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Paul McCartney @ Miller Park

July 16, 2013

Jul. 17, 2013
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Photo credit: Rachel Buth
If Paul McCartney is worried about death, he doesn’t show it. Where many of his contemporaries have turned somber on their late-career works, earning easy five stars from Rolling Stone with grayscale albums about their mortality, McCartney has opted for a lighter approach. His recent records, 2007’s pleasantly poppy Memory Almost Full and the nostalgic 2012 standards collection Kisses on the Bottom, have been downright happy, as fits McCartney’s chipper public image. Meanwhile, the man continues to defy age. While rock’s other elder statesmen have worn and withered, McCartney remains eternally young, smooth of both skin and voice, ready to roll out of bed and onto the “Saturday Night Live” set looking game at a moment’s notice. He’s 71, yet he still hides his forehead behind a thick, boyish mop of hair.

But death has touched McCartney, as the setlist of the former Beatles’ current Out There tour reminded the crowd often Tuesday night. He dedicated several songs to late loved ones and acquaintances: “Maybe I’m Amazed” to his first wife, Linda; “Something” to its songwriter, George Harrison (playing the opening of the song on ukulele Harrison gifted him); and “Here Today” to the bandmate he never got to say goodbye to, John Lennon. He wrote that song as an imaginary conversation with his former songwriting partner, he explained to the crowd, imparting some take-away advice: “Next time you want to say something nice about someone, just say it.”

Of course, McCartney never let the mood stay too heavy for too long. This was, after all, a summertime concert at a ballpark, which coincidentally ran about the length of a ball game, so Sir Paul and his four-piece band kept up the momentum by tapping the more rocking corners of the Beatles and Wings songbooks: “Get Back,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Helter Skelter.” The crowd danced in the aisles to “Obla Di Obla Da,” cheered wildly for the pyrotechnic blasts of “Live and Let Die,” and sang in unison to the finale of “Hey Jude,” while McCartney drank it all up. He was constantly holding poses, pointing at the crowd or raising his guitar, as if auditioning images for concert posters or album covers. And if his stage banter at times felt overly rehearsed—he introduced one of his stories as “One of the stories I tell…”—it hardly mattered. For three sweaty hours and two encores, fans got to bask in the presence of a legend who seemed genuinely glad to be there, and who still commands the star power to drive a crowd of nearly 44,000 giddy with the smallest gesture.


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