And now the bittersweet task of wrapping up this U.S. run, as the third and final (for now) installment of Penned On The Run 2022 brings us to the Northeast, beginning with…
The Syracuse GOT BACK experience in a word?
Syracuse went straight to 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 from the get go. Exhibit A: the mob of superfans gathered early at the backstage barricade of the JMA Wireless Dome as a de facto welcoming committee for Paul’s return to the Salt City with a cappella choruses of ‘Hey Jude’, erupting into full-on Beatles Scream-ing at first glance of Paul’s approaching motorcade — the racket this lot kicked up at 3:30-ish certainly foreshadowed an extra-energetic crowd come showtime.
And if anything, the roar that greeted Paul as he walked on stage for the second time ever at the newly rechristened JMA Dome — formerly known (until very recently) as the Carrier Dome and informally known (very appropriately) as the Loud House — exceeded expectations. One would think a reaction this frenzied was celebrating the end of the decades-long wait that led up to Paul’s 2017 concert at the largest domed stadium in the Northeastern U.S. (and of any college campus). But no, it would seem Paul’s visit to Syracuse five years prior had quite the opposite effect, stoking the flames of demand for a next dose of Macca magic. And the fire pun is intentional: the 2017 One On One tour appearance that inspired the Syracuse.com headline "Paul McCartney blazes through lifetime of music, sets Carrier Dome on fire” featured a version of ‘Live And Let Die’ that ended with a few steel beams illuminated by actual flames — the errant embers snuffed out by vigilant crew members well before ‘Hey Jude’ had shifted into full glorious singalong mode.
Speaking of singalongs… The tailgaters passed that baton to those witnessing a soundcheck featuring ‘Jet’, ‘Women and Wives’ and ‘Ram On’ (to name but a few), maintaining and elevating the intensity levels throughout the late afternoon / early evening—until those levels virtually exploded off the meters with the opening notes of the main event. The capacity crowd filling the Dome lived up to the promise of those earlier contingents, starting out on a loud and proud note from a frenetic opening ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and not letting up for a fraction of a second — or of a decibel for that matter — until the closing strains of ‘The End’.
For some three dozen or so numbers that kept those 35,000 or so voices raised in love and song, Paul treated his only upstate New York audience of the GOT BACK jaunt to a lifetime of memories both relived and newly formed — yet another once in a lifetime tour de force marathon trek through music’s most beloved songbook. The uniformly ecstatic crowd reaction was somehow never disrespectful, with the story of that 1958 Quarrymen session that resulted in ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ or the ukulele intro to the George Harrison tribute ‘Something’, to cite two examples, receiving reverent attention—no mean feat from a crowd that could barely contain itself during an ebullient ‘Dance Tonight’ (were they celebrating Memory Almost Full’s 15th birthday? Maybe…), gave up a boisterous reaction to ‘Band On The Run’ that Paul answered with a heartfelt “Thank you, Syracuseans!" The Loud House then became the light house, it’s vast interior illuminated by tens of thousands of phones for ‘Let It Be’, which led seamlessly into an intensified ‘Live And Let Die’—which somehow managed not to set any scaffolding aflame this time—before the main set came to a close with an epic ‘Hey Jude’ singalong during which Syracuse Orange basketball coach Jim Boeheim and his wife Juli were spotted representing both the fellas and the ladies choruses.
All in all, it was another unforgettable GOT BACK evening, one that moved Syracuse.com to theorize that "Paul McCartney is either lying about his age, or he discovered the fountain of youth at some point.”
Once again, Paul did it Fenway…
But seriously folks, as anyone who’s attended one of Paul’s previous plays at the fabled Fenway Park can tell you, there’s a unique spell that’s cast only by the unique combination of Paul’s music played live on the grounds of Boston’s Cathedral of Baseball. Over the course of those legendary nights—2009’s debut two-night stand or 2013 and 2016’s return visits—there have been too many highlights to count, with guest appearances ranging from The Dead's Bob Weir on ‘Hi Hi Hi’ to an utterly unexpected Rob Gronkowski on ‘Helter Skelter’… the one constant being that mythical blend of McCartney Green Monster Magic.
Boston proved more than ready, willing and able to get back with Paul. From the crowds gathering early along the length of Lansdowne Street hoping to catch a glimpse of Paul’s arrival as he arrived through Fenway’s Gate C to the mass of fans in the stands who united to transform into a human billboard spanning the length of the field and spelling out “WE LOVE YOU PAUL,” Paul’s fifth and sixth Fenway gigs would prove every bit as extraordinary as his four prior ones — or as some who were there might argue, even more so.
"McCartney gets an absurd amount of respect,” night one had the Boston Herald proclaiming — and adding, "He might deserve a bit more.” Having borne witness to the sheer surplus of love and respect that emanated from both sold out Fenways, it’s hard to see how that would even be possible. Night one’s hordes came to Rock with a capital R, greeting the indelible riffs of ‘Let Me Roll It’, ‘Junior’s Farm’ and ‘Get Back’ with howls upon howls of approval. And those enthusiastic bursts of joy were by no means reserved for the barnstormers and guitar anthems of the McCartney canon—'Maybe I’m Amazed’ was audibly and visually uplifting and drew more than a few happy tears, ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!’ took Fenway on a laser guided trip, ‘Fuh You’ was singled out by both the Boston Globe and Herald (the latter likening the 2018 Egypt Station standout to "a 2020 Harry Styles smash,” clarifying "this is meant as a compliment")—and during ‘Hey Jude’, there was even a reported sighting of John Kerry attempting to capture the moment on his phone.
All of which built a juggernaut of momentum and anticipation leading into night two of Paul’s 2022 Fenway series — and to say that night two did not disappoint is an understatement to end all understatements. In yet another near-three-hour tour de force — one that Glide magazine declared “a timeless hit parade” during which Boston’s "Kenmore Square was more alive than any Red Sox homestead” (whoa) — an elated Fenway was treated to the likes of buoyant takes on ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ and ‘We Can Work It Out’, raucous renditions of ‘Come On To Me’ and ‘Queenie Eye’, and, in its first (non-soundcheck) appearance in the GOT BACK live set, ‘Jet’. This first ever public performance of the Wings classic to feature the added oomph of the Hot City Horns took flight in truly supersonic fashion, with 30,000+ passengers overjoyed to be on board for the duration.
Following a second Green Monster-shaking sequence of singalongs of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, ‘Hey Jude’ and so many more, it was over seemingly as quickly as it began: two nights and nearly six hours of pure alchemical joy conjured by those timeless and beloved songs echoing off the walls of Boston’s iconic ballpark had gone by in a flash, and Paul’s 2022 Fenway doubleheader was in the books.
The citywide electric charge of anticipation that heralds a Paul McCartney show is virtually impossible to put into words, yet somehow instantly identifiable to any and all who have felt it.
And in cities Paul is visiting after a prolonged absence — for example, for the first time since The Beatles’ one and only Baltimore stand in 1964 — the effects are that much more intensified and visible to the naked eye, manifesting in ways ranging from the tailgating fans packing the bars along Russell Street to the massive welcome banner adorning the entrance to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to the same sold-out ballpark doing the wave in unison across all levels of seating in the early evening light. Seeing such concentrated masses of humanity unified in sheer joy is something that never gets old.
Speaking of eternal youth, Paul’s first ever Charm City solo concert — the second major concert ever to take place at the home of the Baltimore Orioles — was one for the ages, for the first-timers as well as the handful of fans who’d witnessed the ’64 Beatles Civic Center engagement quoted in the Baltimore Sun. As Paul tore into a fiery opening ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ — the one tune performed both tonight and by The Beatles’ in B’more in ’64 — the multigenerational crowd made it immediately and abundantly clear that would be just as historic an occasion, one worth every second of the wait.
While the GOT BACK tour’s state of the art sound system weathered the roars of a notably rowdy Baltimore, there were moments that put it to the test — particularly during the swells that greeted ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’ (returning to the set after a Fenway #2 reprieve), an especially excitable fan punctuating the intro to ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ (Paul assured the crowd that it was OK, that the banter-interrupter was a friend), and of course the patented Beatles Scream that accompanied ‘Love Me Do’.
Baltimore continued to voice its approval at ear-splitting levels — DC Music Review, for one, described the crowd’s unwavering display of affection and enthusiasm as "like a Beatles concert, screaming at an unknowable decibel” — for the duration of more than 2.5 hours of pristinely performed classics from Paul’s solo, Beatles and Wings catalogues. The one-man acoustic interlude of ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Here Today’ that saw Paul elevated stories (again, pun intended) above the vast audience, Paul at the magic piano for a back to back double shot of ‘New’ and ‘Lady Madonna’, the tour's second propulsive airing of ‘Jet’, and innumerable Baltimore debuts of universally adored tunes ranging from ‘Band On The Run’ and ‘Let It Be’ to a ‘Hey Jude’ audience participation session that must have been audible well into the Maryland suburbs… It would be no exaggeration to say that every note was nothing short of a lifetime highlight for all in attendance.
Suffice it to say, Paul more than made up for a 58-year wait with the overflowing abundance of memories he gifted tens of thousands of Baltimoreans with this life-affirming marathon evening of rock n roll.
And just like that, here we are at the close of the 2022 GOT BACK U.S. run — six weeks gone by in the blink of an eye. Seeing more than a dozen Paul McCartney concerts will tend to make the time fly…
It was a heavily overcast cloudy day in East Rutherford NJ as Paul rolled into the home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, the massive MetLife Stadium at which he’d previously played a sold-out date on the One On One tour in 2016. The weather would hold until well into this night’s performance, the clouds bursting roughly around the same time the answer to the question of “How would Paul top MetLife 2016?” would have been categorically and definitively answered.
50,000+ Macca maniacs from New Jersey, New York (the city being a just a few miles east of the northern NJ Meadowlands complex to which MetLife was added in 2010) and doubtless points far further abroad gathered to celebrate the man and his music just two days before his birthday — a good number among the crowd were ready to celebrate early — very politely acknowledged by Paul — some brandishing signs with birthday wishes, others breaking into celebratory choruses of ‘Happy Birthday’ as early in the set as ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ and others still who… well, we’ll get to them in a minute…
Some two dozen songs in, MetLife was already proving to be up there with the best of GOT BACK — or if we’re being frank, any rock show really — with the energy levels having already ratcheted up to impossible heights by a stellar stretch of ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’, ‘Get Back’ and ‘Band On The Run’, Paul added to the eternal gift of song he’s been sharing at every stop on GOT BACK with a once in a lifetime surprise that the assembled NJ faithful will never forget:
“We got a special surprise for you,” Paul said, adding "A friend of mine, he's a local boy…” and touching off a thunderous stadium-wide chant of “BRUUUUUUUUUCE” that threatened to drown out Springsteen’s own birthday wishes to Paul — “Happy birthday, Paul! Here’s to 80 more years of Glory Days!” — expressed with genuine love and admiration as The Boss joined Paul and the boys to tear into a rousing rendition of Bruce's ‘Glory Days’. It was a moment of musical history unfurling in real time to be sure, but also so much more: the overwhelming outpouring of elation emanating from the stage and being reflected back a thousandfold (to say the least) was an overpowering testament to the power of music to overcome anything and everything, to focus tens of thousands of hearts and minds (and voices) to live entirely in the moment — as the more than 50,000 who bore witness to Paul giving himself the (pre) birthday gift of a break from the lead vocal mic to lay down tasty basslines and howling harmonies as Bruce belted will attest, it was a singular moment that words will forever fail to do justice… Not that that’ll stop any and everyone who was there from trying! Ironic perhaps that Paul’s duet with Bruce on this signature anthemic paean to the halcyon days of youth will now be the subject of stories to regale generations of friends and family to come… as it should be. It was indeed nothing short of glorious.
Paul and Bruce then segued seamlessly into the first and only GOT BACK U.S. Tour performance of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, a rollicking, white-hot version that marked Paul and Bruce’s first duet on a Beatles classic since they joined forces in 2017 for an encore of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ at Madison Square Garden. After which, unbelievably, the show continued to shift into higher gears — as the Associated Press observed, "For most artists, the appearance of such local royalty would be a hard-to-top moment. Most artists can’t immediately whip out 'Let it Be' and 'Hey Jude' to follow it”—Nor can most —or any artist for that matter — include a searing ‘Live And Let Die’ in that same main set home stretch, replete with a super-sized pyro/firework cataclysm during which the clouds finally burst, as if someone up in the skies above was feeling those pillars of flame getting a bit too close for comfort…
The rain did absolutely nothing to dampen the irrepressible spirits of the MetLife crowd, as they laughed, loved and cried through the NJ debut of Paul’s virtual duet with John on the encore-opening ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ — a moment Paul described for those in attendance as “special for me. I know it’s just virtual, but here we are, we’re singing together again.” A second surprise appearance then came in the form of an answer to Paul’s introduction of ‘Birthday’ — as he asked “Has anybody in the audience got a birthday?” someone answered from the wings, “I know it’s somebody’s birthday.” And there was New Jersey’s own Jon Bon Jovi, materializing from stage left to present Paul with a gigantic cluster of star-filled helium balloons, before leading the entire crowd in a heartfelt and exuberant ‘Happy Birthday’.
An incendiary ‘Helter Skelter’ was next, followed by a closing Abbey Road medley during which The Boss returned to trade licks with Paul, Rusty and Brian, expanding the dueling solos of ‘The End’ into a four-guitar crossfire, which in turn crescendoed into immeasurable heights of rock n roll jubilation as Paul delivered the final coda of the U.S leg of GOT BACK:
"And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make"
No one could have dreamt a more fitting conclusion to the (Can’t Buy Me) Love-fest that was the GOT BACK U.S. Tour. And now over to Stuart Bell to Tell it from Glastonbury (I’ll be in attendance — as a punter. And yes, I’m bringing wellies)...