Paul McCartney 5.3.22
I can feel the excitement building with every mile passing as I drive up I-5 north from Olympia. I'm heading to see one of the greatest musicians of my lifetime, Sir Paul McCartney! Seeing Paul McCartney has been a bucket list item for quite a long time, I mean who doesn't want to see one of the last living Beatles. After a short monorail ride from downtown Seattle to the new Climate Pledge Arena in the Seattle Center, I've arrived for what will turn out to be one of my most exciting concerts I've seen. I grab my press pass and ticket and am led down to the risers at the soundboard for my two songs I get to shoot. Having seen the previous setlists for the tour, I knew what to expect. Or at least I thought I did.
Opening with a Beatles classic, “Can't Buy Me Love,” I'm honestly surprised by how well Paul McCartney still sounds even at 80 years old. As I try focusing on taking pictures and not being distracted by the amazing light show on stage, I can't help but think of how special this night is going to be in the end. As the second song, “Junior's Farm,” a Wings song that I'm not as familiar with, comes to an end I rush back to store my camera and make my way back down to the main floor to find my seat, Row 14 Seat 24, pretty much dead center.
By the time I make it to my seat, I've missed a couple songs, “Letting Go,” “Got To Get You Into My Life,” and “Come On To Me,” but I do manage to catch the Jimi Hendrix's “Foxy Lady” jam at the end of “Let Me Roll It,” and it was so good! After the jam, Paul tells a story about Jimi playing in a club in London filled with local musicians before he was really famous and asking for Eric Clapton to come up and help him tune his guitar. This got a huge laugh from the crowd. From here, he plays “Getting Better,” accompanied by visuals of crumbling, post apocalyptic cities like New York and London that slowly change into flowers and vines. After dedicating the song “My Valentine” to his wife Nancy, he's accompanied on the screen by Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp, who sign the lyrics before Depp begins to play guitar in time with the band. After ripping through an amazing version of “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” complete with three screens of visuals, he slows it down with one of my favorite songs of all time, “Maybe I'm Amazed.” Again, I'm amazed at how well this 80 year old rock legend sounds. You can definitely hear the age in his voice, but he still sounds really great! We were then treated to another tour debut, the classic “We Can Work It Out.”
Before going into The Quarrymen's “In Spite of All The Danger,” we're regaled with the story of this classic song, as the band members moved in front of a screen projecting a small run down shack. It was apparently their first professional recording, and cost five pounds to record, so each of the five members chipped in one pound each and made the recording in a home studio in Liverpool. Because there was only one record, they each kept it for a week then gave it to the next member who kept if for a week, and so on. That is until it got to John Duff Lowe, who apparently kept it for 20 years before Paul McCartney bought it back in 1988, “at a substantial profit” to Duff. After the doo-wop sounding “In Spite Of All The Danger,” we were treated to “Love Me Do” and “Dance Tonight,” which featured special choreography by the drummer during the song. Paul proceeds to move to the very front of the stage and begins playing “Blackbird” as the stage rises and he is surrounded by visuals of trees and blackbirds in a very emotional moment. While still elevated on the stage, Paul performs a tribute to John Lennon, “Here Today” while visuals make it appear that he's floating above Earth in space. Back down on stage, “Queenie Eye,” “Lady Madonna,” and “Fuh You” preceded the super psychedelic “Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite,” complete with cartoon like visuals that matched perfectly.
Bringing out a ukulele gifted to him from George Harrison, he plays a tribute to his late friend. Strumming out the beginning of “Something” on the ukulele, it slowly transforms from a quite acoustic tribute into a full blown electric event. Next was the sing a long “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” where Paul had everyone singing the choruses. Here it really picks up and rocks with a couple songs from Abbey Road, “You Never Give Me Your Money” and “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” “Get Back” and “Band On The Run” finish strong before slowing things back down with everyone's favorite, “Let It Be,” which whether intended or not, became another sing-a-long. We're then reminded of the fact that Paul McCartney is nothing short of a rock star as pyrotechnics explode from the front of the stage during “Live And Let Die,” fireballs and fireworks light up the arena as lasers blast through the smoke and haze in what was probably one of the best productions I've seen. Finally, after about two hours of non-stop performing, he moves back to the piano again to close the set with “Hey Jude.”
After a short break, the band comes back on stage carrying flags from Ukraine, UK, USA and Washington state, before telling us that they have something really special for us. And man, was it special! “I've Got a Feeling” done as a virtual duet with John Lennon! As the band plays, the screen behind the stage shows footage of John Lennon from the famous 1969 rooftop concert in London with his isolated vocals perfectly meshing with the band and Paul's own vocals in what was a very emotional moment. After asking if anyone in the crowd had a birthday today, he dedicated the song “Birthday” to everyone who had a birthday that day or even this year. After an almost too intense version of “Helter Skelter” where the visuals were dominated by strobe lights and what appeared to be a never ending tunnel flashing by at incredible speeds, things were slowed down again and the sweet sounds of “Golden Slumbers” began. This led into the show closing medley from the end of Abbey Road, “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “The End.”
Standing there as the house lights came on, seeing all the smiles on everyone's faces, I knew how special this night was and how lucky I am to have been able to see this show. Slowly making my way home to Olympia from Seattle, my mind was swirling with images and sounds from the show that I know won't disappear any time soon.