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Concert Review: Paul McCartney

On the night that the Astros made the World Series for the first time in their 44-year history, I took in the sold-out, 20,000-plus-attended, McCartney concert at the United Center.

Sitting behind me were a couple of women who were discussing seeing him at "White Sox Park" (to keep this marginally on-topic), as they called it; that would have been August 20, 1965, more than forty years ago.

It's a sobering thought to think that McCartney, the second-youngest of the Beatles, was an international star then at the age of 23.

Now 63 (there was a sign in the crowd last night reading "Welcome To Chicago -- Once More Before You're 64", referring, of course, to the Beatles track "When I'm Sixty-Four"), McCartney rocks just as hard as ever.

You wouldn't believe that if you read either Chicago newspaper review today; both Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot basically said that Macca was resting on his laurels and that the show was somewhat mechanical.

I didn't find it that way, though I could have done without the oddly-dressed DJ-type guy who was playing remixes of old Beatles and McCartney songs before the red-and-gold curtain was raised, and the video montage/history of Paul's career was rather dull and ordinary as well.

But once the music started, it didn't stop for two hours and forty-five minutes, and he played several new songs ("Fine Line", from his new release, was the best of them), as well as many, many old favorites.

How else can anyone who's been playing music as long as Paul McCartney do it? Since it's true that most of the music that made McCartney popular is thirty to forty years old, that's the music that people want to hear -- and the crowd was mostly people my age and even older, although there were plenty of kids and teenagers too, since his music really does transcend the generations.

His touring band was the same band that toured with him in 2002, last time he played the UC, and they were just as good this time. As both newspaper reviews said, though, McCartney was at his best when the band wasn't even there; solo acoustic guitar work on "Blackbird" and "Yesterday" and another new song, "Jenny Wren", were among the highlights of the show. Paul pointed out proudly that one of the acoustic guitars was the very same one he used on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, the one I remember watching with my then-horrified parents and grandparents, who didn't grasp the grasp that these "long-haired" kids from England (check out the haircuts and see how laughable the "long-hair" claim was!) were about to have on this country, and the world.

Maybe the reviewers are holding McCartney up to impossible standards because of all this history. I enjoyed the show just as much as the 2002 show, and many, many of the songs spoke to me, brought me back to earlier, happy times in my life, and what's so wrong with that?

Something I mentioned in connection with the U2 show I saw last Friday came out yet again with this show. Of course, McCartney said how much he loves Chicago, called it the "Windy City" -- though lead guitarist Rusty Anderson embarrassed himself by saying he had been out shopping on "Michigan Street."

Had a smart person in McCartney's PR entourage mentioned the White Sox to him, I'd bet Paul would have made an on-stage mention of them, and that might have revved up the crowd. But it didn't happen.

That's a quibble -- I loved the show, and I hope Paul comes back next year for a "When I'm Sixty-Four" tour.

AYRating: *** 1/2

One last note on the now-set World Series matchup: just as in 2002 when the choices were the never-winning Angels and the not-since-1954 Giants, you now have the never-winning Astros and the not-since-1917 White Sox. This is a much more evenly matched series than White Sox/Cardinals would have been. Houston's pitching matches up well with the White Sox offense; the Sox are the hotter team (having won 12 of their last 13), but have had a week off. Houston has an excellent DH candidate in Jeff Bagwell.

I look forward to a good Series. I'll be there Saturday and Sunday.