Paul McCartney is one of the last of a dying breed of rock n’ rollers that can truly connect generations of fans. The 44,000 or so people that filled Miller Park on a sweltering Tuesday night proved that; parents brought their small children, grown children brought their parents. They were all there to witness, in the flesh, one of the greatest musicians and songwriters of all time. None of them would leave disappointed.
At about 8:45, Sir Paul, sporting a knee-length overcoat, strolled out to the stage with his iconic Hofner “Violin” bass. The band started with “Eight Days A Week,” a perfect opener. It wasn’t the most rollicking of songs but it felt so comfortable, so familiar. Throughout the night it became apparent that McCartney’s music is comfort food for the ears and the soul. It’s not difficult or challenging, but it hits all the right spots in all the right ways.
Being the Beatles dork I am, I daydreamed about the songs he might play, and came away thinking I’d probably be more surprised by what he didn’t play than what he did. Naturally, Paul proved me wrong.
Yes, he did “Maybe I’m Amazed” and it was fantastic and possibly my favorite performance of the night. But to keep things interesting for himself as well as the audience, he and the band pulled out some deep cuts -- as much as Beatles songs can be considered deep cuts, anyways -- from the Sgt. Pepper album. “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “Lovely Rita.” Both were new to the setlist and both were awesome.
McCartney didn’t forget about his fellow fallen Beatles, either. He performed “Here Today,” a song about a conversation he wished he’d had with John Lennon. He also told a story about a ukulele given to him by George Harrison, and then used that ukulele to start off Harrison’s beautiful “Something.” Ringo, though he’s still alive, got the shaft. Poor Ringo.
There were times during the night where it was just Paul and an acoustic guitar. The easy country shuffle of “I’ve Just Seen A Face” wasn’t made to fill baseball stadiums, but it still sounded good. “Blackbird” was poignant as it ever was. “Yesterday” was “Yesterday,” which is to say it was phenomenal.
And despite everything I’ve just described, that’s only half of it. Over the course of two hours and forty-five minutes, the 71-year old McCartney and his great backing band didn’t let up. Hit after hit just kept coming and coming. His voice was nearly perfect. The last 10 songs were a tour de force of McCartney’s songwriting greatness.
Starting with “Let It Be,” which went into the pyrotechnic spectacle of “Live and Let Die,” which was followed by the communal sing-along of “Hey Jude.” All of this was before the two encores. The encores consisted of “Day Tripper,” “Hi Hi Hi’” (the weakest of the songs), “Get Back,” “Yesterday.” After that song Paul said “You guys look like you’re still ready to rock!” and the proceeded to kick into “Helter Skelter,” a performance which absolutely slayed. (Pun intended)
McCartney left us with the closing movement from Abbey Road’s second side medley (“Golden Slumbers”/”Carry That Weight”/”The End”) and a couplet that is as true now as it was when he wrote it: “And in the end, the love you take / Is equal to the love you make.”
As the crowd dispersed into the hot Milwaukee night, with guitar solos ringing in my head and earworm choruses threatening to keep me up well into the night, I knew it was a concert I and most of the other concertgoers would not soon forget.