Sir Paul McCartney rocks Wrigley Field. (Photo by Al Yellon)
The soundtrack of my youth arrived at my favorite place on Earth Sunday night.
In 1968 I was 12 and first truly discovered the Beatles and Paul McCartney when "Hey Jude" -- now a concert staple and singalong for Sir Paul -- was released. I immersed myself in Paul's music for much of the 1970's... at the same time as the Cubs were, for the first time in two decades, becoming a contending team and I was learning about the joys of baseball at Wrigley Field.
To be able to hear this music, which I loved then and still do, at Wrigley Field is a feeling nearly indescribable. I think you'd probably get the same reaction from any of the 40,000+ who were at Wrigley on a steamy Sunday night. Sir Paul himself paused several times during the show to "soak in the Wrigley atmosphere", as he put it, and doffed his jacket in the sticky conditions after only a couple of songs, rolling up his sleeves to cheers. I'd heard he specifically asked to play Wrigley during this tour, which is only playing a handful of major league ballparks (Yankee Stadium, Comerica Park, and after he leaves Chicago following tonight's second show, Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati). He may be 69 years old, but the youthful Macca smile, twinkling eyes, and even the high notes he hit are still there.
Most of the set list, which comprised 36 songs and ran for about two hours and 45 minutes, was old favorites, Beatles and Wings tunes, which obviously pleased the older-skewing crowd. It's odd to see a Wrigley sellout throng where most people are not wearing the colors or logos of a baseball team, but rock tour T-shirts and even many dressed up for an evening out. McCartney crowds tend to skew older and many may have been among those who first saw the Beatles play the USA in the mid-1960s.
Among the Beatles songs played, in addition to "Hey Jude", were "Hello Goodbye", "Paperback Writer", "Eleanor Rigby", "I'm Looking Through You", "Day Tripper", "Drive My Car", "Yesterday", "Something", and "Get Back". He also played a number of Wings-era favorites, including "Band On The Run" and the show-stopping "Live And Let Die"; that may be the first time fireworks have ever been shot off at Wrigley. The pyrotechnics of that song live are always a crowd favorite.
Meanwhile, Wrigley itself looked the same -- only different, with several thousand chairs on plastic covering the field (that the Cubs will have to play on only four days from now, and after another concert tonight). Fans sat on the tarp, which had been moved from its usual right field position to the left field bullpen; souvenir stands and bars (one with a large sign that said "BAR" above it perched in the bleachers) dotted the field, and the bleachers, behind the stage, were completely covered with black tarps. My seat, in left field where many Cubs left fielders have caught -- or dropped -- fly balls, gave a unique perspective to a place where I've spent literally thousands of hours over the past 40+ years.
So naturally, on this night when I wouldn't be watching the Cubs/Cardinals game at all, I learned from a quick check of my phone that the Cardinals' Jake Westbrook was no-hitting the Cubs through five innings -- on only 44 pitches. Figures, I thought -- this will finally be the night the Cubs get no-hit and I won't see it.
But Reed Johnson broke it up with a single and the Cubs took a 4-0 lead -- and then, just as on Saturday, nearly blew it when Lance Berkman hit a three-run homer off Ryan Dempster. Thanks -- again, to something I did not witness -- to a slick double play started by Kerry Wood in the eighth inning, and an insurance two-run homer by Alfonso Soriano (hmmm... homers in back-to-back games... maybe now someone would want him? Get him while he's hot!), the Cubs beat the Cardinals 6-3, ending a five-game losing streak.
That's good -- always nice to beat the Cardinals -- but it doesn't change the essential mission of this team, which should be to start completely retooling (note: not necessarily a complete rebuilding) away from the 2007-11 core so we can see a winner at Wrigley Field soon.
I surely did see one at Wrigley Field Sunday night. The place was never built for anything like a rock concert, but the sound quality of Paul McCartney's show was excellent throughout. At 69, Sir Paul can still rock with anyone -- he puts on a great show that left smiles on the faces of 40,000+ at Wrigley Field. For being able to experience that, I am grateful.
It's time for the Cubs to turn to building a baseball team that can give the same smiles and happiness to fans that have waited far too long for it. Start now, Cubs management. It's way past time.