This is a guest article by John Cherry, author-“Better Than Lennon-The Music and Talent of Paul McCartney and “Paul McCartney’s Solo Music Career 1970-2010”  Visit betterthanlennon.com for special offers

As I headed to Wrigley Field for the second of two nights of seeing Paul McCartney in concert, I knew that I would be sitting much further from the stage, and I expected to see the same show as “the night before.” I was right on the first thought, and wrong on the second.

Yes, I was in the upper deck, but on the front row, and when I walked in my seating area before the show, it was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement and electricity of the people around me. First, however, there was a near tragedy soon after I arrived, when someone fell walking down the steps toward the railing of the deck. Their initial fall cascaded into others on the steps, and one lady had to be caught as she lost her balance and headed toward a fall off the deck. Everyone in the area breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Before I got to my seating area, I viewed the scene behind the left field wall of the stadium, in this case, meaning along the side of Waveland Avenue. Apparently, friends and family connected to the firehouse located in that area had gotten lounge chairs set up to listen to the concert. That was in addition to the again popular rooftop seating in left and right field, all of which was behind the stage.

Before the show began, a plane flew right over the stadium several times, flying a banner advertising Beatlefest in Chicago, which was running from August 5-7. The long-running event is headed by Mark Lapidos and family, and always has excellent guests and Beatle related material on hand. The strange part about this was I thought that planes were not allowed in the airspace over stadiums or large gatherings, due to terrorist concerns. While a few other planes got near the area, the plane with the Beatlefest banner seemed to fly the closest to the crowd.

The pre-show was somewhat similar to the previous night, although I had fun guessing who was singing the McCartney or Beatle song that was played prior to the concert. It became a competition with Pam, the lady sitting beside me, who was seeing Paul in concert for the eighth time in her life.

Paul led the band on the stage about the same time as Sunday night (8:30), but this time he was wearing a red jacket. (I preferred the blue one, being a fan of the University of North Carolina). My expectation of seeing the identical show from the previous night was shattered immediately, as Paul kicked off the show with “Magical Mystery Tour,“ rather than “Hello Goodbye.” The change must have been a challenge for Paul, as he visibly searched the neck of his bass for the proper note on several occasions. With Brian Ray picking up the lead guitar solos, “Juniors Farm” was again the second song of the show, and that pattern continued with “All My Loving.” Paul welcomed the crowd to a “nice summer evening” in Wrigley, before juicing the crowd with “Jet.”

The second surprise of the night came with the always popular “Got to Get You into My Life,” which replaced “Drive My Car.” Paul’s song to note President Obama’s election, “Sing the Changes,” seemed to have an altered arrangement from the previous night. Like my favorite “My Brave Face,” it is difficult to do the song justice in a concert. A nice addition to the live show from this tour, “The Night Before,” followed next, and then “Let Me Roll It” had the ending coda of a guitar portion of the Jimi Hendrix song, “Foxy Lady.” After completing it, Paul spoke about hearing Hendrix open with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club’s Band” in a show that came only two days after the release of the Sgt. Peppers album. Paul called Jimi “a lovely guy” and said the discovery of his music happened in England. He also added that The Beatles were invited to play in the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, but declined, and Paul suggested that Hendrix should be invited to play, which gave Jimi some significant publicity.

After “Paperback Writer,” Paul moved to the piano for “The Long and Winding Road, which received a strong audience response. The previous night, I looked back several times to the upper deck, and it seemed that the fans sitting there were more excited about the show than the people in the closer seats on the outfield. This was also the case this night. Also receiving strong applause, partly because I think the crowd agrees with me that it is such a formidable song, was “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.” For the second night in a row, “Let ‘Em In” was a bit of a letdown after the previous song, but Paul seems to have fun doing it as he and Abe exchange glances and smiles during the song. The crowd is then lifted up with another strong performance of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Paul continues to “amaze” me with his ability to sing this song that combines screaming and singing (some call it “vamping”), especially on back to back nights.

Back to the guitar, there is again a change in the song lineup with “I’m Looking Through You” replacing “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” A lovely “And I Love Her” from the movie “A Hard Day’s Night,” follows, another song that could have been a hit single from The Beatles when it was released. After the song, Paul talks about all of the signs in the crowd, and how they are distracting when he is performing. He concludes that if a mistake is made that he will “blame the signs.” On Sunday night, Paul talked about how he and George had played around on guitar with a piece by J.S. Bach that ultimately became the music behind the next song “Blackbird.” He skips this information on Monday, but the song is again a huge hit with the crowd.

On what might be called the emotional roller coaster portion of the show, “Blackbird” is again followed by Paul’s tribute to John in “Here Today,” which is performed by just him and Wix. Spirits are lifted again with “Dance Tonight” and Abe doing his comical dance routine behind the drum set. The excitement continues with the fifth song of the night from the “Band of the Run” album in Mrs. Vandebilt, as the crowd again joins in on the “ho-hey-ho” portion later in the song.

“Eleanor Rigby” is another popular crowd song. A teenager named Tony that is sitting behind me has begun to run out of superlatives at this point to describe his opinion of the show after a number of “unreals, amazing, and this guy has such a wide range of songs.” I tell him he is wise for his age, as he is probably attending the best show of his life….unless he sees Paul again.

While the crowd is sobered a bit by Paul’s introduction of the gift ukulele from George Harrison, they come alive promptly as the song moves from just the ukulele to the full band version, quickly becoming a sing along from the crowd. About this time, there is a malfunction in the bright lights around the stage, which Paul notes, and says the show will just continue “in the dark.” The problem is present periodically for several songs, but is not a huge distraction. In fact, the next three songs, “Band on the Run, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, ” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” bring huge crowd reactions, to the point where I feel the upper deck swaying a bit with so many people in the deck standing, cheering, and dancing.

Paul again adds an extended portion to “I’ve Got a Feeling,” while Rusty Anderson climbs up the stage to play besides Wix for a portion of the song. In the second tribute to John, “A Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance,” the crowd near the stage comes to its feet and joins Paul for most of “Peace.”

Huge applause once again greets “Let it Be,” and there is an interesting moment when a bright light shines behind Paul just as he sings “a light that shines on me.” If it was planned, it was a nice touch. While it is not my favorite song, I have to admit the next song, “Live & Let Die” does excite the crowd. From the different vantage point this night, the fireworks that explode beyond the stage are even more spectacular than those on Sunday.

Climbing out of the smoke, Paul comically gestures that the song was too loud for his ears, before he settles down at the psychedelic painted piano for “Hey Jude.” After completing his portion of using the tambourine for the song, Chris Ray tosses it into the crowd. There is a long standing ovation after the song, as the band leaves the stage.

Returning to the stage, Paul is carrying and waving a large U.S. flag, while Wix does the same with a British flag. “Lady Madonna” opens the first encore, with the video screen flashing pictures of many notable women, including one late in the song of the future Mrs. McCartney, a smiling Nancy Shevell. The upper deck is again swaying after the song.

Revving up the crowd again, there is another surprise with “Birthday,” (replacing “Get Back”) with the upper deck full of dancing. The first encore is completed with “I Saw Her Standing There,” as the crowd seemingly has as much energy as the band they are watching, or just “child-like wonder.”

There seems to be a longer break for the second encore this night, but the crowd continues cheering until it Paul with “Yesterday.” While not what you consider a sing along song, the crowd cannot help themselves on the tune that has the most recorded versions in history. Appropriately accenting the various moods from the night, the slow ballad is followed by the song with many roller coasters cascading behind it in “Helter Skelter.” Paul asks the crowd if they want to stay all night (they said YES!), before ending the show with “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/The End.” Paul thanks everyone for coming, and, most importantly, says “see you next time.” Of course, I believe him, surely hoping it is not the last time I see him in concert.

On the train ride back to my hotel, I constantly hear the words “amazing” and “unbelievable,” plus “how does he perform so well for so long?” Sharing similar thoughts with the lady sitting beside me, I miss my station destination on the train, and end up with a longer walk to the hotel. To be honest, I was walking on air, so I did not care. My thanks to my friend, Ryan, for getting me the tickets. Two great shows; I look forward to “next time.”

On my website, you can find a list of songs that I hope Paul will do in future tours, maybe lumping them together in a “Bring Them Back, Bring Them Out Tour.” If you have additional suggestions, I hope you will me let me know about them.

Lastly, if you live in Chicago, or will be visiting there, I suggest that you try to see The Pondhawks, who play in the area. Great new music, influenced by the guy that I saw in concert for two nights, but also with their own, excellent style and variety of songs.

John Cherry is an author. He is probably best known for his two books analyzing the musical career of ex-Beatles member Paul McCartney. Check out Better Than Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Solo Music Career.  

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