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Playing the soundtrack of our lives

Paul McCartney
Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, TN
July 25, 2010
Paul McCartney Paul McCartney

Story and photos by Kate Seesholtz

It had been 36 years since Paul McCartney had been to Nashville. Though he had vacationed in music city with his family in 1974, he had never once played a show there. That all changed Monday night as the legendary British singer took to the stage in front of a sold out crowd at the Bridgestone Arena. Opening with "Venus and Mars Rockshow," McCartney took a moment to step back and take in his surroundings. It was easy to see he was thrilled to be playing for the city that is still reeling from recent devastating floods.

McCartney was as charming as one could hope for. Though the glory days of The Beatles are long gone, and McCartney's fans may no longer be fainting when he takes the stage, it was clear the crowd was just as thrilled to be seeing him now, as they would have been forty years ago. Homemade signs adorned the crowd, declaring everything from love for McCartney's birthplace of Liverpool, England to requests for signings and hugs. Sir Paul McCartney made a point to reach out to the crowd every chance he got, reading signs and making eye contact with as many people as he could. He joked about many of the signs and remarked that in shows past he had seen everything from "please sign my butt" ("tempting," he joked), to a plea to trade a male fan's girlfriend for a guitar pick.

The high energy show got a late start due to tornados in the area, but McCartney made up for it, playing over three hours of Beatles, Wings, and solo hits. There was a song for every step of his musical career. Fans of his Wings era were treated to renditions of "1985" and "Band on the Run," among others. Though, it was the Beatles fans in the audience that truly were treated to something special.

McCartney played through a plethora of The Beatles hits, spanning every part of their celebrated career. He shared stories about the songs, whether it was why he wrote them or a specific memory from playing them. As he prepared to play the solemn "Blackbird," he explained that when he heard of the civil rights movement happening in the south, he wanted to pen a song that would give hope and convey the emotions he was feeling. After "Blackbird," McCartney took a moment to remember his fallen friend and band mate, John Lennon. As he began into "Here Today," he remarked that he wanted the song to be what he imagined a conversation with Lennon might have been like after his death. The touching moment enraptured the crowd. It was easy to see that McCartney thinks back often on his time spent with the Beatles, and the friendships formed within the group.

Sir Paul McCartney also paid tribute to Beatles member George Harrison, who passed in 2001. Donning a ukulele (an instrument Harrison excelled at), McCartney played Harrison's song "Something." Unfortunately, the ukulele diminished the passion behind the song. Luckily, McCartney handed it off halfway through the ballad and launched full force into the song with his band, as photos of Harrison and him flashed behind on the screen.

The crowd became more involved as the night progressed. Fans danced in the aisles and sang along loudly as McCartney and his band led them in the Beatles' hit "Ob-La- Di, Ob-La-Da." Though it seemed one fan was not content to just sing from his seat. A young boy proudly held up a sign in the front row expressing his desire to play a song with McCartney. The sign caught McCartney's eye, and he invited the boy onstage to sing back up on "Get Back." Though, that was not the only fan lucky enough to make it on stage with the knighted singer. A 20-something year old female proudly displayed a sign that she had the musician's famous Hofner guitar tattooed down her back, and wished the singer to sign it. He graciously agreed and brought the trembling girl on stage. After he added his signature to her back, the girl told the crowd she was going to get it tattooed over after the show.

As the night came to a close McCartney treated the audience to Beatles' classics, including "Hey Jude" and "Let it Be." Hands all over the auditorium swayed back and forth as the crowd sang John Lennon's famous "Give Peace a Chance." It was a moment that united the audience and made the huge arena seem like a small club. As the singer and band returned for a double encore, he waved a Tennessee state flag, while another band member waved the British flag. As the crowd cheered, McCartney leapt into "Day Tripper." The encore continued with "Yesterday," the most covered song in history. Though, hearing it sang by its original author, it felt as if it were being played for the first time.

The evening eventually came to a close with shots of unexpected pyrotechnics and fireworks during "Helter Skelter" and bursts of confetti on the appropriate "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." The three hour long concert seemed to fly by. Though McCartney is now almost 70, he played with as much energy and fervor as he did in his days with The Beatles. As the crowd dispersed from the arena one fan summed up the evening best when she remarked that "it was like he was playing the soundtrack of my life."

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Paul McCartney
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