Paul McCartney Rocks Washington, D.C. with 38 Songs, a Jimi Hendrix Cover, Storytelling, Lasers, and Fireballs

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I’ve seen many legends perform before. The concerts usually go like this: Play some hits early. Then play some new stuff mixed with mediocre old stuff. Finally, bring it home with a rocking encore of greatest hits.

That wouldn’t even describe the warm up DJ, who spun up the crowd with some Beatles mashups that were funky and fresh. At 8:20pm EST, the lights dimmed and out strutted a peppy, Sir Paul McCartney, with his Hofner, violin bass guitar slung over his shoulder. A few waves to the raucous crowd and into “A Hard Day’s Night” he went with his 20,000 person chorus singing along. That was the first of 38 songs. That’s right…a 74 year old Beatle sang 38 songs over three hours with no breaks.

Walking into the gig, I expected the show to be a lot of hits with head bobbing, sing alongs, and general euphoria. What I did not expect was:

  • Paul playing the song he wrote with Rihanna and Kanye West.
  • Lasers equivalent to that of Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me video
  • Tributes to John Lennon and George Harrison
  • Motley Crue-esque pyroworks for Live and Let Die
  • Paul autographing two lucky female fans on stage, which surely are tattooed in by now
  • Paul covering a Jimi Hendrix instrumental guitar solo
  • Much heavier versions of all the Wings songs

Video: Live and Let Die

Here are my notes from the set list:

    1. A Hard Day’s Night
    2. Save Us
    3. Can’t Buy Me Love
    4. Letting Go (Wings)
    5. Temporary Secretary
      This is a song I could do without. McCartney sheepishly announced it had electronica in it. It wasn’t a good song in 1980 and it’s no better live.
    6. Let Me Roll It (Wings)
      Paul’s custom Gibson guitar was a thing of beauty. Paul was rocking some major guitar solo skills here and a very contagious riff.
    7. I’ve Got a Feeling
      This is the song that led into the Hendrix instrumental cover. He joked about a story where Hendrix, then playing a club in England, messed up his guitar after a killer solo and he asked Clapton, watching the show from the crowd, to come up and fix and tune it.
    8. My Valentine
      Paul introduced this song by stating he wrote it for his current wife, Nancy, whom he waved to in the crowd. 20,000 people sat down immediately. It was a very lack luster song, especially given his speech for song #11.
    9. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings)
      Paul moved to the piano and was whaling like a true rock star does. It’s on.
    10. Here, There and Everywhere (Beatles)
    11. Maybe I’m Amazed
      Paul still on the piano spoke over the mic, “I wrote this next song for Linda.” There are no words to describe Paul McCartney belting this song on a piano. I felt very bad for Nancy at this moment, but it passed about 17 milliseconds later.
    12. We Can Work It Out (Beatles)
    13. In Spite of All the Danger (Quarrymen)
      McCartney announced this was a song he recorded for five pounds in Liverpool, pre-Beatles, with a band named The Quarrymen.
    14. You Won’t See Me (Beatles)
    15. Love Me Do
      McCartney dedicated and thanked producer, George Martin, for this song. He told a story about the song recording, “John used to always take that line ‘Love Me Do,’ and then he would do the harmonica (version) of Love Me Do. George said, ‘John, would it be possible for you to play the harmonica on the note?’ So [John] turns to me and says, ‘Paul, would you sing the Love Me Do?’…’Yea, I can.’ Suddenly I got to do this line I’ve never sung before. I can still hear the notes on the record Love me Doooo.” (making fun of his nervousness).
    16. And I Love Her (Beatles)
      Everyone was acoustic for this song. Of course it was an incredible song, but what stood out was that Paul ended the song with his back to the crowd shaking his butt for a good thirty seconds.
    17. Blackbird (Beatles)
      The stage elevated twenty yards and it was McCartney solo with an acoustic guitar playing one of the most beautiful songs in rock history. He prefaced the song, “Way back in the 1960s, there were a lot of troubles over Civil Rights. We heard about this on the news in England and I wanted to try and write a story that if it ever got back to the people in Alabama or Little Rock, people going through the struggles, that if they ever heard the song it might just help them.”
    18. Here Today
    19. Queenie Eye
    20. New
    21. The Fool on the Hill
    22. Lady Madonna (Beatles)
      Paul was on the keys while faces of third world people rotated in the mega back screen.
    23. Four Five Seconds (Rihanna, Kanye West, Paul McCartney cover)
    24. Eleanor Rigby (Beatles)
    25. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (Beatles)
      McCartney talked about how some songs are written by chords, some lyrics, and some just random things you see. This song is one of those latter situations. He was hanging with John Lennon and there was a circus poster with “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” on it. “We just kind of wrote it down.” A major laser show ensued for this jam.
    26. Something (Beatles)
      Paul brought out the ukulele and stepped up to the mic, “I was at [George Harrison’s] house and we were jamming on the ukuleles. He had a big collection. In fact, he gave me this one…a Gibson (holds it up). We’re sitting around playing and I said, ‘I’ve learned one of your songs on the ukulele.’ So, we’re playing together and we’d like to play it for you now.” Dozens of youthful pictures of Paul and George rotated on the big screen, which Paul was attentive to watching while singing. Once the song ended, Paul said, “Thank you, George, for writing that.”
    27. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Beatles)
    28. Band on the Run (Wings)
    29. Back in the U.S.S.R. (Beatles)
      Paul: “We were the first band to play in Red Square. We had a great time. Those Ruskies love to rock. One of the interesting things, back stage, there were a lot of members of the Russian government. Kremlin and stuff. One of my guys back stage points to a guy and says ‘That’s the Defense Minister of Russia.’ And I’m like, ‘Wow’. Pretty big job, right? So, he comes over to me and says, ‘Pauuul, first recccord I evvver bought was Love Me Dooo.’ (laughter). It’s true. So this other big, tall guy comes up and he was government as well, and he says, ‘We learn to speak Ennnglish from Beeeatles records.” He looks me straight in the eye and says, ‘Hello Goodbye.’
    30. Let It Be (Beatles)
      Everyone did the cell phone camera lights, except for 30% of the elder crowd with flip phones.
    31. Live and Let Die (Wings)
      Loud bangs, fireworks, fireballs…for a second I thought I was at a Guns N Roses concert. Paul put his hands over his ears before the song ended as the last firework bangs went off. He grinned at the crowd acknowledging his age.
    32. Hey Jude (Beatles)
      The entire Verizon Center sang along to this one, and it was four minutes of goosebumps.
    33. Yesterday (Beatles)
      McCartney pulled out one of his most iconic guitars, which I noticed had a Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins sticker on it. There’s a decent story on it from previous tours, which McCartney still keeps going.
    34. Hi, Hi, Hi (Wings)
    35. Birthday (Beatles)
    36. Golden Slumbers (Beatles)
    37. Carry That Weight (Beatles)
    38. The End (Beatles)


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