“I said at the end of the last tour that I’d see you next time. I said I was going to get back to you. Well, I got back!” - Paul
By the time you’re reading this, Paul will have more than made good on that promise—made July 13, 2019 from the stage of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles following the final encore of Paul's now legendary closer of the U.S. leg of his Freshen Up tour.
No one could have possibly foreseen what a long and winding road it would be to that next gig — that Freshen Up’s 2020 run would fall victim to the COVID-19 shutdown, effectively promoting Dodger Stadium from the last of Freshen Up’s U.S. leg to the finale of the entire 39-date 12-country world tour.
The last few years, as strange and difficult as they’ve been, were anything but an idle time for Paul. The McCartney III album was written, performed and produced by Paul in “Rockdown," its December 2020 release completing a classic trilogy of eponymous all-Paul efforts including McCartney (1970) and McCartney II (1980)—and reinterpreted in its entirety by a Paul-curated array of top shelf artists as McCartney III Imagined, released April 2021. In July, Paul offered up an unprecedented deep dive into his creative process with the McCartney 3,2,1 series. And as if all that weren’t enough, Paul published not one but two books in 2021: September seeing the publication of Grandude’s Green Submarine, the second in Paul’s much-loved children’s book series featuring the titular character, before topping the bestsellers lists with the Barnes & Noble Book of the Year award-winning The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, published in November 2021… and then there was a certain Peter Jackson docuseries just in time for the holidays — but more on that later…
Speculation as to when Paul would be getting back to the road would reach a fever pitch by early 2022, coming to an abrupt and joyous conclusion with the February 18 announcement of the GOT BACK tour, Paul’s 13-city return to U.S. stages, opening April 28 with Paul’s first-ever show in…
All eyes and ears were tuned on Spokane for the lead up to the tour opener. The charming city in eastern Washington - aka the Lilac City or Hooptown USA, known for Gonzaga Athletics to the largest urban waterfalls, among many other attractions and landmarks - would soon be forever known as the place where Paul McCartney GOT BACK.
The anticipation was palpable, radiating from the Spokane Arena throughout streets adorned with “Welcome Paul” banners, from the local media frenzy — which ranged from heartwarming features on fans and families counting down the days to local TV covering the massive crowd lining up early day of show — some even catching a quick wave and smile from Paul along with the elated scrum swarming the arena’s back entrance to catch his arrival.
And just like that, just past 8:00pm local time, Spokane was transformed into the center of the universe to the thousands bearing witness to Paul stepping onto their local arena’s stage for the first time, as he raised a fist in triumph before leading the band into the indelible instant singalong of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. The barely more than two minutes of the opening number flashed by like so many seconds — disbelief that what’s happening before one’s own eyes and ears will do that — followed in quick succession by a rollicking ‘Junior’s Farm’. A warm hello to the Spokane crowd led into ‘Letting Go’, a muscular take on the Wings classic that saw the Hot City Horns rejoining Paul, Wix, Abe, Rusty and Brian on stage for the first time since that aforementioned 2019 Freshen Up finale. ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ takes things higher still, while ‘Come On To Me’ mines a particularly heavy groove, winding down with Paul doffing his smart blue jacket to the delighted screams of Spokane’s female population, for the customary only wardrobe change of the evening.
As Paul peeled off the riff to ‘Let Me Roll It’, sounding as fresh as the first time anyone in tonight’s crowd ever heard it, the GOT BACK tour opener continued to unfold in a literal blur of highlights—including some surprises and firsts…
‘Getting Better’ returned to the setlist for the first time in nearly 20 years, the capacity crowd singalong of “It’s getting better all the time” imbued with additional significance in the context of tonight’s spiritual reunion.
‘Women and Wives’ would become the first track from McCartney III to make the transformation into a soulful live rendering.
A mind-blowing arrangement from the Abbey Road medley jumping straightaway into ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ at the lyrical juncture "Out of college, money spent…” and building to a climactic ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’.
The journey described by local paper of record the Spokesman-Review as “an evening of endless highlights" continued with a rapturously received parade of old, new and in-between selections from the Macca songbook— every note suffused with heightened emotion via the sheer miracle of sharing this experience with thousands of fellow humans, all reunited in song. ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ simply soared. ‘Love Me Do’ elicited a formidable vintage Beatles scream. ‘Blackbird’ took on a new dimension in the Black Lives Matter era. ‘Get Back’ made a triumphant return to the main set, joyfully enhanced with footage of Fab Four studio shenanigans assembled by Peter Jackson from his docuseries of the same name.
Speaking of Peter Jackson, the Get Back auteur helped deliver possibly the most magical moment of an already wholly unforgettable evening. Having just bounded back onto the stage waving a Ukrainian flag and with a promise of something special coming right up, Paul kicked off the encore by picking out the iridescent opening phrase of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’. “Something a bit special” was quickly rendered the understatement of the year, as John Lennon’s voice rang out in crystal clarity — isolated from the actual recordings of The Beatles’ 1969 final live performance on the Apple rooftop, enabling Paul and the band to sing and play joined by John. What transpired has since been described as everything from a virtual duet to a technological miracle, and it left nary a dry eye — or mask — in the house.
With echoes of the closing refrain of ‘The End’ still reverberating, Paul noted that we had all quite literally GOT BACK. This simple truth was answered with a particular roar from the crowd, as if everyone in attendance were having the collective realization of what they’d experienced together: For now and always, they were there the night Paul GOT BACK to bringing his music to life again.
And on that note, westward we go to…
A measure of how time flies: in the six years since Paul last visited the Emerald City, the venue he played—the Key Arena—has been razed and replaced by the sparkling new Climate Pledge Arena. Perhaps it was the sonic vibrations of Paul’s 2016 encore featuring Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic on a monolithic twin-bass-attack rendition of ‘Helter Skelter’ that compromised the Key’s foundations? Whatever the case, Paul is back in Washington’s biggest city for the first time in more than half a decade and the nearly 20,000 a night attending — a notably diverse lot, one local alternative weekly The Stranger observed “was respectful and downright worshipful, and skewed much younger than expected" — are united in their love for all things Paul.
And Paul has plenty of love for Seattle, going all the way back to 1964 when The Beatles played the Seattle Center Coliseum—another venue that once stood on this same site, and where Paul first sang tonight’s opener ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ for a Seattle audience. Another example is tonight’s searing rendition of the traditional ‘Foxy Lady’ coda to ‘Let Me Roll It’, Paul’s red-hot licks on the red Les Paul channeling the spirit of the Pacific Northwest’s deity of the six-string—and fellow leftie—Jimi Hendrix. Paul paid further tribute by regaling the crowd with a tale of UK rock royalty attending Hendrix’s London debut, a show Jimi opened with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ mere days after the release of the original.
Elsewhere during Paul’s first night at the now preeminent Seattle arena, ‘New’ received its first airing of the tour — its enthusiastic reception in the form of a galaxy of phone cameras, defying the typical “new song = black hole” pattern Paul has humorously observed since the dawn of the smartphone era. The even newer ‘Fuh You’ fared similarly well with the phone cam-wielders — even sandwiched between a positively jubilant ‘Lady Madonna’ and psychedelic tour de force ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite’!
Later ‘Let It Be’ would find the arena fully awash in mobile phone illumination, while ‘Live And Let Die’ had Paul and the boys returning the favor with pyrotechnic salvos, fireworks, lasers and flash bangs. The show culminated, as always, in that greatest singalong in rock history, ‘Hey Jude’—a communion that, on this night, moved the Seattle Times to observe, "Glancing around at the multigenerational faces na-na-na’ing in unison, it was one of those one of those arena-show moments that make you feel like everyone on the planet is vibing out to the same song at exactly the same time".
Following a well-deserved and even more well-received encore opening with the Seattle debut of the ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ virtual McCartney/Lennon duet (“It blows my mind every time I see that,” says Paul) and ending with, naturally, ‘The End’, the Hot City Horns convened on the loading dock ramp to play Paul off with a victory lap brass band take on ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (Nirvana-na-na, anyone? Thank you, I’ll be here all week...) and it’s onto night two...
The May 3 Seattle setlist featured some second-night reshuffling, with ‘Let ‘Em In’ and ‘We Can Work It Out’ making their GOT BACK tour debuts, replacing ‘Women and Wives’ and ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ from the previous night. Later, a jaunty ‘Queenie Eye’ would be back in the slot occupied by ‘New’ the night before, ably upping the tempo as Paul descended from the elevated platform on which he rises for solo acoustic performances of ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Here Today’.
Paul and the band have clearly settled in for night two in Seattle, seamless segues like a swoon-inducing ‘My Valentine’ into the raucous stomp of a killer Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five’ abound. And the in-song transition from Paul on ukulele and voice to the full band on ‘Something’ packed a particular wallop this evening, the audio and visual tributes to George Harrison resonating with the multigenerational throng (which ranged from 20-somethings taking their presumably first Macca show selfies to a superfan brandishing a sign proclaiming tonight their 126th Paul concert—and from baby boomers to an actual baby (!).
Alas all good things must come to an end—in this case that being an incendiary encore featuring a rollicking ‘Birthday’ and a pinned-in-the-red ‘Helter Skelter’—and it’s the close of the latest chapter in Paul’s long and storied history with Seattle, and time to head down the coast to…
Paul has no shortage of historic touchstones with the Bay Area. From The Beatles’ 1966 final concert at Candlestick Park to Paul’s 2014 Last Pick at the Stick show shortly after which the storied ballpark was demolished, just to name a few, Paul’s relationship with the region runs deep—and includes multiple recent landmark gigs between the Candlestick bookends, such as 2010 at AT&T Park on the Up & Coming tour and Paul's 2013 headline set at the Outside Lands festival in Golden Gate Park during the Out There tour.
However, Paul last stepped onto a stage in Oakland proper for the 2002 opener of the Driving World tour — the first McCartney tour of the current century, and one that ended a near-10-year gap between Paul tours itself. The fact that Paul’s May 6 show would be his first Oakland appearance in 20 years struck a chord with the local populace, who quickly snapped up every ticket, leading to the announcement of a second Oakland Arena date to take place May 8. What better Mother’s Day gift…!
The significance of Paul’s return to Oakland following this 20-year absence was not lost on him on night one, as he remarked, “Good evening, Oakland. We are very happy to be back here after a long interlude.” And noting another Bay Area milestone, Paul noted that his previous Oakland show in 2002 was his first with his longtime band of Wix, Rusty, Abe and Brian: “Happy birthday to us!”
And yes, ‘Birthday’ would be played some two-hours-plus later, Paul’s dedication to everyone having a birthday tonight (or anytime this year) presumably including his own band on this unique occasion. Highlights of Paul’s long-awaited return to Oakland would range from songs that Paul played for the first time in that same city some 20 years past—including ‘Getting Better’, ‘Here Today’, and ‘Something’—to a good helping of songs released during that 20-year interlude debuting before Oakland eyes and ears—such as ‘Come On To Me’, ‘Women And Wives’, ‘Dance Tonight’, ‘New’ and ‘Fuh You’.
The audience response was uniformly warm and ecstatic, with the stripped down “blues shack” portion of tonight’s show a notable yardstick of the evolution of this band over the last two decades. From the boys’ sublime harmonizing on ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ to Wix’s harmonica on ‘Love Me Do’ to Abe’s one-man dance party, ahem, choreography on ‘Dance Tonight’, this was a masterclass in the benefits of two decades of musical camaraderie, chemistry, and good old-fashioned road work.
All told, night four was yet another magical evening on the GOT BACK tour—one the Mercury News described as "an absolute joy to behold, as Sir Paul jogged memories and warmed hearts during a marathon show that ran some 2 hours and 40 minutes,” while the San Francisco Chronicle raved "Paul McCartney’s explosive return to Oakland worth the wait for Bay Area fans… Throw in some pyrotechnics, a catalog of timeless classics, and McCartney’s boundless energy on stage, and it’s easy to understand why fans — whether getting their first dose of Macca or, as one sign in the crowd boasted, their 124th — leave his shows in a state of elation.”
All of which begs the question: how does one follow that? To anyone who’s ever seen two Paul McCartney shows knows the answer, namely to give another adoring audience yet another singular and unforgettable near-three-hours of music, memories, love, hope and positivity—and in the case, a very special Mother’s Day.
From the call out to “… mothers and men…” in the lyrics of ‘Women and Wives’ early in the evening to ‘My Valentine’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Lady Madonna’ and of course ‘Let It Be’, the influence of the mothers in Paul’s life and lyrics cannot be overstated. So it’s only natural that the second Oakland show added due to overwhelming popular demand would take place on Mother’s Day, adding yet another dimension of the GOT BACK experience to those fortunate enough to attend with their mothers. And for the rest of us, there are the equally undeniable waves of joy that accompany moments like tonight’s return of ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’ to the live set, a deafening audience singalong to ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, the odyssey that ‘Band On The Run’ sweeps us into, and the always poignant closing lines of ‘The End’ followed as ever by Paul’s promise that he’ll see us all again… and that’s more than enough.
Next up, Los Angeles… we’re getting back to you!
It’s impossible to imagine more imposing concert venue — or possibly a more intimidating physical structure of any kind — than Los Angeles’s monolithic SoFi Stadium. Resembling nothing so much as a gigantic alien spacecraft, SoFi occupies a near-300 acre footprint in Inglewood, its sleek ultra-modern seemingly aerodynamic exterior crowned with a literal million-square-foot canopy.
And as if that sheer physical intimidation weren’t enough, there was the challenge of following Paul's aforementioned Dodger Stadium blowout in 2019. The now-legendary show that closed Freshen Up in the U.S., and eventually became the finale of the entire tour, had only grown in stature in the three years since, with local and national media alike giving up unanimous raves from “Macca continues to put artists half his age and younger to shame with epic shows” (Entertainment Weekly) to “McCartney was in top form” (Los Angeles Times) to “McCartney remains a show-stopping entertainer of the highest order” to, simply and eloquently, "Wow” (American Songwriter)—and mere days prior to Paul’s SoFi date, Los Angeles magazine rated Dodger Stadium 2019 in its list of "McCartney’s Top 5 Greatest Performances in L.A.."
So… no pressure, right? Well, what would surely break the brains and bodies of us mere mortals is, at most, another hard day’s night for Paul McCartney. For the first stadium gig of the GOT BACK tour, it was apparent from the moment Paul and the band careened into ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ that the 50,000 of us lucky to pack SoFi this most auspicious Friday the 13th that history was unfolding before our eyes and ears. ‘Junior’s Farm’ featured Rusty and Brian’s dueling leads in white-hot form, ‘Letting Go’ first brought out the Hot City Horns to pump things up for a stretch that included ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ and ‘Come On To Me’. The production seemed to grow before our eyes, as massive lighting trusses repositioned as if with minds of their own during a ripping ‘Let Me Roll It’, and later on numbers including the newly arranged Abbey Road double-shot of ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ and ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’.
‘Getting Better’ led an impassioned “Better, Better, Better…” singalong, while a spirited ‘Let ‘Em In’ practically got tens of thousands marching in place. ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ was transcendent, followed by the return of ‘We Can Work It Out’ to the running order. ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Here Today’ found Paul filling the sprawling SoFi bowl from his elevated platform, holding the capacity crowd in rapt attention with only his voice and acoustic guitar. The "2 ½-hour survey of crackling riffs, honeyed harmonies” (Los Angeles Times) never let up, punctuated by the tender George Harrison tribute ‘Something’ and a predictably rowdy call-and-response portion of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, while a turbo-charged ‘Get Back’ kicked off the home stretch of the main set.
It’s no exaggeration to say that virtually every moment of Paul’s return to L.A. was a highlight. His voice rang strong and clear throughout, bolstered by an impeccable sound mix as well lighting and production that would transform the massive SoFi interior: creating an intimate roadhouse vibe for ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’, ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Dance Tonight’, only to drive home the point that we were witnessing Paul in complete and total command of the largest stadium in the NFL—and what better way to do the latter than to threaten to blow the roof off the place: ‘Live And Let Die’ was nothing short of breathtaking sensory overload, the pyrotechnic-fireworks combo seemingly on steroids, with columns of flame shooting the better part of the 275 feet to the SoFi ceiling.
As the last blast of ‘Live And Let Die’ faded, Paul made his way to the magic piano to cast the spell that is ‘Hey Jude’. It’s nights like this that the undisputed singalong champion of rock history takes on an even deeper resonance. There’s a wellspring of love and optimism that can only be tapped, a magical emotional rainbow that can only be conjured by Paul McCartney leading an enraptured chorus of 50,000 voices in an extended refrain of “Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na”—it is truly impossible to put into words “the feels” (as the kids say) that are generated as those syllables become the most profound in the world.
The encore opened with ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ amplifying the marvel of the McCartney-Lennon virtual duet to stadium scale with stunning results, and closed as ever with ‘The End’ — spurring a crowd reaction that would be expressed in writing by the OC Register: “Its signature line – 'The love you take is equal to the love you make' – is always powerful. On this night, when all we really needed was the comfort of a Beatle on stage, still making beautiful music, it felt ever more so.” And with early notices in, it’s clear that the press felt the same Macca magic as the fans—with critical reactions including:
“… as an icon what McCartney gets is that people crave art that makes magic from their everyday experiences… a 2 ½-hour survey of crackling riffs, honeyed harmonies and the kind of deep-seated emotional optimism that led him to accompany 'Getting Better' on Friday with a video that depicted flowers springing up through the rubble of a post-apocalyptic landscape… a chance to behold someone still out there doing it at an extremely high level — and, of course, to live inside his songs for an evening. And, oh, those glorious songs…”—Los Angeles Times
"McCartney gave fans what many of his songs have always provided: The idea that with love and peace and hopeful feelings the hard times will get better… McCartney is ever the ageless lad from Liverpool. His voice is clear and stronger than most any of his peers who still play live. That innate musical ability, that many marveled at in Peter Jackson’s recent docuseries 'Get Back’... is undimmed as McCartney effortlessly switched from bass to guitar, piano to mandolin and ukulele throughout the night.”—OC Register
"Let’s cut to the chase. If you haven’t seen Paul McCartney live before, go see him. Please. Heck, even if you have seen him before, go see him again. If you need someone to give you a reason why, think of it as going to see the Grand Canyon or Michelangelo’s David in Florence. No matter what you think the experience will be, actually being there in their presence, with all five senses taking in the moment, is precisely the thing that makes being alive worth it. Paul McCartney is Yosemite or Banff or the Eifel Tower. He’s music’s greatest national park, its remaining 7th Wonder Of The World.”—Uproxx
"He has been, by some almost objective measures, the best all-around singer as well as most accomplished mainstream songwriter of the rock ‘n’ roll era… But make no mistake — he’s going for the notes he’s always gone for, and hitting them, without the usual accommodations powerhouse singers have to make as they reach an advanced age. He still howls… As much as McCartney made history with the Beatles 60 years ago, it feels like he’s making history again in pushing the envelope of how long you can keep doing this kind of a massive, demanding show...”—Variety
“From the sublimely joyous opening of the Beatles' ‘Can't Buy Me Love,’ McCartney delivers two hours plus of happiness, faith and love. And he does it with an earnestness that is beyond admirable…The main set ends, as always, with the jubilant sing along of ‘Hey Jude,’ forever one of the most powerful live moments you can experience... It is joyful, spiritual, life affirming, chill-inducing and a bucket list moment in life… the eternal optimism of McCartney is even more appreciated and necessary in 2022 than ever before.”—Forbes
Finally, in this era of rampant disinformation and clickbait, it’s refreshing, comforting even, to see even the headlines shouting the unbiased truth:
"Paul McCartney is still our most charming rock god” — Los Angeles Times
"Paul McCartney’s ‘Got Back’ Tour Scores a Touchdown With Marathon SoFi Stadium Show” — Variety
"Proof he was the coolest Beatle all along” — The Independent
And with that, GOT BACK would be off to Fort Worth… Stay tuned!