McCartney Carries That Weight

“By the way, who is this Derek Jeter guy?” asked Sir Paul McCartney of the full crowd at Yankee Stadium on July 15, four songs deep into the opening night of his Summer 2011 On the Run tour. “Somebody said he has more hits than me.”

Hmm, not bloody likely.

Macca and his tight five-piece band delivered over 2-and-a-half hours of harmonic, melodic bliss, admirably clear and true given the audio challenges inherent to the stadium setting. Whether it was ingrained-in-our-DNA Beatles cuts (“Drive My Car,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Get Back”) or more recent solo tracks (“Sing the Changes,” his Fireman collab with Youth), I don’t think I curbed my own singing once during the entire 35-song evening.

The capacity crowd feted the forever fab headliner with the repetitive, four-syllable sports-crowd-style sing-and-clap serenade of his name, at one point causing Sir Paul to turn, cock an ear and an eyebrow, and fist-pump his appreciation.

This was my third time seeing Sir Paul. The first was July 11, 1990 at Giants Stadium (from the floor section for a mere $32.50!), the second was at Madison Square Garden for the Driving US Tour on April 27, 2002. Paul was clearly enjoying himself at Yankee Stadium – his first time playing the venue, almost 2 years to the day after 2 dates at the other-borough Citi Field – effortlessly shifting from his historic Beatles Hofner bass to blistering lead guitar (including a tear through Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” as the coda to what may very well be my favorite Macca solo track, “Let Me Roll It”), acoustic (breathtaking one-two strums on “I Will” and “Blackbird”), mandolin (“Dance Tonight”), ukulele (his reworking of George Harrison’s “Something”), and piano (a black Yamaha grand for “Maybe I’m Amazed”). (Probably would’ve been too much to ask to see him get behind the drum kit and rattle off “Spies Like Us”...)

Paul’s playful chatter between most songs (including the recounting of a Russian official telling him he “learnt English” from listening to the Beatles) belied his buoyant mood throughout the night. He claimed this was literally the first time he’d ever played the Beatles’ call-and-response classic “The Night Before” live, and it sounded as fresh as it did on 1964’s Help! A bit of a visual treat for us A/Vophiles came late in the set as the massive computer-screen backdrop for a ball-busting “I’ve Got a Feeling” sported an array of thumping red-haloed speakers, about 70 in all by my count.

And, in the end... there’s nothing quite like hearing a catalog as deep as Paul’s played live, played hard, and played fabulously. At age 69, Paul McCartney shows no signs of settling for a retirement plan anytime soon. Yeah, yeah, yeah.