Paul McCartney returned to Boston's Fenway Park this weekend for the first time since his Out There tour back in 2013. Here is what the local press thought of his One On One performance.
Paul McCartney weaves in new bits amidst familiar tunes at Fenway Park
At some point during a Paul McCartney concert, it hits you. Maybe it’s when he strides onstage initially, that customary fiddle-shaped Hofner electric bass strapped on. Maybe it’s when you see video footage of the fresh-faced young Beatles scampering across the field at Shea Stadium, now more than half a century ago, on a screen overhead while McCartney plays “Can’t Buy Me Love” here and now.
For this audience member at a sold-out Fenway Park on Sunday, it hit me just after McCartney delivered “Blackbird” atop a platform that had risen from the stage. Afterward, he strode to one end of the platform and bowed to that side of the stadium. Walked to the other end, bowed again.
There it was. McCartney is as close to a figure of royalty as rock ‘n’ roll has ever produced, a man that the overused term “living legend” actually suits. Yet he still has it in him to play three-hour shows with the same boyish grin you see in 50-year-old footage, and to show graciousness and humility toward all who come to see him.
To recognize that time has passed is no slight, but rather an acknowledgement that even with all that McCartney’s done for his admirers, he’s determined to keep moving, giving, creating.
How extraordinary. What an absolute gift.
If you’ve seen McCartney on his recent tours, like those that set Fenway attendance records in 2009 and 2013, you recognized half of the set list here, or more: big production numbers like “Band on the Run,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Hey Jude,” as well as subtler numbers like “Here Today” in honor of John Lennon, and “Something” on ukulele in George Harrison’s memory.
But there were new bits, as well. Offbeat fare ranged from the quirky 1980 hit “Temporary Secretary” to a stripped-down take on “In Spite of All the Danger” by the Quarrymen, the English skiffle group that birthed the Beatles. Two songs from 2013 LP “New” — the title track and “Queenie Eye” — settled into the mix well; so did a solo take on “FourFiveSeconds,” McCartney’s 2015 single with Rihanna and Kanye West.
The evening didn’t lack for pyrotechnics or special effects — not least the sight of Rob Gronkowski dancing onstage while Dead & Company’s Bob Weir played guitar during “Helter Skelter,” halfway through the encore. But the powerful, generous show McCartney provided with his long-serving band — guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. — provided all the fireworks any fan could want.
Sir Paul McCartney belts a home run at Fenway Park
OK, Paul now you’re showing off.
Thankfully, we love it when you show off.
At Paul McCartney’s first Fenway Park show — back in 2009 when Macca was a mere 67 — he played 34 songs. Last night at the packed park, the icon performed 39 (not including the “Foxy Lady” jam that followed “Let Me Roll It”) over nearly three hours. To add to the epic, he had Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir guest on (yup) “Hi Hi Hi” and Rob Gronkowski dance to “Helter Skelter,” well, I guess you could call that dancing.
Sir Paul and his ace band did obvious Beatles classics and Fab Four songs I’d almost forgotten (the lonely, pretty “And I Love Her”). They did the same for his Wings catalogue — the nearly lost track being a sleazy, in-the-groove “Letting Go." He reached back to do a Quarrymen nugget with “In Spite of All the Danger” and turned his tune with Rihanna and Kanye, the deservingly-ubiquitous “FourFiveSeconds,” into a tender, jangly gem which felt strangely perfect next to “Eleanor Rigby.”
The man has had his hand in about near a hundred Top 40 hits, but many of the best moments came when he ignored songs we all know by heart.
He played three from 2013’s “New” and delivered them with tremendous energy and a modern and retro touch — The Strokes haven’t written a new new wave number like Paul’s “Save Us” in a dozen years. I could have had more. I say add the winsome “Early Days.”
Of course the big cheers came for the anthems, the massive, world-changing anthems.
“A Hard Day’s Night,” “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” and had a manic, almost punk energy.
His awesome tunefulness and talent remains as he constantly swapped instruments: bass, piano, acoustic and electric guitars (and ukulele for George Harrison’s
“Something”). Nobody writes or performs with the same joy for harmony — see “Band on the Run,” “Let It Be,” “Yesterday” and 36 more. Nobody pairs meaning with melody like McCartney — civil rights tune “Blackbird” had a sad relevance to ongoing social injustice problems with Paul noting things are “not that much better now.”
McCartney has sold out Fenway Park four times in seven years. I’m guessing he could fill the place another four in the same span. So, see you all in 2023? McCartney will be 81. Honestly, I think he could do it — even if he has to pare back to 34 songs.
Paul McCartney rocks Fenway Park with a little help from Rob Gronkowski, Bob Weir
It has been a half century since The Beatles rocked Suffolk Downs, but the passage of time has not slowed down Paul McCartney, who gave a marathon performance at Fenway Park on Sunday night.
Unlike the Fab Four's brief show at the east Boston racetrack in 1966, McCartney delivered an impressive two–hour and 45-minute, 39-song overview of his storied career with a mix of solo material, Wings hits and Beatle favorites.
Oh yeah, and there were two surprise guests to boot – Rob Gronksowki of the New England Patriots and Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir.
The concert was a decades-spanning study of McCartney's work with songs ranging from "In Spite of All the Danger," a tune a 16-year-old Macca co-wrote for The Quarrymen skiffle group in 1958, to "FourFiveSeconds," his 2015 collaboration with hip hop stars Kanye West and Rihanna.
McCartney and his finely tuned four-piece touring band kicked off the evening with "A Hard Days Night." Its iconic opening chord crackled and echoed throughout the ballpark, bringing more than 30,000 cheering fans to their feet.
Chatty and charming, he gave an engaging and energetic performance. He still can still tackle songs like "I've Got a Feeling" and "Maybe I'm Amazed."
McCartney knows the crowd demands the classics – "Eleanor Rigby," "Hey Jude" and "Band on the Run" – and he delivered, but he also tossed in some pretty impressive deep cuts.
After playing his signature song "Yesterday," Weir was brought out on stage to jam on Wings' once-banned hit "Hi Hi Hi."
Then, to thunderous applause, McCartney brought out Gronk, who, along with Weir, joined in on two "White Album" rockers, "Helter Skelter" and "Birthday." Gronk may not have a future as a rock 'n' roller, but he looked to be having a grand old time.
McCartney capped a memorable night with the haunting closing medley from "Abbey Road."
The legend ended the night with the lyrics from "The End" – "And in the end / The love you take / Is equal to the love you make."
For the fourth time in just over a decade, I saw Paul McCartney in concert. Of the four occasions, three have taken place at Fenway Park.
This time around, I was joined by my roommate Christopher Kain (who attended the show with me at Fenway in 2009 – the first concert at the park in decades) and my older brother Ezra. Before the show, a nice young woman from Spain who is in this country for a few weeks to study at the Berklee School of Music chatted him up. While it was the first time Ezzie had ever seen perform, it was not the first time he had seen him. In 2005, while working at Whole Foods in Toronto, he, his co-workers and the patrons got the shock of their life when they saw Macca walk in. Well, even a Beatle has to eat. I’m sure the cashier will never forget ringing him up.
Well, there’s something to that vegetarian diet because the 74-year old Beatle performed a set of 38 songs over three hours without an intermission. There was a healthy mix of Beatles tunes (“A Hard Day’s Night”, “”Let It Be”, “Hey Jude” and even “You Won’t See Me”), Wings material (“Band on The Run”, “1985” and even “I Feel Like Letting Go” from Venus & Mars) as well as a couple of tracks from his newest album, the aptly titled New.
McCartney let things be and saved the best for last. After closing the show with “Hey Jude”, he came out for an encore carrying an American flag while one of his band mates carried the Union Jack. After starting the encore with “Yesterday”, McCartney brought out Bob Weir of The Dead (who had performed at Fenway the previous two nights) to perform Wings’ “Hi Hi Hi”. But the biggest surprise came when Macca introduced New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski who came out and played air guitar and danced to “Helter Skelter”. With Tom Brady somewhat deflated, Gronk is now probably the Pats most popular player and last night will do nothing to dissuade that sentiment. McCartney and company would then play “Birthday” and end with “Medley” from Abbey Road which concluded, “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Unfortunately, love isn’t enough. But we could certainly use more of it and Paul McCartney always has an ample supply to go around for the taking and making.
Paul's One On One tour of North America continues throughout July and August. Full details here.