Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Wondra on the Tundra: Paul McCartney Makes for a Perfect Knight at Lambeau Field — Green Bay Concert Review

Concert Review

Paul McCartney
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
June 8, 2019

On June 18, Paul McCartney will turn 77.

He has finally let his hair go gray, after years of presumably using dye to keep his famed mop-top brown.

In terms of chronological measures, Sir Paul is getting old.

But seeing “Macca”—as he is also affectionately known—live in concert never does.

Or at least it hasn’t yet, with Saturday’s show in Green Bay marking the 13th time I’ve seen the ex-Beatle, the 12th since 2002 and the 9th in the past 10 years, on yet another Abbey Road trip after having—in recent years—ventured to Tulsa, Milwaukee, St. Louis and the southwest Chicago suburban wasteland of Tinley Park. (I also saw Paul in Paris in 2011, as well as multiple times in Chicago proper.)

Gratefully, my friend Brad did the driving this time, having gotten himself a prime seat on the field where the Green Bay Packers play.

Along with my most erstwhile concert pal, Paolo, I settled for a seat not nearly as choice, but also upon the famed—but on this perfect June night, not frozen—tundra.

Even for a diehard Chicago Bears fan, there was something extra special about being on Lambeau Field, and though many taller heads in the 80 or so yards between me and Sir Paul occasionally kept me from seeing his, the entire experience was awesome.

As he has at virtually every show since resuming fairly regular touring in 2002, McCartney and his band mates—all constant since then; hence with him longer than he was with the Beatles or Wings—played for just about three hours.

This show was about 5 minutes short of that mark, with perhaps the only concession to his age being the omission of “Yesterday,” making the set list 38 songs, rather than the formerly standard 39.

The basic outline of Macca’s shows has remained fairly congruent over the years—he doesn’t mix things up gig-to-gig like Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam, other live favorites of mine—and one can pretty much bet the house on hearing “Blackbird,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Band on the Run,” “Let It Be,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Live and Let Die” (with mass pyrotechnics), “Hey Jude” and some others, but all are among the best rock songs ever written.

Yet even with his current Freshen Up Tour hitting smaller U.S. markets this year—Ft. Wayne, Madison, Moline, Lexington, KY, Greenville, SC, etc.—he’s rotated in Beatles chestnuts such as “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “All My Loving,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “From Me to You,” none of which I heard in Tinley Park in 2017.

Proving that—as arguably rock’s greatest songwriter ever—he can still pen a catchy melody, Paul nicely included “Who Cares,” “Come On to Me” and “Fuh You” from 2018’s Egypt Station album, while the Quarrymen’s “In Spite of All the Danger” meant that a 60-year stretch of original, recorded music was represented on the night.

But while I won’t pretend to be above going to certain concerts predominantly out of reverence—Brian Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan (to some extent; sometimes he’s still superb), the now passed Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry and others—continuing to repeatedly see Paul McCartney live, at considerable cost and/or distance, isn’t primarily about worship nor even nostalgia.

Few things in life provide me as much acute joy as a Paul McCartney concert.

Sure, his voice isn't what it was at 24, but it still sounds darn good, especially with a 50,000 strong chorus singing along with every word.

On the night, Macca plays bass, acoustic & electric guitars and a couple different pianos, and fairly amazingly—at any age—there isn't a second onstage that he's isn't playing and/or singing.

Guitarist Rusty Anderson delectably covers many of the George Harrison solos, accompanied by Brian Ray (guitar), Paul "Wix" Wickens (keyboards) and Abe Laboriel, Jr. (drums), who remains a powerhouse and a hoot.

Yes, I've heard Sir Paul's stage stories many a time, whether reminiscing about Jimi Hendrix & Eric Clapton, recalling his Red Square encounters with Russian politicians or paying tribute to his late Beatles bandmates, John Lennon and George Harrison.

But only in the best of ways can Sir Paul McCartney be blamed for me and my pals venturing to see him in Green Bay—and in many a place, many a time.

While I always hope he might sprinkle in "Penny Lane" or "Getting Better" or any of dozens of other gems—even from Wings and his solo albums—more than he does, the truth is over the years I've heard him do 120 different songs...

...and, really, anything he wishes to play is fine with me. (See Paul McCartney's Green Bay setlist here.)

It's delightful that he has horn players again along on this tour—not always the case—and including from within the Lambeau stands, they made "Got to Get You Into My Life," "Lady Madonna" and more sound particularly swell.

From the opening "A Hard Day's Night" to the traditional but apt closer, "The End"—with mirthful magnificence on essentially every note in between—Sir Paul McCartney made for a truly blissful and special knight in Green Bay.

I always hope I might see him yet again, and he seems due for another show within the Chicago city limits, but if this turns out to be the last time I get to see the man who—along with John, George and Ringo—most changed the world I enjoy living in, well, speaking his words of wisdom, love me do.

Just a snippet of the "Hey Jude" singalong:

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