, the amount of people on the streets were insane. We had to take a left onto Landsdowne St, and the swarm of people milling around and crossing the street ground the traffic to a standstill. Eventually, a Boston Police officer stopped people walking and parted the sea of humans so we (and a few other vehicles, including a city bus!) could turn down the street. However, as soon as we turned, the car was surrounded by a mass of people again. We literally sat there surrounded by people for about 10 minutes, unable to move even though we could see the parking garage a mere 50 feet away! Suddenly, another policeman knocked on the window and just told us to lean on the horn and drive, so we did! I crawled to the garage, probably going no faster than 3 mph, only hitting one person along the way; some fellow talking on his phone completely oblivious to everything going on around.
After parking, we walked the 20 feet across the street to start waiting in line at the gate to get into the park. By this time it was 6:30pm so I was surprised there were so many people still outside, but when we finally got in and went through the turnstiles, I heard some of the people working there say that the soundcheck was delayed because Paul and his band couldn't fly out of New York to come to Boston on time because of storms down there, so everything got pushed back (hence the gates not opening until 6:30pm). I was a bit concerned because it's common knowledge that there is a strict noise ordinance in the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood and all concerts have to end by 11pm, and since Paul typically plays for 3 hours, I was worried this would impact the length of the show. However, I needn't have worried.
We made our way to our seats, which were fantastic...2 rows back from the field on the leftfield side of the visitors dugout on the 3rd base line. We had a clear view of the massive stage, as well as the Green Monster, which had this neat little modification:
At around 7:15pm, a DJ onstage began playing a mishmash of Beatles, Wings, and solo Paul songs that were all either remixes or cover versions, many of them quite strange and interesting. There was also a John Lennon solo song, "Power to the People," mixed in there. After he was done, an intro film was shown on the video screens to either side of the stage, which scrolled by and started with baby pictures of Paul and went chronologically through his life: childhood, teen years, Beatles (with lots of cool photos of John, George, and Ringo), Wings, solo, to the present day. Mixed in were little film clips that came to life, as well as Paul's painting, all accompanied by remixes similar to what the DJ had played earlier. After scrolling through, it scrolled in reverse until the crowd began to get excited.
The stage lights slowly came on, and at the end, a melange of stars on the screen morphed into Paul's iconic Hofner bass as the band came onstage. Paul stopped in the middle of the stage and waved as we all cheered wildly.
After a minute, they began the show, and we spent the next three hours being entertained and enchanted by Paul, his fantastic band, and of course, the most important thing of all, the timeless music.
Eight Days a Week
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I'm Amazed
I've Just Seen a Face
We Can Work It Out
And I Love Her
Your Mother Should Know
All Together Now
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hi, Hi, Hi
I Saw Her Standing There
Carry That Weight
There's so much that went on during the show, so I've decided to write it in a list:
-After All My Loving, he took his jacket off, rolled up his sleeves, and said "THAT is going to be the ONLY wardrobe change tonight!" It was all about the music.
-Listen to What the Man Said was "for the Wings fans." After the song, Paul said "You guys are the new house record for Fenway Park! *cheers from crowd* Know who we beat to set that record? *silence* OURSELVES!
-After Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady, Paul told a REALLY funny story about watching Hendrix in the late 1960s when Jimi good-naturedly ribbed Eric Clapton (who was also in the audience at the time) about tuning his guitar. Paul then brought out his 1965 Epiphone Casino "because I played it on this next record back in the 60s." It was, of course, Paperback Writer.
-My Valentine was dedicated to his wife, Nancy: "This one's for you, babe!"
-"This one is for all the Wings fans" was how he introduced Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five...so good!
-He very simply said "I wrote this next one for Linda" before starting Maybe I'm Amazed...not gonna lie, I teared up a bit when he said that!
-The acoustic-based numbers that followed were wonderful, including Another Day, a personal favorite that he'd never played live prior to this tour
-Paul mentioned at this point that some signs in the front are hard for him to not read while he's trying to remember the chords and lyrics. One said "We are Macca-holics and there is no cure!" Another one said "The Guy Behind Me Can't See." Later on, he read out that someone had a sign saying "I have my 1966 concert banner" to which Paul said, "Sorry, that was before my time, love! It looks great, though!"
-For Blackbird and Here Today, it was simply Paul alone with an acoustic guitar. He was on a platform at the front of the stage that rose up as he played and lowered slowly when he was done with these songs. Blackbird was mentioned as having been written during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and he explained that he wrote it then to try and give comfort to anyone who needed it. He played the intricate guitar part and sang it perfectly. Afterward, he asked how many people have tried to learn it on guitar. After many of us (myself included), raised our hands and cheered, he dedicated Here Today to his "good friend John." (For those who don't know, Paul wrote and recorded the song for his superb 1982 album Tug of War as a tribute to the recently slain Lennon). He mentioned the song as being about taking the chance to tell the people you love how you feel about them because you never know when they might be gone. I'm not afraid to admit I cried during this song, as did just about everyone I could see all around me. It was truly magical and touching to see Paul play the song to a silent crowd of 35,000 people.
-For Your Mother Should Know, Paul sat down at his psychedelic-painted upright piano from the 60s. Behind him was a montage on the screen of famous mothers and children, culminating with a picture of him and his brother with their mom, as well as a touching pic of him and Linda arm in arm with their young daughters from the early 1970s. Since I was there with my own mum, it was a nice touch (plus I've always loved that song!). Additionally, footage of the Beatles from the Magical Mystery Tour film in their tuxedos from the scene in the film where they dance to the same song was used. Not only did that make me smile because I love that film, but my own kids like that scene best as well.
-A fun romp through All Together Now was described by Paul as "one of my more intellectual" pieces!
-Lovely Rita and Mr. Kite were a real treat to hear...talk about deep album cuts!
-Mrs. Vandebilt was fantastic and at the end, the band went into double-time and everyone was pogo-jumping, including Paul!
-Before Something, which was Paul's tribute to George, he mentioned how George was a great ukelele player and how he and George used to jam on their ukes a lot. "In fact, George gave me this one right here!" Paul started playing the song on uke, and was eventually joined by the rest of the band. It was a brilliant performance, backed by images of Paul and George together throughout their lives, smiling, singing, etc. At the end, he thanked George for writing the song, which was a nice touch.
-He asked us to sing along during the final choruses of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, to which we happily obliged.
-During Live and Let Die, there were huge bursts of flames and fireworks(!) that went off in the middle of the song and at the end...it was amazing! At the end, Paul feigned deafness and kept mouthing "too loud!" as he plugged his ears. He pretended he couldn't play any more because of it, but eventually gave us his famous smile and carried on.
-The massive crowd singalong during Hey Jude was simply amazing! During the "na na na na!" chorus, he got out from behind the piano and first had all the men in the crowd sing it, then all of the women, then everyone. This was accompanied by funny "male" and "female" dancing from Paul. This is probably my all-time favorite Beatles song and it means a lot to me personally, so this was an especially nice touch. During the singalong, I wished it would never end...what a feeling singing along with thousands of other people!
-The encores were fantastic, and only Paul could go from a quiet, acoustic solo performance of Yesterday to shrieking out Helter Skelter and then finishing with a great Abbey Road medley.
-The 3-way guitar battle between Paul, Rusty, and Brian at the end of The End was fab!
For my fellow musicians who would care about such things:
-He played his original Beatles-era Hofner bass, Epiphone Casino, and Epiphone Texan acoustic (the one with the Detroit Red Wings sticker) for most of the songs. He also played his psychedelic painted upright piano that he wrote on in Cavendish Avenue during the 60s. (he also played his multicolored Les Paul, a sunburst Les Paul, a Martin acoustic, and what looked like a Gibson 12-string acoustic)
-Paul's voice sounded great!!! The man sings all of the songs in the original keys and STILL sounds fantastic,
-The band (Abe on drums and harmony vocals, Brian and Rusty on guitars/bass, Wix on keyboards/accordion/synth sax) are INCREDIBLE...that's what playing together for over a decade will do
-At the very end of the show, massive confetti cannons shot out from in front of the stage. I managed to catch some, and even 30 minutes later outside Fenway Park, it was raining down on us!
I'm still grinning ear-to-ear days later and floating on cloud nine...just unbelievable. It's hard to fathom he just turned 71 (when I told my mum that after the show, she couldn't believe it, she still thought he was in his mid-60s! ). It was just the best concert I've ever been to. THE BEST! I sang EVERY WORD to EVERY SONG and could barely talk the next day...my throat was so sore! And it was completely worth it, I'd do it again in a millisecond.
After the show, when we were driving home, my mum and I were marveling at the concert and how good it was. Something we both said was, "we were THERE with one of THE BEATLES!" And of course, since we're both big Paul fans as well, that made it even better.
He also got rave reviews in the Boston papers:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2 ... aign=sm_tw
http://bostonherald.com/entertainment/m ... enway_park
I'm not usually one to indulge in touchy-feely stuff in my life, but this concert experience was truly magical. It's clear that Paul and his band have great fun playing with each other, as well as playing for the crowd, and it was clear the crowd gave that love right back. It was one of those atmospheres that doesn't happen at every concert, but when it does, it takes the whole thing to another level. Also, since all of these songs are so well-known by everyone there, and they mean a whole bunch of things to everyone there, the emotional connection makes the impact of the whole thing even stronger. Seeing Paul in concert wasn't just going to a show, it was an experience and even though the screens and lights and pyrotechnics were really well done and added to the show, it was first and foremost all about the music, and on that alone he delivered in spades.
It was also nice to see such a range of people there...you had everyone from people in Paul's demographic in their 50s-70s, to people in my age group (30s-40s), as well as loads of teenagers/twentysomethings, some there with parents, some without. There were also loads of young kids and even toddlers! It just goes to show that great music, and especially that of Paul/Beatles/Wings, is timeless and crosses generations and age boundaries. Clearly, if songs that are 50 years old still resonate so much now, they will endure forever. Solely in that respect, Paul's body of work (and of course I include his three other bandmates from the 60s!) stands alone. It's long been said that The Beatles (and Paul) would be the one band from the "rock" era whose music would stand alongside the great composers of the past, and if there was any doubt before (which there wasn't), surely that's been eliminated by 2013.
Next time Paul comes to Boston, I will try to do everything in my power to see him, and I want to take my wife and older daughters (who are huge fans) along...I know they'd all love it!