Wednesday, July 20, 2016

McCartney takes Hershey on magical mystery tour

JULY 20, 2016

HERSHEY - When Paul McCartney walks on to a concert stage, one is immediately struck by just his mere presence. He is, without question, the world’s greatest living rock star. Bigger than Bruce. Bigger than Bono. Bigger than anyone. Of course having been a member of a little band called The Beatles has much to do with that, and when he puts a set-list together featuring not only songs from his time with the Fab Four, but also his work with Wings and his solo material, it can make for a remarkable night of music.

McCartney, at age 74, did just that on July 19 at Hersheypark Stadium. He delivered a whopping 38 songs, he had the crowd of 30,000 feeling both entertained and inspired, and he seemed to do it all with great ease. For Sir Paul, it was simply a day at the office.

McCartney opened the show with the mop-top era “A Hard Day’s Night” and followed with 2013’s “Save Us.” He then addressed the crowd for the first time.

“Good evening, Hershey,” he said, English accent intact. “I have a feeling we’re going to have a lot of fun here tonight. We’ve got some old songs, we’ve got some new songs, and we’ve got some in-between songs.” He then led his band into a fun rendition of “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Other highlights early in the set included Wings’ “Let Me Roll It,” which ended with a fiery jam that included a few riffs of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” He also offered fine performances of The Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Here, There Everywhere” and 2012’s  “My Valentine,” which he dedicated to his wife, Nancy.  He also displayed great wit throughout the show.

“That was the big wardrobe change of the whole evening,” quipped McCartney after casually removing his sport coat. He also shared humorous stories about Jimi Hendrix, his songwriting partnership with John Lennon, and meeting various Russian dignitaries during a performance in Moscow.

“I wrote this one for Linda,” he said when introducing a soulful performance of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” He then offered “We Can Work It Out” and the harmony-laced and country-favored  “In Spite of All The Danger,” which he introduced as the very first song ever recorded by The Quarrymen, the pre-Beatles band that also featured John Lennon and George Harrison. A string of Beatles favorites followed: “You Won’t See Me,” “Love Me Do,” “And I Love Her” and “Blackbird,” which he sang alone atop an elevated stage.  

McCartney frequently changed instruments throughout the show, sometimes playing bass, sometimes guitar and sometimes piano. His  four-piece band was stellar and his staging was grand. Enormous video screens provided close-ups of the group throughout the night and also helped provide fitting images that perfectly accented various songs. Perhaps the most moving use of video occurred during McCartney’s performance of George Harrison’s “Something,” which he played on a ukulele that was given to him by Harrison. Throughout the number, wonderful candid photographs of McCartney and Harrison working in the studio  together were shown.

“Thank you, George,” he said, “for writing that beautiful song.”

McCartney also acknowledged Lennon, performing “Here Today,” a beautiful song written shortly after Lennon’s death that not only speaks honestly of their complicated friendship, but also of his love for the fallen Beatle. “If you want to say something nice to somebody, don’t delay,” he said. “It might be too late.” He also paid homage to Lennon by performing Beatles numbers such as the show’s opener, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” that were originally sung by Lennon.

McCartney’s more recent material such as “Queenie Eye,” “New” and “FourFiveSeconds” was well-received, but numbers such as “Eleanor Rigby,” “Fool On The Hill,”  “Lady Madonna” and “Back In the U.S.S.R” were met with the loudest roars. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” resulted in a full sing-a-along, “Live and Let Die” came with so much pyro you could feel the heat coming off the stage and a spirited performance of “Band On The Run” - one of McCartney’s most brilliantly arranged numbers – was perfectly on target. The set ended with and emotional performance of “Hey Jude” during which all 30,000 sang along. Encores included “Yesterday,” a roadhouse-rock style rendition of Wings’ “Hi, Hi, Hi” and “Birthday.” The show ended with “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End.”

McCartney is a larger-than-life presence. He is the world’s biggest rock star. And when you watch him perform on stage, you are keenly aware that you are listening to a Bach or Beethoven of our times and that his music –perhaps more than any other music that has come from the rock era – will be the music that will far outlive all of us. The fact that he still tours frequently and plays for three hours a night is remarkable in itself. And anytime that you have the opportunity to see him, you should.

He is still quite Fab.


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