Paul McCartney is a member of two very exclusive fraternities in the pantheon of rock and roll. He is one of few artists in the world who can sell out any venue, in any city, whenever he wants to, and he's part of an even smaller group that can play a lengthy show in which every song is a true, timeless, classic. McCartney showed the prowess that got him into both clubs with an amazing, sold out, attendance-record-breaking performance at Fenway Park on Tuesday night as part of his "Out There" tour.
For the last 50 years — with the Beatles, Wings, and his own solo work — McCartney has dazzled massive crowds all over the world, but where some artists might become complacent and allow their shows to become stale, McCartney continues to improve. Over the course of the 38-song set (think about that for a minute before you read on; the man played 38 songs in a row and they were all classics), McCartney played every song that a fan could imaginably request, spanning his entire catalogue, as well as a number that he had never played live before, including an awesome rendition of the Beatles' 1967 number one hit, "Lovely Rita."
McCartney exhibits a certain deftness when it comes to performing that can only be the result of five decades of experience. He switched between multiple 6-string and 12-string guitars, his signature bass, and two pianos over the course of the three hour performance. If there was one thing that this show wasn't, it was boring.
After starting out strong with "Eight Days A Week" and "Junior's Farm," McCartney took a long moment to enjoy his "day in the park" and take in the scene around him. What he saw was a ballpark that was filled to the gills. Fans were standing along the fence on top of the grandstand, on the right field roof deck, and the Coca-Cola pavilion. There was even a large group gathered on Yawkey Way who just wanted to hear some classics. I don't blame Sir Paul taking a minute; it was a truly impressive scene.
It's very difficult to weed out the highlights of a show where every song was fantastic, but a high point was early in the set, when Sir Paul played a hard-rocking, electrifying version of the Wings classic "Let Me Roll It" with a snippet of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" at the end. This was the first moment of the show in which the crowd was energized, and from that moment on Paul never lost them.
The night was filled with Beatles classics. "Paperback Writer" featured some unreal four-part harmonies from the band, and the psychedelic "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" was an unexpected highlight with its great light show and fantastic breakdowns. "Mr. Kite" definitely has improved with age, and it's a shame that the Beatles never played the song live, because it definitely has taken on a new character.
McCartney also brought out some great Wings songs. "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five," "Hi Hi Hi," and "Band On The Run" were all fantastic, as was "Maybe I'm Amazed." It was extremely difficult to pick out specific highlights from this show.
The main set wound down with a fiery performance of "Live and Let Die" that was literally fiery. An extensive fireworks show threw the crowd into a frenzy and had fans whipping out cellphones in an attempt to catch the great moment on video. Then, with possibly the best known Beatles song, "Hey Jude," which had all 40 thousand fans at the park belting out every word, but that was only the beginning.
The first encore featured "Day Tripper," "Hi Hi Hi," and "I Saw Her Standing There." The 2nd encore was when McCartney transitioned from awesome performer to living, breathing, rock god. After a solo performance of "Yesterday," Paul brought the band back out for the hardest-rocking moment of the night, a rendition of the 1968 classic "Helter Skelter" that brought the house down. The night ended with "Carry That Weight," straight into "The End."
What sets Paul McCartney apart from the droves of touring classic rock artists in music today is that he truly loves what he does. The stories he told, the passion that he performed with, and even his body language while he was on stage screamed that the man is thrilled with what he's doing. Even at 71, Paul definitely has his old chops, and he can play like nobody's business. The performance was that of a man who is looking back at his career and has a stellar sense of what his millions of fans want to hear. On the "Out There" tour he played just that. This was a spectacular musical experience and it's safe to say that Sir Paul's still got it.