Milwaukee, Wisconsin: After all these years, you’d think that Paul McCartney would find it difficult to surprise audiences anymore. Yet with each tour, he dusts off more Beatles and solo material and breathes new life into them.
His July 16, 2013 show at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was no exception. McCartney delighted audiences with a mixture of beloved chestnuts and tracks performed live for the first time on his current Out There tour.
Despite the night’s extreme humidity, McCartney proved indefatigable, tearing through almost three hours of music. The 43,000-44,000 strong crowd set a Miller Park record for the biggest attendance at a non-sporting event. Not surprisingly, the large audience sang along enthusiastically to Beatles classics such as “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” and “Yesterday” (the crowd practically drowned out McCartney’s voice on the latter).
No matter how many times McCartney has performed these songs, he crooned the lyrics earnestly and passionately.
Longtime fans were treated to several songs he has never included on set lists before this tour. Pictures of famous mothers throughout history adorned the huge screen at the back of the stage while he performed a pitch-perfect “Your Mother Should Know.” McCartney treated Sgt. Pepper fanatics to a rocking rendition of “Lovely Rita,” and was brave enough to tackle the fantastical “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” Hardcore Beatles fans may have initially been skeptical of this inclusion, as it is classified as a predominantly “John Lennon song.”
While McCartney could not surpass Lennon’s original dreamlike vocals, he carefully considered the words while longtime keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens nicely duplicated the swirling effects of the original track.
A pleasant surprise was “All Together Now,” a Yellow Submarine singalong that McCartney resurrected for this tour. Charming computer-animated creatures bounced around on the backing screen as McCartney and band brought the audience back to their childhoods.
Wings aficionados were not neglected, as McCartney included songs for them. As he launched into the Band on the Run rocker “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” he called out “This is for the Wings fans!” He repeatedly returned to that iconic album, belting out “Ms. Vandebilt” and “Let Me Roll It” along with the title track.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Drummer Denny Seiwell on Wings and other things, quipping: ‘Play with one Beatle, and it really f*cks up your jazz career.’]
Amazingly his voice has changed little in forty years, as he reached the same high and low notes, growled with the same emotion, and sent chills down the spine when yelling “I want to tell you, and now’s the time; I want to tell you, that you’re going to be mine!” Other gems included the galloping track “Another Day” and the rollicking “Junior’s Farm.”
Unlike past tours, Out There clearly considers both hardcore and casual fans. While McCartney gamely delivered “Live and Let Die” (complete with fireworks), he added extended solos to “Let Me Roll It,” “Blackbird,” “Paperback Writer,” and a funky bassline to “Hey Jude.” He also communicated a not-so-subtle message during “Back in the USSR”; at one point, the words “Free Pussy Riot” flashed on the backing screen.
Despite the heat, McCartney returned for two encore sets: the first began with “Day Tripper,” which contains one of the best guitar riffs of all time. He dusted off the previously BBC-banned Wings single “Hi, Hi, Hi,” a fun party track that was originally accused of including sex and drug references. Today, the song has lost its original racy meaning and now stands as straightforward rock. “Get Back” rounded out this initial set; per audience demand, he returned with a tender rendition of “Yesterday,” a fiery “Helter Skelter,” and a thundering rendition of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” to conclude the evening.
His four-piece band has gelled since their days working on McCartney’s 2002 Driving World Tour. Drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. is a particular standout, able to pound on the drums one moment, use soft brushes the next, and sing smooth harmonies on tracks such as “Eleanor Rigby.” This unit pushes McCartney to rock harder than any previous bands I have seen accompany his tours, injecting new life into already familiar songs.
Perhaps the most poignant moment occurred during McCartney’s rendering of the delicate “Here Today.” Written as an imagined conversation with Lennon, the track first surfaced on 1982’s Tug of War album as a tribute to his fallen friend. Unjustly buried as an “album track” for almost 20 years, he finally revived the song for his 2002 tour. On this balmy Milwaukee summer night, McCartney stood alone on a platform, acoustic guitar in hand, and brought the stadium to a standstill as he softly crooned the words. His voice occasionally cracked with apparent emotion while singing “And I am holding back the tears no more no, no more; I love you.”
Before and after the number, he instructed the audience to “always tell people you love them before it’s too late.” Knowing his life story, McCartney obviously spoke from experience.
McCartney’s concerts are predictable in some ways, as he will always perform certain tracks, tell the same stories, and implement the same formula, such as having the acoustic section occur in the middle of the show. But he also changes certain elements to satisfy and surprise longtime supporters. While these additions certainly attract fans, it’s seeing the 71-year-old music legend enthusiastically play these songs like a man over half his age that keeps audiences coming.
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Setlist for Paul McCartney, July 16, 2013 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
Eight Days a Week
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It / Foxey Lady
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face
We Can Work It Out
And I Love Her
Your Mother Should Know
All Together Now
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let it Be
Live and Let Die
Hi, Hi, Hi
Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End
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