Review: Paul McCartney transcends and defines time at marathon Petco Park concert
The veteran solo star and co-founder of The Beatles, who turned 77 on Tuesday, turned in a winning 38-song set Saturday night at Petco Park
Good day sunshine!
Paul McCartney didn’t perform that classic 1966 song from The Beatles’ “Revolver” album at his sold-out Saturday concert at Petco Park — although he did include two other “Revolver” gems, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Got To Get You Into My Life.” (The full set list appears below.)
But the larger-than-life rock legend seemed to bring a welcome change in the weather, with the clouds that have shrouded San Diego for much of June (and nearly all of Friday) clearing Saturday afternoon. At 77-going-on-just-17, the veteran solo star and co-founder of The Beatles proved to be a warm and illuminating force of nature for the more than 42,000 adoring fans in attendance.
He also seemed to almost simultaneously transcend and exemplify the passing of time at his first area performance since his 2014 Petco Park show, which was also sold-out and marked his first public appearance here since 1976.
“Good evening, San Diego,” McCartney said, after opening the concert with the rollicking “A Hard Day’s Night” and the rock-a-boogie chestnut “Junior’s Farm.”
“I’ve got a feeling we’re going to have a little bit of fun tonight. We’ve got some old songs, some new songs and some in-between songs. This (next) is definitely not a new song.”
With that, McCartney ripped into the 1964 Beatles’ hit “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which and his ace band delivered with enough rousing aplomb to almost suggest the song could have been written yesterday, not 55 years ago.
It’s a testament to how deep McCartney’s repertoire is — as a solo artist, with The Beatles and with his post-Beatles band, Wings — that no fewer than 19 of the songs he performed Saturday were different than at his 2014 Petco Park show.
Never mind the fact that, for most artists, 19 songs constitute an entire concert. Never mind that McCartney is older than all but two of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices. And never mind that he sang and played bass for nine songs that lasted nearly 40 minutes before sitting down at the piano for the first time Saturday.
“I saw The Beatles’ San Diego concert at Balboa Stadium in 1965 and they were only on stage for 35 minutes!” said Cathy Worthington, who noted that her daughter attended McCartney’s 2009 Coachella performance.
The first three songs Saturday, “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Junior’s Farm” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” were all delivered with impressive vigor. So were the next six, two of which — “Who Cares” and the frisky “Come On To Me” — are from his chart-topping 2018 album, “Egypt Station.”
Prior to playing another song from that album, “Fuh You,” which was his 24th number of the night, McCartney shared some perspective with the wildly cheering crowd.
“We know what you like. We can tell,” he said.
“If we do an old Beatles’ song, the whole place lights up with your phones. It’s like a galaxy of stars. Then, if we play a new one, it looks like a black hole. We don’t care — we’re going to play them anyhow!” (The audience took the bait and Petco Park was illuminated by thousands of phones during “Fuh You.”)
To McCartney’s credit, the new songs were all rock-solid. Alas, the same cannot be said of the sound system, which was marred by a slap-back echo that bounced around much of Petco Park. The echo was evident even — and especially —during his spoken introduction of some songs.
This was both a shame and curious, since the echo seemed much less pronounced at his 2014 show at the same venue, which featured the same four-man band (who are being augmented on this tour by a punchy, three-piece brass section). Of course, stadiums are not designed with live music performances in mind, but for an artist of McCartney’s high standards, it would appear some sonic tweaks are in order.
Saturday’s concert featured 38 songs over the course of 2 hours and 46 minutes. By comparison, McCartney’s 2014 Petco gig lasted 3 hours and featured 41 songs.
He was 72 then. He’s 77 now and as slim as ever, if not quite as boyish, as his more visibly gray head of hair attested. Likewise, McCartney’s voice is thinner, he has to work harder to hit certain notes and he sang in a lower register on some of his selections.
But, really, so what?
Playing 38 songs, with no intermission and with consistent verve and emotional commitment, is something virtually no other currently active veteran rock star not named Bruce Springsteen would attempt. And The Boss, let’s remember, is still a comparative young pup at just 69.
Moreover, hearing McCartney’s voice strain periodically brought a greater sense of pathos to such tender ballads as the civil rights movement-inspired “Blackbird,” which he performed as a solo acoustic number on a mini-stage that rose 15 or so feet in the air.
That he sounded as weathered as the song only added to its enduring appeal and timeless message of compassion and endurance in the face of adversity.
Tellingly, when he and three of his band mates paraded on stage with four flags held aloft prior to the encores — just as they did at their 2014 Petco Park concert — an update had been instituted. Three of the flags were the same: the Stars and Stripes, Union Jack and the state flag of California. But the fourth, a skull and crossbones pirate flag in 2014, was replaced Saturday by a rainbow flag representing the LGBTQ community.
Whether playing bass, lead guitar, grand piano or upright piano (as he did on the Fats Domino-inspired “Lady Madonna”), McCartney sounded fully engaged. He may know most of these songs in his sleep, but there was nothing routine about his performance of them. And, like a veteran athlete, he knows how to pace himself to build momentum over an extended period.
Between some songs, including “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and his loving version of George Harrison’s “Something,” McCartney shared the same anecdotes about them that he did at his 2014 Petco Park concert. Happily, he embellished those anecdotes, adding a new detail here or an added aside there to bring them alive anew.
For good measure, McCartney successfully balanced his Hoffner electric bass guitar, upside down in the palm of his hand, at the conclusion of his third encore, the lacerating “Helter Skelter.” That ferocious 1968 cut by The Beatles rocked with more intensity, incidentally, than any song performed a week earlier at the Petco Park show by Foo Fighters, a much younger band whose admiration for the Fab Four is a matter of record.
Good day sunshine, indeed.
Paul McCartney Petco Park set list, June 22, 2019
1. A Hard Day’s Night
2. Junior’s Farm
3. Can’t Buy Me Love
4. Letting Go
5. Who Cares
6. Got to Get You Into My Life
7. Come On to Me
8. Let Me Roll It
9. I’ve Got a Feeling
10. Let ‘Em In
11. My Valentine
12. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
13. Maybe I’m Amazed
14. I’ve Just Seen A Face
15. In Spite of All the Danger
16. From Me to You
17. Dance Tonight
18. Love Me Do
20. Here Today
21. Queenie Eye
22. Lady Madonna
23. Eleanor Rigby
24. Fuh You
25. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
27. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
28. Band on the Run
29. Back in the U.S.S.R.
30. Let It Be
31. Live and Let Die
32. Hey Jude
34. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
35. Helter Skelter
36. Golden Slumbers
37. Carry That Weight
38. The End
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