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Paul McCartney hits it out of the park

Paul McCartney
Wrigley Field
Chicago, IL
July 31, 2011
Paul McCartney Paul McCartney Paul McCartney

Review by Tony Bonyata
Photos by Rob Grabowski

It's been six years since Paul McCartney has performed in Chicagoland and, surprisingly, 46 years since he last played in a Windy City baseball stadium (that was back in August 20, 1965 when he performed at Comiskey Park with his former band, The Beatles). But last night changed all that with the first of a two-night stint at the Chicago Cubs' home-park, Wrigley Field.

Aside from a bit of age, there wasn't a drastic change from Sir Paul's 2005 U.S. tour, which actually turned out to be a good thing. That tour, like his current 2011 "On The Run" Tour, found McCartney with his whip-crack band, featuring guitarists Rusty Anderson & Brian Ray, along with keyboardist Paul "Wix" Wickens and drummer extraordinaire Abe Laboriel Jr. (all fantastic vocalists and harmonizers in their own right), expertly balancing solo McCartney songs along side a wealth of Wings hits from the '70s, and, of course the main reason the "Friendly Confines" was bursting at the seams with adoring fans, a treasure trove of beloved songs from The Beatles' back catalogue.

While most of his rock & roll peers haven't aged too well over the decades [sorry, Keith], McCartney, at 69, on the other-hand looked absolutely remarkable - slender and clad in a smart blue blazer, black trousers, black suede boots (with Cuban heels similar to those worn by The Beatles early in their career) and, amazingly, his trademark brown 'moptop' still fully intact. While the facial close-ups on the two giant LED video screens flanking both sides of the stage may have revealed a few more encroaching lines in the face, McCartney's ever youthful and bubbly personality throughout this performance did more than cosmetics or plastic surgery ever could at keeping this music legend eternally young. Well, that and the fact that he sounded like he was at the top-of-his-game. In fact, his voice sounded as strong as ever, shifting from the lovely melodies of songs such as "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby" to throat-screaming rockers such as "Helter Skelter," "I've Got A Feeling" and, perhaps, the highlight of the entire evening, an absolutely moving version of his 1970 solo hit "Maybe I'm Amazed."

McCartney traded off between his signature Hofner bass (on numbers such as The Beatles' "Hello Goodbye," "All My Loving" and Wings' revved-up 1974 rocker "Junior's Farm"), acoustic guitar (The Beatles' "I've Just Seen A Face") and electric guitar ("Let 'Em In" and a tribute to his late-friend Jimi Hendrix on "Foxy Lady," with Paul unleashing a pretty damn impressive lead solo that surely would've tickled the late '60s guitar hero). He also took to the mandolin on his 2007 hit "Dance Tonight" and the ukulele for a stirring rendition of the late George Harrison's Beatles hit "Something" (McCartney would also pull at the heartstrings with his tribute to his other deceased friend and former Beatle, John Lennon, on McCartney's song "Here Today" from his 1982 Tug of War solo album). Later in the show Paul also tipped his hat to his late musical partner with a great version of the Lennon-McCartney gem "A Day In The Life" which then segued perfectly into Lennon's 1969 Plastic Ono Band single "Give Peace A Chance," which had the entire ballpark chanting along with in unison.

Shifting over to piano McCartney also delivered crowd pleasers such as "The Long & Winding Road," "Let It Be," the sing-along fan-favorite "Hey Jude" and an explosive version (literally) of Wings' "Live and Let Die" which featured an impressive, and impeccably timed display of pyrotechnics that would've left even the rock band KISS drooling in envy.

While there's no doubt that tickets to this event were pricey (to say the least, with field tickets costing $250 apiece), this music legend delivered in spades with a sprawling three-hour set featuring 39 songs, and two lengthy encores, the second aptly closing the show with a fantastic redention of The Beatles' "The End" from their own swan song album Abbey Road. "And in the end," McCartney sweetly sang," the love you take is equal to the love you make," which seemed to perfectly sum up the glowing affection that evening between both performer and audience.

Paul McCartney Setlist Sunday, July 31, 2011 Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
1. Hello Goodbye
2. Juniors Farm
3. All My Loving
4. Jet
5. Drive My Car
6. Sing The Changes
7. The Night Before
8. Let Me Roll It
9. Foxy Lady
10. Paperback Writer
11. The Long and Winding Road
12. 1985
13. Let 'Em In
14. Maybe I'm Amazed
15. I've Just Seen A Face
16. I Will
17. Blackbird
18. Here Today
19. Dance Tonight
20. Mrs. Vanderbilt
21. Eleanor Rigby
22. Something
23. Band On The Run
24. Ob La Di Ob La Da
25. Back In The USSR
26. I've Got A Feeling
27. A Day In The Life
28. Give Peace A Chance
29. Let It Be
30. Live and Let Die
31. Hey Jude

32. Lady Madonna
33. Daytripper
34. Get Back

Second Encore
35. Yesterday
36. Helter Skelter
37. Golden Slumbers
38. Carry That Weight
39. The End

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