Paul McCartney’s Freshen Up Tour At The Dodger Stadium, Saturday July 13th 2019
I haven’t seen ‘Yesterday’, Danny Boyle’s latest movie, but the trailer reveals enough about the plot to let me comment about it: a guy accidentally lands in a world where the Beatles have never existed but he is the only one who can remember the songs… It’s an interesting concept but critics have wondered whether the film explores it deep enough, since a world without the Beatles would be much more than a world without John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Wouldn’t it be a world with a completely different pop music? Would The Eagles, the Beach Boys, Oasis or even Nirvana ever exist in their known incarnation? How many Beatles-que references have you heard of? How many times have you thought about the Fab Four when listening to music? I bet countless times, their fingerprints are all over our music landscape, and without the pillars of today’s pop music, we would have to reimagine a different pop music world. The butterfly effect of the legendary band on pop culture is immense and a Beatles-free world would probably have had a more dramatic impact than Boyle wants to let us think in his movie.
I don’t know if Paul McCartney has ever thought about this, and I don’t know if he wants to prove anything at this point of his very long career, as last night at the Dodger Stadium he didn’t have the attitude of someone who wants to demonstrate he was one of the main architects of our musical landscape. He was as humble and down-to-earth as usual, sharing old Beatles stories and making plenty of funny arm gestures. He was not there to convince anyone of his greatness, but browsing his immense catalog, and playing a total of 38 songs in front of 60,000 people during a marathon concert of 3 hours would certainly prove a lot to any skeptical or Beatles-detractor…. if there is such a thing.
The Beatles are universally loved, no other band will ever rally people this way ever again, and last night was a true Beatles celebration. Not only McCartney played 22 Beatles songs but he also brought half of the legendary band together as Ringo Starr joined him on stage for a grand finale. The entire stadium was on fire at this moment, but Paul had already set it on fire several times during the 3-hour show, with the music of course, but also with real fire and fireworks during and an explosive rendition of ‘Live and Let Die’. It was the band’s last show of the tour and it looked like McCartney wanted it to go away with a spectacular boom: plenty of Beatles songs, fireworks, Ringo, and even Joe Walsh, of the Eagles fame, who joined him for the last song! There’s probably nobody else doing stadium rock like Paul McCartney.
As soon as you enter, the Dodger Stadium impresses you by its immensity. From my seat, the place looked like the grand canyon and the large stage still looked like a very far away destination. In a flash, I was reminded why I don’t do stadium concerts too often, as Paul McCartney in flesh only appeared like a tiny man despite his high heels and svelte tall silhouette. At 77, I will not surprise anyone by saying he is still in excellent shape, playing a myriad of instruments during the 3-hour concert, from his signature Höfner bass, to electric and acoustic guitars, two different types of piano, a mandolin and even a ukulele, while the only perceptible weakness seemed to be his voice breaking a little bit during a few songs… But it is something quite understandable after a long ‘Freshen Up’ tour, which started in September last year.
Surrounded by the best musicians in business, Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens on keyboard (and many other instruments), the very physical Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums, Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray on guitar or bass, plus a terrific horn section, it is still mind-blowing to see how effortlessly Paul McCartney can command the huge venue, even when he played ‘Blackbird’, almost alone on stage with an acoustic guitar. He is not a legend for nothing, but after a 62-year career, everything could have gone downhill, even a little bit, but for Paul McCartney, everything is looking up and up.
Right away he set up the tone, launching the show with an old Beatles classic, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and not forcing the new songs on us. ‘Come On To Me’ would eventually come, but only three songs of the new album ‘Egypt Station’ will be played in total. You could accuse him of crowd-pleasing but Paul certainly knows what his public wants and he delivers, song after song, alternating between old classics like ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, Wings’ favorites like ‘Band on the Run’ and some rare cuts from his solo career: one song from ‘Kisses on the Bottom’ (the quite boring ‘My Valentine dedicated to his wife Nancy with Natalie Portman appearing on the large screen), one of ‘Memory Almost Full’, one of ‘Tug of War’, one of ‘New’, and that was about it! The rest was pure oldies-goldies, with even a folky pre-Beatles one, ‘In Spite of All the Danger’ when a bunch of Liverpool teenagers called themselves The Quarrymen. The brand new ones were carefully chosen as ‘Come On to Me’ was previously played in James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke and ‘Who Cares’ has been promoted with a long video featuring Emma Stone.
The show was in full speed mode, but Paul nevertheless took the time to speak to us, abundantly, retracing his career, mentioning a trip in Russia or a source of inspiration for a song, but also recycling a few old jokes you may have heard before: ‘when we do an old Beatles song, the phones lighten up and the whole place looks like a galaxy of stars,… when we do a new song, it’s like a black hole’…But we don’t care we are gonna do it anyway’. This made people react in the most positive way, as a million iPhones lightened up during ‘Fuh You’, transforming the stadium into the milky way.
All night long, there were evocations of people who left us, John Lennon, with an acoustic ‘Here Today’ (a song written only two months after Lennon’s death), George Martin, George Harrison, with a poignant ‘Something’ started with a ukulele (‘George Harrison was a really good ukulele player’), while throwing a heartfelt homage to Jimi Hendrix with a ‘Foxy Lady’ jam just after ‘Let Me Roll It’, immediately explaining that, back in the ’60s, Jimi opened a concert with a cover of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ just two days after its release.
This was the last night of his tour, so he may have thrown even more crowd’s favorites, I am not sure, but the crowd participation climaxed during the obvious Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, then ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’, and the timeless ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Hey Jude’. No other songs will ever touch so many people at the same time, ever, and no matter how cheesy it may sound like, I have seen tears pearling here and there, proving these ones have easily passed the test of time and wear.
After the fireworks, the encore brought a half Beatles reunion, and the love between the two men seemed genuine, with Ringo, or ‘my peace and love brother’ as Paul called him, drumming for a few more Beatles favorites, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘Helter Skelter’. Ringo even threw away his drumsticks in the crowd, then joked about throwing away Paul’s bass guitar, and it looked like the good old times. After a few more Beatles songs, Ringo’s brother-in-law Joe Walsh was the final surprise and everyone around me had these we-are-spoiled smiles on their faces. The ‘Beagles’ closed this night of music marathon and I still don’t know if McCartney has even thought of the Beatles and the butterfly effect. However, we are blessed to live in this universe and not in one of its parallels, because I don’t want to imagine a world without the Beatles.
A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles)
Junior’s Farm (Wings)
Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles)
Letting Go (Wings)
Who Cares (Egypt Station 2018)
Got to Get You Into My Life (The Beatles)
Come On to Me (Egypt Station 2018)
Let Me Roll It (Wings) (followed by “Foxy Lady” jam)
I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles)
Let ‘Em In (Wings)
My Valentine (Kisses on the Bottom 2012)
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings)
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles)
In Spite of All the Danger (The Quarrymen)
From Me to You (The Beatles)
Dance Tonight (Memory Almost Full 2007)
Love Me Do (The Beatles)
Blackbird (The Beatles)
Here Today (Tug of War 1981)
Queenie Eye (New 2013)
Lady Madonna (The Beatles)
Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
Fuh You (Egypt Station 2018)
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles)
Something (The Beatles)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles)
Band on the Run (Wings)
Back in the U.S.S.R. (The Beatles)
Let It Be (The Beatles)
Live and Let Die (Wings)
Hey Jude (The Beatles)
Birthday (The Beatles)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (The Beatles with Ringo Starr)
Helter Skelter (The Beatles with Ringo Starr)
Golden Slumbers (The Beatles)
Carry That Weight (The Beatles)
The End (The Beatles with Joe Walsh)