With social distancing putting a hold on live events, I am talking a walk down memory lane to reflect on the 10 most memorable concerts I have seen. This is not a list of the ten best shows, but rather the ones that have left the most indelible memories.
Most memorable concerts are marked by a song or collaboration that stands out as special, but few artists create a show where the vibe resonates as much as the substance. Seeing Paul McCartney in concert is like experiencing musical Disneyland. On July 12, 2013 the Beatle brought his perpetual joy to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. in the form of his Out There! Tour.
I went to see Paul McCartney because he is Paul freaking McCartney. I was not expecting the energy present at the D.C. ballpark. From beginning to end the experience was almost cult-like. Everyone was visibly happy to be there. Young kids, parents, and retirees alike were anxious to see music was based on positive energy and love.
There was no opener. Who could possibly open for Paul McCartney? Only a DJ playing remixes of McCartney’s own music entertained the masses before the show. When the headliner took the stage, it kicked off a mythical experience.
The oddity of a Paul McCartney concert is watching the crowd react to his music. Each song seemed to set off someone new in the audience. One memorable reaction came from the little kid in a row near to me. He had spent the entire show struggling to sit still, but a few piano strokes made him shout “Let It Be!” and he headbanged to the classic like a proper punk rocker.
He was not alone.
For me, the song was “Back In The U.S.S.R.” Not once when staring at taillights on the three-hour drive to the stadium had I thought about hearing the White Album opener. Something about the piped-in jets and Georgia girls caused chills like I’ve never had at a concert.
It might have been the full weight of a set that included “Band on the Run” and “Something” crashing down on my psyche. It was more likely that I felt like the kid in the row below me. The guitar parts took me back to when I was six years old and wielding an air guitar to an audience of a Beatles cassette and no one.
The 38 songs that were strung together at Nationals Park were exactly what you would expect. A couple of rarities to keep things fresh and merely the most popular pop music ever crafted. “Eleanor Rigby,” “Blackbird,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” froze the stadium in time. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” brought out the nonsensical dancing that helped make The Beatles modern day standards. It is mind-numbing to think of the songs that Macca doesn’t play on a tour would be someone else’s entire set list.
I have been lucky to see prime candidates for the Mt. Rushmore of music, but none make an audience laugh, cry, and dance like Sir Paul. At a time when social distancing is a necessity, it is impossible not to look back at the quintessential collective experience that is Paul McCartney.