Sir Paul McCartney is a living legend. Anybody that disagrees with that statement needs to have their head checked. You can argue (somewhat pointlessly) that The Beatles were not the greatest band of all time and absolutely get away with it, but you cannot fight against their impact on the world. John Lennon once said that The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”, and while he was wrong on that count, he was making a salient point about the immense popularity of the band. It has been over 40 years since The Beatles broke up, and their records and merchandise still sell like hotcakes, while evolutions such as the “Rock Band: Beatles” video game and a stereo remastering of the band’s catalogue have introduced a whole new generation to the Fab Four. The tragedy is that half of the Beatles are no longer living, what with John Lennon’s unfortunate murder in 1981 and George Harrison succumbing to lung cancer 10 years ago. The two remaining Beatles of course are Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, and it’s not tough to figure out which one has had the greater career. Sure, Ringo has been putting out album after album of solo material, but unlike the rest of the band, he’s the only one that hasn’t been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work as an individual artist. Really he’s more known for his work towards peace activism. As for McCartney, well, his post-Beatles output may be the best out of everyone’s. First as part of Wings and then eventually fully solo, McCartney’s catalogue is one few artists can match. He continues to gain significant attention and traction when it comes to generating new music, and he’s had at least two new songs get strong radio airplay in the last couple years. After re-releasing Wings’ seminal album “Band on the Run” (again) last fall and a couple of his solo albums this past spring/early summer, Sir Paul scheduled a relatively brief summer tour of U.S. ballparks in support of that. His grand show arrived at the historic Wrigley Field for two nights this past Sunday and Monday. I snagged a ticket to the second show on Monday, and it was a night filled with nostalgia and celebration of a true living legend.

If you’ve never had the privilege of seeing a Paul McCartney show before, particularly in the last 10 years or so, allow me to clue you in as to what you’re missing. This current tour is being labeled “On the Run” in easy reference to Wings, but a different way to look at it is to say it’s a “run” through 50 years worth of music in just under 3 hours. Yes, at age 69, Sir Paul is still playing 3 hour shows and with the energy of a man at least half his age. Perhaps it’s that vegan diet of his, or maybe he’s crafted a deal with the devil, but he spends so much of the time dancing around the stage and moving from various guitars to piano and back again like he’s been doing it all his life (which he has). One thing McCartney is not shy about is working the crowd, as virtually every song ended with him stepping away from the microphone and throwing his hands up in an apparent effort to encourage more cheering. Applause is the lifeblood of any performer, and even at his age it apparently still means quite a bit. Still, today’s crowds must seem passive to him compared to the heyday of the Beatles, where people would be screaming wildly through every single song. It’s that sort of fanaticism that caused the Fab Four to stop touring. The crowd at Wrigley Field for night two was likely more relaxed than night one, the thought being that the more hardcore fans snapped up tickets to the first show because the second show was only announced after the first sold out. According to a friend of mine that attended both nights, people spent far more time sitting down at the second show, something that he failed to understand given the incredible set list.

Speaking specifically to the songs played Monday night at Wrigley, the hits just kept coming one after the other. In the past, McCartney has often refrained from playing a lot of Beatles songs, preferring instead to focus on his many accomplishments since that period of his life. More recently though, it seems he has had a change of heart and perhaps has gained a greater appreciation for the Fab Four’s catalogue. If you’ve examined any of the set lists that Sir Paul has been playing as part of this “On the Run” tour, you’re aware there’s been very little in the way of variation from night to night and a clear dominance of Beatles hits. The full breakdown goes something like this:

Total songs played – 39 (counting the individual portions of the “Abbey Road Medley”)
Beatles songs – 25
Wings songs – 8
McCartney solo songs – 3
The Firemen songs – 1
Cover songs – 2 (Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon)

You can have a glance at the full set list at the very bottom of this post. Was it a perfect set list? Very few people will argue that it was, but with such a huge catalogue everybody and their mother has an idea of what constitutes perfection. Well-rounded is the best way to describe it. If you wanted to hear “Drive My Car”, Sunday night was the time to see that one. The same goes for “Day Tripper” or “Get Back”. Some of the more unique qualities in Monday night’s show compared to the night before were moments like “Got to Get You Into My Life” , “I’m Looking Through You” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. Really it was only a few Beatles songs that were exchanged with other ones that differentiated the two nights, and the main points/stage banter were nearly scripted. There was the seamless transition from “Let Me Roll It” into a brief instrumental version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”, followed by a story of how McCartney went and saw Hendrix perform a couple days after the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, only to find out the guitar virtuoso had already learned how to play a couple tracks from that record and was impressively covering them at the show. There was one of the two moments where McCartney acknowleged his most recent releases by playing “Dance Tonight” on mandolin while drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. did everything from the macarena to the disco skywards point in the background. There were the tributes to his old friends Harrison (“Something”) and Lennon (“Here Today” and the cover of “Give Peace A Chance”), and the all-out explosive firewoked version of “Live and Let Die”. Naturally, the set came to a close with a crowd sing-along version of “Hey Jude” that absolutely sends shivers down your spine. The entire night McCartney had his immensely talented band backing him, the same band he’s been working with for so many years and has established a strong rapport with. They’re not only spot-on with their instruments, but have a remarkable knack for recreating some of the complicated harmonies of the Beatles catalogue. Considering that there’s absolutely no chance of The Beatles ever coming back, the show was about as close as one could get to the real thing.

Does it even need to be mentioned that going to see Paul McCartney perform at any time at any location is always recommended? That doesn’t just go for persons of a certain age either. While the crowd at Wrigley Field on Monday night was primarily middle-aged and older, there were plenty of younger people and even families with small children that attended the show. I’d like to think that everyone had a great time, though honestly temperatures were in the 80s and with everyone packed in like sardines the whole evening was a sweaty mess. But weather aside, you’re not going to do much better than Paul McCartney when it comes to large-scale shows these days. It is a gift that he is still making the rounds and touring no matter if it’s 2 dates or 200, and in spite of his youthful spirit one can’t help but wonder just how much longer he’s going to keep it up. He may have told the crowd on Monday night that he’d “see us next time”, but we are under no assurances that there will be one. Savor it while you can, my friends. There are very few genuine rock stars left in this hype-a-minute world, and Paul McCartney is one of them.

Set List:
Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles)
Junior’s Farm (Wings)
All My Loving (The Beatles)
Jet (Wings)
Got to Get You Into My Life (The Beatles)
Sing the Changes (The Firemen)
The Night Before (The Beatles)
Let Me Roll It (Wings)
Foxy Lady Instrumental (Jimi Hendrix)
Paperback Writer (The Beatles)
The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles)
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five (Wings)
Let ‘Em In (Wings)
Maybe I’m Amazed (McCartney)
I’m Looking Through You (The Beatles)
And I Love Her (The Beatles)
Blackbird (The Beatles)
Here Today (McCartney)
Dance Tonight (McCartney)
Mrs. Vandebilt (Wings)
Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
Something (The Beatles)
Band on the Run (Wings)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles)
Back in the USSR (The Beatles)
I’ve Got A Feeling (The Beatles)
A Day in the Life (The Beatles)
Give Peace A Chance (John Lennon)
Let It Be (The Beatles)
Live and Let Die (Wings)
Hey Jude (The Beatles)
\**ENCORE 1**/
Lady Madonna (The Beatles)
Birthday (The Beatles)
I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles)
\**ENCORE 2**/
Yesterday (The Beatles)
Helter Skelter (The Beatles)
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End (The Beatles)

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