The date of Paul McCartney's second concert at RFK Stadium was listed incorrectly in yesterday's Style section. The concert is tonight. (Published 7/6/90)
Once Paul McCartney found there was a way to get back home -- by coming to terms with his yesterdays -- he resolved the irony that has plagued him throughout his career: He is best loved for his earliest work, with the Beatles, a period occupying only six of his nearly 30 years in the music business. At RFK Stadium last night, McCartney dealt with the past by joyously embracing it in a way he never did with Wings, the McCartney band that lived twice as long as the Beatles.
The results were spectacular, as McCartney turned on the nation's capital in WOOOO-shington with "I Saw Her Standing There," and conjured a 50,000-strong chorus for "Hey Jude," "Let It Be" and "Can't Buy Me Love."
Of 27 songs performed in the 2 1/2-hour show, 16 were Beatles-tested, including "You Say It's Your Birthday," pulled out of mothballs on a most appropriate day. McCartney also sang "Happy Birthday" to America, though that was the only one he didn't write.
Ironically, singing that many Beatles songs in one night was something the Beatles themselves seldom did, and many of those songs had never been played live, having been written and recorded after the Beatles' last concert in 1966. In the Wings era, McCartney pride and solo pursuits kept him from celebrating his old self, but it's obvious that he never stopped loving these songs, and that the fans never stopped loving the man who wrote them.
Like the songs themselves, the fans at RFK spanned three generations. You felt the younger ones were there to see a living legend (one who hadn't toured since 1976), and the older ones to see a friend. Since there are plenty of seats left for tonight's concert, and projections based on the last wait put a follow-up McCartney tour sometime in the early 2000s -- say, when he's 64 -- this may be a great time to catch him.
In any event, the 14-year rest has left McCartney with apparently boundless energy and enthusiasm, and it doesn't hurt that his boyish charm remains intact at 47. On stage last night, he seemed liberated, loose and elated, mopping his top in the heat and sounding terrific throughout. That familiar voice sounded great, as familiar as a good conscience. He was fab.
McCartney did four Wings songs and five from his latest solo album, "Flowers in the Dirt." The Wings songs included a roiling "Jet," his toot-suite "Band on the Run," a genial "Let 'Em In" and his James Bond theme, "Live and Let Die," which -- thanks to several explosions, dueling lasers and fireworks -- managed to leave the fans both shaken and stirred.
The newer songs didn't fare quite as well, though "My Brave Face"and "Put It There" are quite delightful, the latter one of McCartney's best familial testimonies. However, these songs tended to make people sit down, and often came across as promotion in what was otherwise a night of celebration.
Throughout, McCartney's new, unnamed band proved terrific, far better than Wings if less seminal than the Beatles. The guitars were handled by former Pretender Robbie McIntosh and Hamish Stuart, formerly of the Average White Band (both contributed essential harmonies when the audience wasn't). Chris Whitten walloped the drums as needed, while keyboardist/synthesizer player Paul Wickens eloquently re-created all those brass and string parts that graced songs like "Eleanor Rigby."
For most of the night, McCartney played his left-handed bass in his familiar style, part-liquid, part-lumpy. On a number of songs -- necessarily "The Long and Winding Road," "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude" -- he moved to the piano, where his playing had a simple elegance. Linda McCartney provided backup of all sorts: instrumentally, vocally and spiritually.
The evening started off with an 11-minute documentary by Richard Lester, best known for "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help" (he's also filming the tour for a future documentary). Using Beatles music and some vintage Beatles footage, it offered a decade-by-decade overview encompassing both turbulence and tenderness around the world. The last line sung was "I won't be coming back, that day is done," which turned out to be a tease. Thanks to stunning production -- computerized lights, CD-like sound and inventive use of several oversized screens -- McCartney made RFK Stadium as intimate as its ever going to get while championing a fidelity of sound and spirit that his music deserves.
Throughout the show, there were shifting dynamics (particularly when he insisted on doing the newest songs), but the highlights were so frequent that a little breath-catching from time to time was much in order.
The first fully energized moment came with "Got to Get You Into My Life," the first Beatles song performed. After a yearning "Long and Winding Road" and a melancholy "Fool on the Hill" (dedicated to John, George and Ringo, whoever they were), McCartney pumped up the jam with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which came complete with an old-fashioned light show and guitar jam: It was, well, psychedelic. It also occasioned the first professional fireworks display of the night, though emotional fireworks were undoubtedly going off all over the stadium all night.
After a bouncy "Good Day Sunshine," the sheer exuberance and raw emotions of "Can't Buy Me Love" provided an adrenalin rush that felt very much like Beatlemania, with the audience shaking, rattling and rolling at full throttle. Obviously, McCartney was dipping mostly into his half of the Lennon/McCartney songbag -- rock-and-roll's deepest -- but he resurrected the obscure but appropriate "Things We Said Today," one of the very last true collaborations with Lennon. It was lovely.
The Beatles rough roll was also evident in "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "I Saw Here Standing There," the latter the louder, but not by much. It's quite something to hear 50,001 voices swoop into a falsetto "WOOOOOOO." Wonder how those primal screams sounded in Georgetown.
McCartneymania may not be as wild as Beatlemania, but it's also not as demanding. It substitutes appreciation for hysteria, and that seems to have validated Paul McCartney's acceptance that there was no need to say goodbye to yesterday. He's been generous in reviving the music that has fed the minds and hearts of countless fans, starting in the '60s and, judging from the multi-generational hue of the crowd at RFK, continuing well into the '90s.
He could have charged just about any amount of money for last night's concert and it would have been worth it, but he saw fit to augment all the T-shirts and souvenirs on sale around the concourses with a free, 100-page souvenir program that offered a less visceral but almost-as-wonderful look back, as well as information on Friends of the Earth, the ecological organization whose work he's been championing.
In the past, Paul McCartney found himself a hard act to follow. Now, he's proving -- and maybe it's really just "again" -- that he'll be a hard act for everybody else to follow.