Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A historic night watching Sir Paul

As I get older, I learn to seize opportunities, especially those that may turn out to be once in a lifetime ones. Like when I heard Paul McCartney would be in Chicago for a show. I instantly knew I’d have to be there. He is a true living legend and, at age 69, who knows how many more years he’ll tour and if he does continue to tour, when he’ll be back to the states or to Chicago. I figured it may be my only chance.

In my lifetime, there have been what I consider to be three entertainers who are absolute tops – completely the best: Elvis, The Beatles/Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. Sadly, McCartney is the only one still around and seeing him in concert is something I knew would be a wonderful memory.

At my nephew’s high school graduation party in June, we talked about the Bon Jovi concert we went to see last year. I asked if he’d be interested in going to a concert with me and my oldest son again this summer. He said he would. I started throwing around names of some 80’s bands I knew were touring as possibilities – Journey, Def Leppard, Motley Crue. Then, as a bunch of the guests were playing Beatle’s Rock Band on XBOX 360, I remembered that Paul McCartney was coming to Wrigley Field. Tickets to the first show had sold out earlier in the month (just a few days before, I believe), but a second show had been added. I mentioned it to him and he lit up. I know he’s a big Beatles fan, so I thought it would be a great concert to go to together. My sister-in-law overheard and said that her son would probably love to go, also. So, I then had another nephew, this one 13, who was added to our group. I got tickets right away, although they were way in the upper deck, far from the stage. It didn’t matter. We would be there. (And my apologies to my brother-in-law, Greg, who I learned would have also liked to accompany us -- after our tickets were already ordered. If there's a next time, we'll bring you along for sure!)

McCartney came on stage a tad late, but it was well worth the wait. He opened in a classy red jacket, which came off quickly on the very humid night at the Friendly Confines, stadium of the Chicago Cubs, leaving him in a white dress shirt and dark dress pants with suspenders. The set covered a mix of his hits from his five decades in the music business, leading off with a (insert thick British accent here) “Are we going to have a bit of a party here tonight, Chicago?”

If I counted correctly he played a dozen different instruments over the course of the nearly three-hour show. Two different pianos, eight different guitars, a mandolin and a ukulele. Each time he switched guitars, he held up the one he just finished playing high up the air, almost bowing to it, before passing it on to a member of his crew for the switch. Having always been drawn to his voice, I never realized what a talented musician he was. He rocked through Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” without skipping a beat. Then he shared a story about how he helped get Hendrix discovered in England, when he suggested him for a show the Beatles were unable to do.

There were some heartfelt moments among his humor, specifically when he sang “Here Today,” which was written about John Lennon after his death, adding a reminder to the audience not to hesitate to tell those close to you that you love them. He also recalled the story behind the song “Blackbird,” written during the Civil Rights battle in the U.S. during the 1960’s and performed “Something,” written by his former Beatles band member, the late George Harrison.

Later on, the momentum picked up with a dazzling pyrotechnic display om-stage and accompanying fireworks behind the scoreboard during “Live or Let Die.” Following was “Hey Jude,” and the sight and sounds of tens of thousands swaying and singing along gave me goose bumps.

The crowd couldn’t have been more diverse. I was with my son and two young nephews, all teenagers. In front of us were some middle-aged men and a group of girls, probably in their late 20’s (one being a real-life Elaine Benes, with atrocious dance moves.) Down the aisle were an older Hispanic couple with a young boy, likely a grandson. Beside them was a gray-haired couple who went through the entire concert with bright orange ear plugs in their ears like the ones my youngest son wears when he swims to keep water out of his ears. The gentleman even nodded off at one point. I was seated next to a woman who jumped in her seat and giggled while waving across me to someone. She looked to perhaps be in her early 50’s. I figured she was one of the young girls who fawned over the fab four in her younger days, screaming and crying at the sight of them. Then she climbed over me during “Hey Jude” and rushed over to make out with her girlfriend a couple aisles up in a very passionate PDA.

There were two encores. I believe the first included “Lady Madonna,” “Happy Birthday” (completely appropriate for me since my birthday is this week) and “I Saw Her Standing There.” The stage cleared and a couple minutes passed before he returned with a large American flag while his drummer carried a British flag. Then came the song I’d been waiting for, “Yesterday,” that is probably my favorite song of all time.

Seeing the concert was an uplifting and awesome experience – one in which you marvel and realize that you are witnessing history in the making.

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