No matter what age, if you are a fan at a Paul McCartney concert it is guaranteed that you will be reduced to a hysterical 13-year-old the moment that man steps on stage. McCartney’s first ever appearance at Fenway Park took place on a balmy, August evening, and did he ever make it a memorable one.
Some concert-goers milled about as early as 5 p.m. to take their seats facing the enormous stage erected in center field. The stadium looked in pristine condition as usual, complete with McCartney’s name spelled out in the score box at the bottom of the Green Monster.
Techno-rock group MGMT took the stage at 6:30 sharp to a barely half-filled park. There was some trouble balancing their sound at first; too much treble and the singing sounded awfully distorted. Technical issues aside, they played a decent if unremarkable set to a crowd that had never really heard of them and were waiting impatiently for a Beatle. When they launched into the familiar opening bars of “Time to Pretend” a lot of people turned in their seats to companions with a, “hey, I’ve heard this song before!”
The anticipation set in once MGMT completed their 40-minute set. It was a feeling akin to being a child on Christmas Eve. Will it be as magical as I imagine? Will it really live up to the hype? McCartney delivered the goods, and then some.
Not once during the two and a half hour set (plus two encores) did McCartney ever appear tired, not even for a second. The ever dapper musician is 67-years-old, although if you ignored the giant screens, from where I sat one would think he was still that young cherub-cheeked lad from Liverpool.
From the instantly recognizable opening of “Drive My Car” to the final resounding notes of “The End” there were predictable, nostalgic and some surprising song choices. A multitude of Beatles’ hits went down including “Got to Get You into My Life” “Back in the USSR” and “Let it Be.” Whatever McCartney’s doing to preserve his vocal chords is working — he can still belt out “I’m Down” and “Helter Skelter” with no trouble at all.
The tears really started to flow when he got behind that piano and sang “The Long and Winding Road.” Other tear-inducing moments included “Here Today” McCartney’s tribute song to John Lennon and a beautiful ukulele version of George Harrison’s “Something.” Of course he played “Hey Jude” (seriously, mascara was a huge fail on my part) and led the entire happily obliging crowd in some “na na na naa’s!”
McCartney dipped into his Wings catalogue for a few numbers like “Jet” “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die” during which some serious fireworks and pyrotechnics went off. Particularly pleasing were his songs from his solo work, especially the two tracks off 1997’s “Flaming Pie.” The title track came with a killer keyboard solo from Paul “Wix” Wickens and McCartney brought out the acoustic guitar for the sweet “Calico Skies.”
Between delivering songs old and new, McCartney interacted with the audience and lived up to his reputation as the cute, charismatic Beatle. When his band left him alone on stage for an acoustic portion, McCartney cheekily said, “Now they’ve gone and left me here alone with you. I kind of like it.”
But you do have to give credit to the band. Guitar players Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray made sure the guitar solos were ripped expertly and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr was a force of nature behind his kit.
Like the performer himself, the night was magical, unforgettable and legendary. The music was rocking, the Prudential Center lit in the backdrop, and the moon was bright and full as McCartney crooned “Ëœwhat’s the use of worrying?’ We were all right there with you, Paul.