Last night I made my way out to AT&T Park in San Francisco to see one of the two remaining Beatles in action, Sir Paul McCartney. The last time McCartney had played the Bay Area was in 1966, before I was even born! It was a cold evening in San Fran, overcast and chilly. Something that helped screen from the cold was the fact that the Park was overcrowded, walking on the concourse was like being shoved onto a conveyer belt of human beings carted from one place to another. Despite the 7:30 start time on the ticket, there was a longggg wait for the show to start. An endless scroll of McCartney memories went up and the huge rectangular video screens flanking the stage as a remix of Macca/Beatles hits jammed on and on. By 8:30 I would have been happy if Beatlemania hit the stage, I started to think that 7:30 was the time McCartney boarded the plane in England instead of a show time. Had enough time to grab a grossly overpriced Giants Dog (AT&T Park is where the San Francisco Giants play) and a Diet Coke. Once McCartney started playing around 8:40, I felt more like it was about time than excited. Macca's set list went like this:
Venus and Mars - Rock Show / Jet / All My Loving / Letting Go / Got To Get You Into My Life / Highway / Let Me Roll It / The Long And Winding Road / Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five / Let 'Em In / My Love / I'm Looking Through You / Two Of Us / Blackbird / Here Today / Dance Tonight / Mrs Vandebuilt / San Francisco Bay Blues / Eleanor Rigby / Something / Sing The Changes / Band On The Run / Ob La Di Ob La Da / Back In The USSR / I've Got A Feeling / Paperback Writer / A Day In The Life - Give Peace A Chance / Let It Be / Live And Let Die / Hey Jude
Encore 1: Day Tripper / Lady Madonna / Get Back
Encore 2: Yesterday / Helter Skelter / Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band / The End
Opening with "Venus and Mars - Rock Show" would probably kill the start of most band's shows but with Sir Paul in the house people became unglued. "Jet" got the crowd more fired up as Mac proved his band was tight and capable of playing the big show. Macca was surrounded by a guitarist, a multi instrumentalist, a keyboardist and a large dramatic drummer. And then we did the time warp again as he launched into the first Beatles song of the night "All My Loving" complete with The Beatles: Rock Band graphics running in the background.
"Letting Go" slowed things down and let people sit before getting back up for a sharp take on "Got To Get You Into My Life". The bouncy ditty was one of the early highlights for me and showed how much of a workout the lone keyboardist was gonna have as he replicated the horn section parts on a synth. A surprise coda to "Life" was a brief instrumental run through Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" with some nice soloing by Sir Paul himself. He then told a nice story of meeting Hendrix and attending a show where Jimi asked Clapton to tune the guitar for him. Then it was back to obscureville for a song called "Letting Go". Dressed in a simple black suit, you could still see some hint of that cherubic youthfulness on Macca's aged mug.
"Let Me Roll It" was one I was looking forward to personally because it had that slow moving 70s rawk vibe I like. Mac then moved to a grand piano on the right of the stage to kick off the first of three (count 'em, three!) songs from The Beatles Let It Be album, "The Long And Winding Road". It was here I noticed how McCartney's voice was still in good shape for a man his age, still able to croon with some power and range. Also, it underlined how cold it was as you could see the steam from his breath as he sang. There was a misty condensation in the wet air, which happens in San Fran right next to the water.
The every-other-song-is-one-you-don't-know-unless-you're-a-true-fan pacing served up "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" next and continued Sir Paul's sit at the piano. Then another of my faves "Let 'Em In" (or as Keane likes to call it "Somewhere Only We Know") happily drifted through. The piano visit gave the crowd more time to rest in their seats as the lovely ballad "My Love" played. Since my wife didn't go to this show, I thought of her during this song.
Then it was flashback Beatles time again as the jaunty "I'm Looking Through You" came up complete with 60's organ sounds. At this point the mother of two young kids in front of me was getting hammered and dancing up a drunken swaying storm, which the boy started recording on his phone to probably plant on You Tube tonight (I saw the kid give the sign to his Dad that Mom had drunk seven beers midway through the concert). We then went to Let It Be track numero dos, "Two Of Us". And I went to the can.
The acoustics of AT&T Park carries sound well, though despite some clarity there was a bit of distortion and echo throughout the concert. So even in the can the acoustic "Blackbird" sounded very nice. I grabbed a small bag of popcorn on the way back to my seat. Maintaining the one for you-one for me pattern Mac strummed out "Here Today" .
Another highlight for me was hearing "Dance Tonight" from Mac's last studio effort Memory Almost Full, I like that song. And then "Mrs Vandebuilt". In a real nice touch, Mac and crew played "San Francisco Bay Blues" giving a nod to his location. At some point, not sure if it was here, Macca pointed to a crowd member with a sign saying "I was there at the Cow Palace in 1964 remember?" and jokingly reacted like he did remember that person.
An excellent take on "Eleanor Rigby", an all time classic song if there was one, took place. Macca busted out a ukelale and told a story about how he told George Harrison he had learned one of George's song on the ukelale. He then proceeded to kick off "Something" solo on the uke. It was sort of silly but had the intimacy of revealing an inside joke until it got to the guitar solo. The full band immediately kicked in with Mac's lead guitarist perfectly replicating Harrison's creamy tone as images of George faded in and out of the video screens, it was the emotional peak of the evening.
To pull it back there was one last pay-the-piper sort of tune with "Sing The Changes" before flying into hitsville with "Band On The Run". Macca took off his jacket and moved to a small piano in the front of the stage for a big audience sing along on "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". Finally free of the one you know and one you don't section of the set list, the crowd got its groove on for a romping "Back In The USSR". Which I felt should have shifted to "Spies Like Us" at the end, but that's just me. A nice tale of Mac meeting the Russian government after a show and finding out Russians learned their English from Beatles records ensued. Apparently one Russian officer said this and shook Macs hand saying "Hello Goodbye".
The Beatles songs steadily racheted up the audience excitement level even with a false start on "I've Got A Feeling" and the nicely blended harmonies of "Paperback Writer". The ushers began to allow people to crowd the aisleways and it started to get packed with people in our area. I went to the can during "A Day In The Life". Which is quite a trippy song to take a whizz to. Got back in time for the John Lennon "Give Peace A Chance" crowd sing along.
The hymn like "Let It Be" unified the audience in time for the theatrical high light of the night, the James Bond theme "Live And Let Die". Out of nowhere, flashpots, pillars of flame and 4th of July fireworks broke out on and behind the stage. The near sold out crowd roared after the song, because it just kicked ass. With momentum at its peak, Mac moved to the center of the stage only to find his little piano was out of tune. So he moved to the big piano for "Hey Jude". The audience sang along to the "Na na na na" ending which closed the main part of the set.
A gaggle of tweens made its way next to our seating and with them high pitched screaming so loud it cut through my ear plugs and turned to white noise. So I was annoyed during the first encore of "Day Tripper", "Lady Madonna" and "Get Back" as the little girls danced, posed for pictures and excitedly rambled to each other throughout. I tried to remind myself this was probably what Beatlemania was like in its hey day. And was surprised that modern day tweens would love this music this much. Guess I'm just an old guy with no patience for youngun's.
For a second encore, McCartney played "Yesterday" acoustically which was great. I saw seagulls flying around the lip of the stadium in time with the song. We moved seats away from the screaming tweens to enjoy the last two songs, a hard rocking "Helter Skelter" and a triumphant "Sgt Peppers / The End".
All in all Paul McCartney put on a very good show. He himself had a good amount of energy and musical ability left, plus an easygoing demeanor in addressing the crowd. And now I can say I've seen royalty! Sir means royalty? No?