Age is just a number
McCartney, 79, plays memorable show in Orlando
By Steve Metsch
At an age when many men are content to golf or watch TV, Paul McCartney is still delivering great concerts in huge stadiums.
Such was the case on May 28 when McCartney, who turns 80 on June 18, performed at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. It’s where they play the Citrus Bowl, a very large venue.
Why did we journey from Chicago to Florida during a pandemic to see him? As a former boss told me, timing is everything.
May 28 marked our 28th wedding anniversary and we wanted to do something memorable. The 28/28 factor. What better than seeing a Beatle in concert?
Besides, there are no dates in or near Chicago and who knows if he’ll tour again.
It was Ruth’s fourth time seeing McCartney It was my 10th since December 1989 at the Rosemont Horizon. That’s so long ago, the since-departed Linda was still on keyboards.
Then as now, when it comes to enthusiasm, there are few rockers who can match Sir Paul.
McCartney was all over the stage, switching from bass guitar to piano to keyboard.
Stage presence? Come on. He’s a Beatle. He was born with it and he’s fine-tuned it over the decades.
Humor? Boatloads. His oft-told amusing story about how Jimi Hendrix wowed a star-studded crowd in a London club by playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” released a few days prior, is still amusing.
I liked how he said the band knows when a popular song is being played as lights from phone cameras make it “look like a galaxy.” Play a new song? “It’s like looking into a black hole.”
He had fans laughing when he removed his suit jacket early on with temperature in the mid 80s. “That’s the one and only wardrobe change of the whole evening,” he said.
That leaves one thing.
I love his music. I own every Beatles album, every Wings album, every solo album. I have to be honest. His voice isn’t what it used to be.
It was painful at times to hear those formerly angelic pipes waver, or labor to hit high notes once effortlessly achieved. It wasn’t all the time, but years of singing have taken their toll.
The band members sang backup and it helped. Of course, the audience pitched in, notably on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ and “Hey Jude,” both at his urging.
The gritty sound to his voice added to some songs like “Get Back.”
And there were many times when his voiced sounded in fine form, like on “Here Today,” his heartfelt tribute to the late John Lennon; “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” the Fats Domino-inspired “Lady Madonna,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Hey, he’s 79, on the road, doing what he loves. More power to him.
Being the performer that he is, McCartney and his incredibly tight band delivered 36 songs in the show that lasted two hours and 40 minutes.
There were lots of smiles in the crowd. like those seen on the faces of a woman and her daughter sitting next to me who drove 1,000 miles from Kansas for the show.
That’s dedication. Kinda like the man who wore a “Wings Over America” T-shirt. “Cool shirt. Where did you get it?” I asked. “It’s my dad’s. He saw Wings in ’76,” he replied.
The band opened with The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” and followed with Wings’ “Junior’s Farm” A solid 1-2 punch.
One of the challenges McCartney faces is putting together a setlist that can please almost everyone. It’s nearly impossible.
You’ve got fans like me hoping to hear deep cuts like “Ballroom Dancing” or “Average Person” – neither has ever been played live to my knowledge – to those who only know hit songs by The Beatles and Wings.
“Dance Tonight” and “Fuh You,” two of his more recent songs, sounded terrific. But I’m not sure most in the crowd knew those songs.
To his credit, McCartney came up with a satisfying set list.
If that meant leaving out “Yesterday,” “Jet,” “Fool on the Hill” and “Sgt. Pepper,” which were often played on previous tours, it also left room for some surprises.
“Love Me Do” was preceded by an amusing story about George Martin in the studio.
“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” from “Band on the Run,” still packs a mighty wallop.
He dug out “You Never Give Me Your Money.” During the encore, “Birthday” was played “for anyone having a birthday this year.”
Adding the Hot City Horns, who have played on recent tours, throughout the night was a smart move, especially on “Letting Go,” which also had a sweet guitar solo by Rusty Anderson.
Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel J., guitarist Brian Ray and keyboardist Wix Wickens, who does a bit of everything, have been with McCartney for 20 years. It sounds like it as they’re at the top of their game.
The tour is called “Paul McCartney Got Back” inspired by the “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson released last year detailing the band’s “Let It Be” recording sessions.
McCartney said Jackson was able to isolate the vocals of Lennon for “I’ve Got a Feeling” which became a duet with John on video screens, Paul on stage. It was great to hear them together again.
Of course, there were the amazing pyrotechnics of “Live and Let Die.” You can’t have a McCartney concert without that James Bond movie theme song.
The seven-song encore included a scathing “Helter Skelter,” proving again that 79 is just a number. The three guitarists traded licks for the night’s fitting finale, “The End.”
Leaving the football stadium, we agreed that it was an incredible night we won’t forget.
I’m sure the young kids I noticed will tell their kids some day that they saw a Beatle.
Then there were two elderly women, who appeared to be in their 80s, gingerly walking across the grassy parking lot.
I didn’t ask them, but I wondered if they had seen The Beatles back in the 1960s. Those women are still going strong, as is Paul McCartney.
Remaining tour dates: June 7 and 8 at Fenway Park in Boston, June 12 at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and June 16 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.
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