Thursday 24 June 2010

Paul McCartney, Hampden Park in Glasgow, 20th June 2010

I've just about recovered from Paul McCartney's concert at Hampden Park where the great man played an outstanding 3 hour set. That he could do this and leave out songs like Got To Get You Into My Life, Penny Lane and She Loves You is testament to his back catalogue. It was all i could talk or think about for two days afterwards.

The day started early as I got a taxi to Craig's flat in the Southside of Glagsow, a mere 10-minute walk from Hampden. Macca's solo albums and Wings songs were the soundtrack to the start of the afternoon as watched the Paraguay game and drank a couple of beers before moving on to Sailor Jerry's. With the sun beating down on Glasgow, Craig, Mick and I opted to head to the Clockwork pub to sit in the beer garden. After another couple of beers and Sailor Jerry's we led a sing-song of 'Let Me Roll It' followed by 'Hey Jude' with a lovely group of elderly guys and girls that looked a similar age to Macca - only Sir Paul doesn't really look his age.

Our friend Ross was playing guitar in Sharleen Spiteri's band so we walked up the hill to Hampden, opting not to buy a £10 programme. Sharleen Spiteri came on at the back of 6pm with many of the crowd choosing to stay in the beer gardens around the stadium rather than come in to see her. Our seats were in block AA6, row Z, 26 rows from the front. Sharleen Spiteri wisely opted to play Texas songs rather than her solo material and it went down quite well, we shouted 'Rosco' between songs and I think we might have embarrased him slightly - woops.

On to the main event. A montage of photos and graphics was displayed on the large screens at both sides of the stage, covers of 'You Can't Do That' and 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' were played along with lesser known McCartney numbers like 'Temporary Secretary' and 'Coming Up'.

The atmosphere was electric as a slim and trim looking McCartney bounded on to the stage, only to tell us that he was starting with a technical glitch and he'd have to talk to us for a bit. Formalities over, Macca launched into 'Venus and Mars' before piling headlong into 'Jet', barely pausing for breath before leading a crowd sing-a-long of The Beatles classic 'All My Loving', the song they played on the Ed Sullivan Show when they conqueored America all those years ago.

McCartney, age 68, was looking fantastic and clearly responding to the enthusiasm of the crowd. Fifth song in was 'Drive My Car', pure pop with the crowd loving the 'peep peep, peep peep, yeah' hook. It's teenage pop, but it was being enjoyed by several generations of music fans. I met my friend Ian Pilbeam who had brought his wife and two kids (not even teenagers) along. I imagine they will thank their Dad later in life.

There was a real cup final atmosphere to the occasion, fitting given that the concert took place at the home of Scottish football, and there were several Hampden roars that the Tartan Army would have been proud of.

The song that we sung in the beer garden 'Let Me Roll It' was sung with real gusto, written in response to Lennon's bitter and twisted 'How Do You Sleep?' this was Macca wearing his heart on his sleeve 'I can't tell you how I feel, my heart is like a wheel, let me roll it, let me roll it to you'. The biting guitar riff cut through the warm summer air and sent tingles down my spine, it was a great moment.

McCartney was bounding around the stage with the energy of a youngster, swapping bass for guitar, leaping up to play piano and the back down to play bass, raising his bass/guitar like it was a trophy after every song. Paul grinned, his band all smiled like kids in a sweet shop and the crowd lapped it up, this was a gig to savour.

'The Long and Winding Road' was sung heartily by Hampden, its poignant melancolic vibe caused people to put their arms around loved ones, while the soaring guitar solo prompted pthers to play air guitar and then punch the air as the line 'and still they lead me back…' came back in afterwards. 'My Love' was dedicated to Linda, 'is everywhere with my love, and my love does it good' - so simple, so lovely.

'I've Just Seen A Face' was a real highlight for me as it is one of my favourite McCartney songs, a hidden gem on the Help! album. It's fast paced, yet mellow, the driving beat and the beautiful guitar riff just about keep up with the lyrics 'I've just seen a face, I can't forget the time or place, when we first met, she just a girl for me, but I want all the world to see we've me, di di di da de di'. McCartney rattled through this with a huge grin on his face - much like the audience.

Slowing things down Paul played 'And I Love Her' before his band (and what a band they are) departed the stage to allow Paul to play 'Blackbird' solo.

'Here Today' was dedicated to John Lennon and when McCartney sang 'and I am holding back the tears no more' it genuinely looked like he had a tear in his eye. I am sure a few people in the audience may well have shed a tear or two.

'Dance Tonight' is a beautiful little song that bounces and waltzes along and after quite a few beers we were bouncing around at this point, spilling out into the aisle where the stewards attempted to get us to go back to our seats (not that anyone was sitting) only for Mick to start dancing with one of them. Thankfully for them 'Eleanor Rigby' was next and you can't really dance or jump around to that one.

Next up was another poignant moment as Macca played 'Something' on a ukelele given to him by the late great George Harrison. A carefully chosen selection of photos from Paul's personal collection were displayed on the big screen behind him. George looking typically cool, playing the fool, with long hair, with his mop top, in the sunshine, in the snow. What an adventure their friendship was.

The band kicked in halfway through the song and lifted it to a higher place as everyone sang along. 'Something' is a truly beautiful song, the middle eight 'you're asking me how my love grows, I don't know, I don't know, you stick around now and it may show, I don't know, I don't know' before one of the most delicate and thoughtful guitar solos of all time kick in - it's all stunning.

'Band On The Run' was a predictable highlight of the set, the song changing style and pace throughout, all the while McCartney's melodies and sweet voice moving with it. 'Sing The Changes' was next, a 'cover' of Sir Paul's secret disguise The Fireman.

'Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da' kicked the party back into life and was swiftly followed by a rocking 'Back In The USSR'. The feel-good atmosphere at this gig was magnificent, with Sir Paul and his band looking like they were having as much fun as the band. On more than one occasion McCartney finished a song at the piano and took 10-seconds to lean on it taking in the sight and noise of the crowd responding to his songs. And then on guitar he paused and said 'I'm gonna take a minute to take this all in'.

'I've Got A Feeling' with it's circular guitar riff was an unexpected treat and it was swiftly followed by the classic 'Paperback Writer' that prompted mass dancing. It's classic McCartney, flowing at pace and just when you think it is going to stop it keeps on flowing.

'A Day In The Life' merged into 'Give Peace A Chance' and before we knew it we were on to 'Let It Be' which was an emotional moment. That run of unbelievable songs had some legs in it yet and it was on to 'Live and Let Die' complete with flames and fireworks over that memorably cinematic riff. Not many songs could follow, but Macca pulled out 'Hey Jude' leading the crowd in a mass chorus.

I'm exhausted writing this, but Macca stull had more to give, coming on for a 3-song encore of 'Day Tripper' (what a way to start an encore - immediately lifting the crowd again) followed by 'Lady Madonna' and a romp through 'Get Back.'

The crowd called for more and Macca didn't disappoint, retruning alone to play 'Yesterday' before being joined by a full pipe band for another big love-in chorus sing-a-long with 'Mull of Kintyre'. Macca quickly changed style to then play a ferocious 'Helter Skelter', prompting mass dancing in the aisles and when a security guard tried to stop us Mic ended up dancing with her!

Macca's little snippets of conversation throughout kept a smile on everyones faces and there was a brilliant moment before his final song of the evening when he said 'this is our last one' only to be met by a chorus of boos. Swiftly responding he said 'we've got to go home' only to be met by more boos. What followed was a moment of pure pantomime with Macca saying 'YOU'VE got to go hom' only to be met by a big 'nnnnooooooo', and for him to say 'yeeeeesss', 'nnnooooooo' and then Sir Paul delivered the 'Och Aye' punchline.

Through the laughter ringing through the stadium the came the opening chords and beat of 'Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band', segueing effortlessly into 'The End' with Macca looking like he was having the time of his life on the 'love you' harmonies.

'and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make.'

Sir Paul took a lot of love with him as he left Hampden Park last night, but he made a lot too. A gig that will live long in the memory, a brilliant night when a 68-year old Paul McCartney rolled back the years with a mammoth 3-hour, 36-song set that left the crowd in raptures.

Thanks Paul.

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