Last Night: Paul motherfucking McCartney at the Hollywood Bowl.
Better Than: Pretty much everything. In the world. Including sunshine. And rainbows.
I laughed, I cried, I swooned for a man who could be my grandfather twice over. Such are the emotions of a Paul McCartney concert.
I shared a box seat in the terrace section with a well-dressed mother/daughter super duo who had flown in from San Jose and unknowingly purchased scalped tickets. A few panicked hours later, they ended up with seats acquired through a credible broker–I arrived at the box just as they were celebrating with plastic flutes of champagne.
The mother told me about catching the Beatles at the Cow Palace in the '60s as we waited for Macca to take the stage (and for some reason, Euro dance remixes of Beatles songs played overhead–untz untz untz), while the daughter regaled us with a tale of how she once waited five hours outside of McCartney's Soho studios during a study abroad trip in London: “[My mother] raised me to do this!”
The two clutched hands, sang along, fist pumped, danced and waved at the ant-sized McCartney the whole night. And it was fucking adorable.
That pretty much set the tone for the night: It doesn't need to even be acknowledged here, but McCartney represented so much more than just music for the crowd that night. He was their youth, their gateway into music, even what music still is today.
As expected, McCartney opened the night with “Venus and Mars/Rock Show,” a 1975 Wings track with the line, “You've got rock and roll/At the Hollywood Bowl”–in fact it was the first time McCartney was performing at the Bowl since the Beatles were last there in 1964.
He immediately went into “All My Loving,” as black and white footage from A Hard Day's Night played on the giant screen behind him: “I have a feeling,” he said, “We're going to have some fun in this Bowl tonight.”
McCartney charged through a setlist that was some three dozen songs, a heartwarming career retrospective of the Beatles, Wings, the Fireman and solo tracks. He switched easily from his famed Hofner bass to a Les Paul and even a mandolin.
And here comes that “cry” portion of the night: McCartney surprised us after a ukulele was handed to him. He strummed a few chords experimentally and told us a story of how him and George (or “Georgie,” as he called him) Harrison used to hang out all the time in Liverpool–they were neighbors after all. He paused, as if he just remembered, that the Gibson ukulele he was holding was actually gifted to him by Harrison–who was much better at the ukulele, he said. The audience audibly cooed.
McCartney recalled a conversation between him and Harrison about the ukulele–and played for him a song that Harrison had written: And then McCartney went into the first few bars of “Something.” On the fucking ukulele.
The band joined in after the first chorus. Stage lights glowed a “Concert for Bangaldesh” orange while black and white images of McCartney with Harrison flashed on the screen. As the last few notes of “Something” wrapped up, a full-sized image of Harrison appeared and paused, as McCartney beckoned, “Let's hear it for Georgie.”
In fact, I'd say McCartney's storytelling was probably the highlight of the night: Hendrix learning and performing “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” live within three days of its release (and Hendrix needing help tuning his guitar from Eric Clapton); how him and Harrison came to write “Blackbird” (Bach-inspired!); the different signs he's seen over the years at concerts (“I'll trade you my wife for your guitar pick!”); how Lennon's death inspired the very heart-rending “Here Today.” The audience was treated to a glimpse of the Beatles days, which he gladly acknowledged throughout the chilly March night.
The night was full of moments. The ones that helped define the night, and the ones that we'll remember for years to come: The audience swaying with outstretched peace signs to “Give Peace A Chance,” the sing-along na-na-na-naaahs of “Hey Jude.”
And the best part? McCartney could have easily performed so much more.
“Venus and Mars/Rockshow”
“All My Loving”
“Got to Get You Into My Life”
“Let Me Roll It”
“Long and Winding Road”
“I Want to Come Home”
“I'm Looking Through You”
“Two Of Us”
“Sing the Changes”
“Band on the Run”
“Back in the USSR”
“I Gotta Feeling”
“A Day in the Life”
“Live and Let Die”
“Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” fading into “The End”