It would be something special if Cincinnati just witnessed the last-ever Paul McCartney concert in the U.S. And it would also be a shame.
McCartney, a legitimate legend who generally ranks among the public’s top-two-favorite Beatles, cruised through three hours of Fab Four and Wings tunes at Great American Ball Park. His energetic manner that suggested he could have done three more.
It was an inspiring performance by the 69-year-old, who is still singing great, playing great, and looking very happy to be out there. By the time he and his heavenly four-piece road band wrapped up “Paperback Writer,” the evening’s ninth song, McCartney’s long-sleeve dress shirt was soaked with sweat. But he just smiled his way through the night instead of chugging water or complaining about heat. (It’s interesting to compare McCartney’s disposition to that a rock singer half of McCartney’s age who’s canceling his band’s tour due to exhaustion.)
The performance was the last of McCartney’s eight-show “On The Run” tour of North America. No future dates have been announced.
In regards to another milestone, the GABP arena-rock experiment proved to be a success in the first try. A massive stage, flanked by two 118-foot-tall video screens, was built in center field, facing home plate. Sound was excellent (at least it was in the seats down the first-base line). A Reds representative reported a sellout crowd of 41,500.
That crowd seemed to be moved in all sorts of emotional directions as each song equaled or topped the last. It was a set list filled with dozens of songs everyone has heard thousands of times: Wings hits like “Live and Let Die,” “Jet” and “Band on the Run,” and songs by the Beatles, that band McCartney was in prior to Wings, like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Hey Jude” and “A Day in the Life,” to name a few.
It was McCartney’s first Cincinnati gig since Riverfront Stadium in 1993. “Great to be back,” said Sir Paul two songs into the show, after stepping onto stage wearing a red blazer and his trademark left-handed Hofner bass guitar. Then, the band counted off “All My Loving.” A real-life Beatle performing bedrock 1963 British Invasion stuff: Those are things not often seen and heard in Cincinnati.
Most of the songs got by on their own merit, and a couple had help from arena-rock trappings. The intention of the performance of “Live and Let Die” seemed to be to reclaim the song from Guns ‘N Roses, with pyrotechnics going off onstage and fireworks behind it. But McCartney himself didn’t appear to be on board. When the song was over he got up from his baby grand piano, making a theatrical show of his fingers plugging his ears, as if it were all too much.
Simpler moments were the more powerful ones:
• McCartney showing the crowd a ukulele given to him by George Harrison and then playing it on “Something.”
• McCartney doing a solo performance of “Blackbird,” a song he said that he wrote in reaction to the turbulence taking place in the American south during the 1960s.
• “Here Today,” his 1982 song penned as an imagined conversation between him and the late John Lennon.
The last song was arguably the best, in terms of showcasing McCartney’s songwriting and unleashing the band. The sweeping “Golden Slumbers” medley featured a Ringo Starr-on-steroids solo by monster drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and the three-way Paul-George-John guitar solos duplicated by McCartney and guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray.
“We’ll see you next time,” he told the crowd before walking off. It was something that’s said in the wake of a three-hour triumph. Hopefully he meant it, and hopefully the wait isn’t 18 years long.
Last Updated: 08/05/11 08:42