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Paul McCartney’s Magical History tour blazes thru San Jose

BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

Presenting a treasure trove of classic Beatles and Wings material, Paul McCartney’s long and winding road arrived at SAP Pavilion in San Jose Wednesday night for another sold out performance on his “Freshen Up” tour.

Having turned 77 just weeks ago, McCartney continues to amaze with near three hour concerts at every stop. 36 shows into a tour that has already visited the Orient, Europe and South America, there aren’t many artists other than Springsteen who so consistently give their fans so much for their money.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Paul McCartney takes the stage Wednesday night during his sold-out performance at SAP Pavilion in San Jose. The 77 year old rocker performed a three hour set featuring material from The Beatles and Wings as part of his “Freshen Up” world tour.

While he might not have moves like Jagger, McCartney’s shows consistently last an hour longer than the Stones, and unlike The Beatles onetime rivals, he continues to produce quality new material, unlike the Stones, whose last original album was released in 2005. McCartney, meanwhile, has released three studio albums in that same period. His most recent two, 2013’s New and 2018’s Egypt Station, released last September, are both valuable efforts nearly exclusively written by himself where he clearly demonstrates that making hits still comes quite naturally to him.

Macca also isn’t afraid to get creative, as evidenced by his eagerness to adopt Beatles classics such as “Something,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite !” or “A Day in the Life,” originally sung by bandmates George Harrison or John Lennon to his own vocal arrangements.

On Wednesday night, out of a marathon 38 song setlist, 22 songs came from The Beatles catalog along with an additional seven classic cuts from his days with Wings. Opening with the unmistakable intro and uplifting energy of “A Hard Day’s Night,” McCartney wasted no time establishing that the audience was in store for a significant recreation of Beatlemania before sandwiching “All My Loving” between “Junior’s Farm” and “Letting Go” from his near equally prolific decade with Wings.

A three piece horn section featuring trumpet, saxophone and slide trombone made their first appearance of the evening in the middle of the audience on the loge level during “Letting Go” before reappearing periodically over the course of the evening.  It nicely augmented McCartney’s current four man backing band that’s been together nearly twenty years itself featuring guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, keyboards/multi-instrumentalist Paul Wickens, and the always phenomenal and animated Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums.

The 1973 Band on the Run cut “Let Me Roll It” saw McCartney segue seamlessly into a blazing cover of  Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” before telling the crowd about how Hendrix was so blown away by Sgt. Pepper that he had already learned the title cut and opened his set with it as a tribute to the Fab Four just a day after it’s release in May 1967. More nostalgia would quickly follow with 1970’s “I’ve Got a Feeling” from the Let It Be album and “Let ‘Em In” from 1976’s Wings at the Speed of Sound.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Paul McCartney salutes the crowd Wednesday night during his sold-out performance at SAP Pavilion in San Jose.

“My Valentine,” a McCartney original written as a love song to his wife Nancy from 2012’s cheekily titled Kisses on the Bottom was one of the evening’s slower, but still touching moments as actors ranging from Johnny Depp to Natalie Portman presented the tune in sign language in black and white on the large video monitor behind the stage. But any perceived lull didn’t last for long as the band quickly followed with the rollicking “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” from the 1973 Wings classic Band on the Run and “Maybe I’m Amazed,” his first solo hit, immediately followed by “I’ve Just Seen a Face” from the 1965 soundtrack to Help, the Beatles second film.

The concert then took an even further journey into the wayback machine as “In Spite of All the Danger” from the pre-Beatles project The Quarrymen was given a spin after McCartney detailed how the song evolved after he wrote it with the aid of a Harrison guitar solo in 1958. Bandmates Lennon, Harrison, pianist John Lowe and drummer Colin Hanton each took possession of the original for a week apiece, until it disappeared for nearly 25 years before Lowe attempted to auction it to the highest bidder. Not happy, McCartney interceded and purchased it himself, releasing it for the first time in 1995 on The Beatles Anthology 1 and later debuting it live on his 2005 world tour.

Returning the concert to more familiar ground, “From Me to You,” The Beatles third single, and first to go Number 1, a mere 56 years old after being released in 1963, and “Love Me Do,” their debut single from six months earlier, proceeded “Blackbird” from The White Album, with the ukulele infused “Dance Tonight” sandwiched in between before Macca’s melancholy 1982 tribute “Here Today” mentioned some of the things he wished he would have said to the fallen Lennon before his death. 

Once again not wasting any time to pick up the pace, The Beatles staples “Lady Madonna” and “Eleanor Rigby” would quickly follow prior to “Fuh You,” a melodically provocative cut from the new Egypt Station. But two hours in, somehow, the best was still yet to come. The colorful brilliance and tales of Henry the Horse in what was originally Lennon’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite !” was appropriately given it’s psychedelic justice on the video monitors before McCartney paid Harrison tribute with a moving version of “Something” while strumming a ukulele once given to him by The Beatles lead guitarist.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Paul McCartney performs The Beatles hits “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” on piano in this file photo.

Amazingly it continued to get even better as the effervescentOb-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” preceeded “Band on the Run” and “Back in the U.S.S.R., complete with it’s soaring intro and personal tales of McCartney’s first trip to perform in Red Square in 1987. And if there’s room for desert island discs in anyone’s Rock ’N’ Roll heaven, they’d be hard pressed to even slightly improve on the set closing triumvirate of “Let It Be,” or “Hey Jude,” each of which showcased Macca’s prowess on the keyboards, or the insanely bombastic pyrotechnics of Wings iconic theme song from the 1973 James Bond movie “Live and Let Die.”

After McCartney and the band returned to the stage for their encore bearing the Union Jack, American, California and Rainbow flags, Sir Paul asked that the house lights be turned up so he could get a better look at the myriad of personalized signs being held up by his fans. One in specific stated “I am the walrus who sold my Mini Cooper to see you.” It was witty enough to get her and a friend invited on stage after he opened his six-song finale with “Birthday.” 

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Paul McCartney displays the American flag near the conclusion of a performance in this file photo.

Dressed in a walrus costume she bought especially for the show, the girl confessed on stage that she did indeed sell her car to attend the concert. She also got Macca to sign the her foot with a sharpie with the intention of having it turned into a tattoo. About to leave the stage, she returned to whisper something in his ear. “Do you know what she whispered to me ?” he asked the crowd. “She just asked if they could stay and dance for a song !”

Happy to oblige, he granted their request. And they made the most of their time in the spotlight by dancing their asses off to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Helter Skelter.” It was an enjoyable moment even for those in the crowd, unrelated to the pair on stage, to be able to soak in the pure spontaneous joy of a couple lucky fans who will undoubtedly be sharing tales of their time with a true legend and one of the most iconic men on earth for decades to come.

Returning to the piano a final time, McCartney put a bow on the proceedings with a medley of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End.” Fitting, as they were the last songs The Beatles would ever press to vinyl on Abbey Road, released just short of exactly 50 years ago on September 26, 1969, shortly before the band called it quits.

The tour continues with a show at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles Saturday night.

About Daniel Gluskoter

Daniel Gluskoter is the Martinez Tribune's national music and sports editor and a Bay Area photojournalist who's work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2008 Presidential campaign as a correspondent for United Press International and has travelled worldwide covering events ranging from numerous Super Bowls and Olympics to Live Aid and the Grammys.

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One comment

  1. Mel ECKHOFF JR

    AN OPEN LETTER TO THE JULY 10 SAN JOSE WALRUS

    Dear Beautiful Walrus,
    I attended the July 10 Sir Paul McCartney Freshen Up concert in San Jose. I flew in from Austin just for the experience. I was seated in the first row overlooking the floor seating and the stage. Dressed in your Walrus costume, you and your companion walked in front of me to take your place to celebrate the night. And celebrate we did.

    You danced to the DJ before the concert and never stopped once Sir Paul took the stage. I am in my late 60s and grew up with the Beatles as the soundtrack of my youth. You appeared to be young and probably were not born when the Beatles were together. It is so refreshing that they are appreciated by those who only know them as historical icons. It’s kinda like the way I appreciate Billy Holliday and other musical icons from earlier times.

    Being there was a life-time experience for me. I wept. For you, meeting, hugging, and dancing with Sir Paul and the band must have been a life-time experience for you and your companion. I am sure that you will never forget it. I am so happy for you. And as Sir Paul asked, “does your mother know you are getting a tattoo” of his signature on your foot? I bet she approves and actually, might be a little envious.

    My love,
    Mel E.
    Austin Texas

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