I walked into Fenway Park Wednesday night not knowing what to expect from Paul McCartney. Along with Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan and the Stones, he’s in the upper echelon of rock royalty. He also celebrated his 71st birthday about a month ago. So, why’s he still touring? As soon as I heard the first, chiming chords of “Eight Days a Week” that opened the show, I had my answer. He’s doing it because he still can deliver the goods and still enjoy doing it.
McCartney delivered 38 songs in a show that ran about two hours and 40 minutes and was heavy on his Beatles and Wings hits and plenty of choice rarities, if there are such things in his body of work. The set list was full of hits (“All My Loving”, “Band on the Run”) and deeper album tracks (“Lovely Rita”, “Mrs Vandebilt”). It was cuts like those and a terrific version of “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (the most primarily Lennon song McCartney played) that kept the evening from being just another nostalgia show. As my friend (and friend of PopBlerd!) Dave Lifton said, “McCartney gives you classic after classic and then, when you think there’s nothing left, reminds you that he wrote “Yesterday.”
Along the way there were tributes to Lennon (McCartney’s “Here Today”) and George Harrison, the latter a poignant performance of “Something” that McCartney began on ukulele. For every quiet moment (a version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” that left me misty eyed, or dead perfect rendition of “Blackbird”), there were performances that any, younger arena band can only hope to equal, especially a roaring “Helter Skelter” and pyrotechnic laden “Live and Let Die”. The sing along to “Hey Jude”, while expected, was the best crowd sing along I’ve ever seen, and that includes plenty of “Hungry Hearts” and “Thunder Roads” (sorry, Boss).
McCartney’s voice is still plenty good and he moved from instrument to instrument throughout the show. His 4 man band was excellent and reminded me a lot of Brian Wilson’s band, able to pull off anything in the catalog with ease while still playing and singing the hell out of it. What we got most from Paul was the Beatle that most wanted to be the crowd pleaser. After all these years, he proved he’s still the consummate, professional showman, and that made what he announced as the biggest crowd in Fenway Park history very, very happy.