Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pilgrimage to Macca

by Brendan Cavanagh

I can't say that this has been one of my most productive summers. For the most part I simply slave away the hours at Illini Country Club, shamelessly pleasuring golf pros and club-swinging members alike in the near-fruitless hope of making the occasional extra dollar in addition to keeping my go-to summer job. But my three months of labor literally paid off bi-monthly, and I earned enough to purchase a ticket to the second of two Paul McCartney shows at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Monday night, on August the 1st, my pal David and I made the three-hour voyage north to witness in person a musical legend, one-fourth of our beloved Beatles. In addition to seeing a surely enjoyable concert filled with numerous recognizable hits, we were utterly anxious to simply see Paul McCartney. How many people can say they have seen one of the legendary Beatles perform? The historical significance of our concert trip was enormous. We couldn't even find the appropriate words to speak to each other for the half-hour we waited patiently in our seats on the field of Wrigley, aside from the occasional, "Shit. Paul McCartney, dude."

Promptly and casually walking onstage at 8:30 p.m. (okay, the show was supposed to start at 8:00, but it's Paul McCartney, damn it), the object of David's and my summer infatuation sported a spiffy red blazer and wielded his iconic bass guitar. We got a surprisingly satisfactory pair of seats, literally a stone's throw from the stage. I mean, if there were any leftover baseballs just sitting on the field from one of the previous nights' Cardinals / Cubs game, I could have probably have thrown it and nailed Paul in the face, despite my spindly wrists and lack of athletic prowess.

After a couple songs, he ditched the blazer in favor of showcasing his black suspenders- "It's too hot!"

Having read that the night before at Wrigley Paul opened with Magical Mystery Tour's "Hello Goodbye," I was curious to see if he repeated the song for our show. However, my concert was immediately distinguished from the previous one when, to my surprise, the opening song was, rather fittingly, "Magical Mystery Tour." What a way to kick off a show: "Roll up- and that's an invitation!- roll up!"

Not my video.

From there, the concert only gained energy, as Paul enthusiastically plowed through a massive catalog of Beatles hits, showcasing the group's time-defying evolutionary style, as well as the best songs off Band On The Run, equally enjoyable, more contemporary recordings and two borrowed songs that paid tribute to the two deceased Beatles. Here's a copy of the setlist:

Our audience was blessed with the privilege of hearing a few songs not played the night before, ascribing this particular concert some sort of comforting, unique status. It felt good, as if Paul was personally guaranteeing that we would not simply be exposed to a mere replay of the previous concert.

When "A Day In The Life" transitioned seamlessly into John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance," the entire audience belted out the chorus as Paul took a break from lead vocals, subsequently joining the crowd in a single act of purely peaceful unification. Again, when the extended chorus arose during the show-closing "Hey Jude," the crowd rose to the occasion, and something about 42,000 people singing along to the same song with only good intentions made this a sort of musically spiritual communion. I felt so happy to be so happy, and I realized that this is just a small way of ensuring peace and good will in such a volatile world. I mean, we have all these lines of demarcation and numerous altercations all over the world, but as Paul told the crowd after playing "Back In the U.S.S.R.," even the defense minister of Russia listened to the Beatles- he learned English buy buying and listening to their records! It just goes to show what a unifying experience we find in music.

So the show ran for about three hours- that's including two encores (unprecedented in my concert experience)- and Paul never lost zest. He's nearly seventy years old, and yet he continues to belt out powerful songs through endless tours, playing shows double the length of most other artists or bands out there. And not only does he play all these songs, but he sprints from his piano to his guitar spot, and dances goofily and converses with the audience between songs. He's a powerhouse.

One of many highlights: a literally explosive rendition of "Live And Let Die"

My biggest hope for the show was that he would close the show with one of my favorite Beatles composition, the Golden Slumbers mini-medley ("Golden Slumbers" / "Carry That Weight" / "The End") from the tail end of Abbey Road, as he had done the night before. And if the show couldn't have gone better- as if I hadn't already decided that this was the best show I had ever seen or will have ever seen- he did it. He closed the second encore with the medley. You know that saying often appended to Facebook statuses or tweets by teenage girls who accomplish any simple feat- "omg just saw jobros in concert, my life is complete" or "my mom bought me tickets to the midnight show of twilight breaking dawn part one, my life is complete." Well, I felt like a sixteen year old girl who met Justin Bieber. My life felt complete. The exhilaration I felt after that show motivated and allowed me to make the three / four hour drive home that night. I feel sort of like the disillusioned generation that fought in World War I and didn't know what the hell to do after experiencing all that they had experienced in the war- I don't have the money to throw parties and drown myself in alcohol like they did in the Roaring 20s, but I'll probably just spend a lot of time lying wistfully on the couch now.


  1. I feel like I could at least pull off Bob Kelso...

  2. Because you're smart and he's a lawyer. I am sorry Nick. :(

  3. I'd go with a strong Doug for Brendan. Also, astonishing that I was able to rip main character honors away from Brian. I'm proud.

  4. I gauged that after the way we've acted around each other recently, we should be JD and Turk, and I didn't want to be that guy...

  5. plus hannah makes a better carla than my secret girlfriend that no one knows about.