Concert Review: Paul McCartney at Dodger Stadium

Paul McCartney Dodgers Stadium
Lester Cohen/WireImage

The multigenerational appeal of the Beatles has been a calling card ever since they first touched down in the States more than 50 years ago. And it was no less evident Sunday night at Dodger Stadium, where Paul McCartney delivered another of his patented marathon extravaganzas.

During one concession break, this reporter couldn’t help but notice a boy no older than 7 rocking out to “We Can Work It Out” — not just dancing in the aisle, but singing the words. This was a single released in 1965, a year before McCartney and his bandmates first visited Dodger Stadium. So this would be the equivalent of those who grew up on the Fab Four being intimately familiar with the music of Irving Berlin, or Gustav Mahler, at a time when Elvis and Sinatra were already the fuddy-duddy relics of their parents’ era.

To stage a show at an outdoor sports arena of this scale (Dodger stadium holds 56,000, not counting the seats set up on the field for this occasion), you better possess a deep bench of tunes or be able to stage a larger-than-life spectacle. McCartney was able to do both with phenomenal aplomb. He gave the packed venue what it wanted: a smattering of hits from a career that could seal several musicians’ legacies, delivering almost 40 songs in a tightly paced set that lasted close to three hours.

At age 72, McCartney is more active than ever. And yet the constant touring, not to mention his respectable output of new music, doesn’t seem to have taken a toll. He looked svelte and spry, decked out in skinny jeans and a nifty navy blazer. No comfy black tennis shoes for this septuagenarian, but an up-to-date facsimile of the very same Beatle boots — suede, if I’m not mistaken — that were paired with those trademark collarless suits all those years ago. When the jacket was removed to reveal a crisp white shirt of haute couture detail, McCartney announced “this will be the only wardrobe change of the evening.” He was literally rolling up his sleeves for the long haul ahead.

But as McCartney displayed at the Grammy awards in February, he’s not content to simply trot out the old hits. In fact, after opening with “Eight Days a Week,” a song more associated with Lennon than McCartney given John’s lead vocal on the original recording, McCartney broke into “Save Us” from his latest album, “New,” a brisk rocker that might not stand up to his best work, but neither did it bring the energy level down. The title track from that LP, a kind of nostalgic look back at youthful naiveté and potential, as well as “Queenie Eye,” a rollicking piano-driven number that points to McCartney’s continued vitality, were performed midway through the set to the desired effect, proving that the evening was more than an exercise in nostalgia.

But it was the tried-and-true hits that provided the show’s backbone, including the ballads that are ingrained in the McCartney brand: “Yesterday,” sung during the second encore, “Maybe I’m Amazed,” from his first solo album, “The Long and Winding Road,” which came to be known as a melancholic swan song that signified the Beatles’ demise, and, of course, those classic sing-alongs “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.”

“Back in the ’60s” almost took on the quality of a refrain when McCartney bantered between numbers, at one point explaining that “Blackbird” was a response to the Civil Rights strife that was roiling on our shores in the late ’60s, banishing speculation that it was a paean to his mother. Of course it could’ve been a bit of both, since the Beatles were famous for turning the slightest bit of inspiration into infectious music.

And it was only a matter of time that McCartney’s work with Wings, which seems to grow more important with time, would hold equal weight with his Lennon/McCartney output in these live settings. Two of those songs, the stutter-step “Let Me Roll It,” with its mean guitar lick, and “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” from the now classic “Band on the Run,” stood as two of the evening’s highlights. That latter tune especially displayed McCartney’s considerable chops on piano, and served as a fitting companion piece to “Lady Madonna.”

McCartney’s collaborators on stage are as tight a unit as they come, including Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, who have played with McCartney for more than a decade, on guitars; Paul Wickens, a veritable one-man orchestra on keyboards; and Abe Laboriel Jr., a powerhouse on drums.

The sound mix probably could have used some fine-tuning, but what could one expect in such a makeshift outdoor setting? And yet the vast majority stuck around until “The End,” literally, capping off that majestic medley of tunes from “Abbey Road.” Little did they know it would take another half hour to find their car in the sprawling stadium lot. “The Long and Winding Road,” indeed.

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    1. beeatle says:

      There were a few fluke showers a day or two before. Most people don’t like to work with electricity in the rain. And the worst venue would’ve been the Rose Bowl.

    2. michael e. goetz says:

      We made an all day event of the event. Picking up a friend in Brea, then to Hermosa Beach for another and ending up at Union Station to park and Olvera Street for lunch and margies. Oh yeah, then up the hill on the shuttle, to enjoy one of the highlights of my life. The body of work that Paul and his mates are responsible for is truly beyond comparison. Cheers mixed with tears, a great crowd, and ME singing with one of the worlds greatest poet and musician! I’m getting chills just writing this story. Thank you Paul, for being the quality man that you are and making me, and other folks too, glad to be alive and able to enjoy life a little more…..because of you. Cheers, from Mike xo

    3. PT says:

      What no mention of the emothional and stirring tributes to fellow mates John and George? FAIL!
      Oh and by the way got our of the parking lot in less than 10 minutes so let it be will you!

    4. Clet says:

      My wife and I came all the way from Tahiti to see Sir Paul. It was worth the eight hours flight from home to enjoy a fabulous concert. Thank you.

    5. beeatle says:

      Out there indeed! Fab show…and as great as it gets for a stadium show. Paul and his band were in splendid form throughout. Hope all those cameras were recording for a TV special so all the pretenders to the throne –and those who couldn’t be there can see the true King in his element. But after the lovely tributes to John and George one for Ringo was expected.

    6. Patricia Guerrero says:

      I was there and for someone who has followed his career since I was 5 it was truly amazing!

    7. Chris says:

      I wasn’t at the show, but as someone who has worked wardrobe at his shows those boots ain’t suede. No animals were harmed in anything in Sir Paul’s wardrobe. And yes, Stella.

    8. Teresa says:

      Sir Paul’s concert ROCKED! So much fun dancing in the nosebleeds. Looked and sounded fantastic. Too many favorites to list. He looked fit. His suit was impeccably tailored (Stella?). He played his heart out. What an inspiration! He is a poster child for veganism. He was humble, thankful and funny. A++

    9. Ann Wang says:

      Every time I see a Sir Paul concert I always feel like I captured a little bit of heaven, and last night was no different. I do wish he would perform in a smaller venue so it would be more intimate.

    10. Dave says:

      The worst possible venue in LA for him to play. Sonically challenged to say the least. Our view was obstructed by a tent covering the audio engineers in center field. It was dark. Why did they need it covered?

      • Sorry Dave! I had little expectations that the sound engineers would do Sir Paul justice but my experience was just the opposite. Both McCartney and the band were finely tuned and sounded better than I could have imagined.

    11. Red Rivers says:

      The man is amazing. His concert was incredible. Dodger Stadium was rocked to its foundations. What a terrific night from Sir Paul. Magnificent.

    12. Kriste says:

      That was the most amazing birthday concert ever. Report forgot to mention Paul signing a fans arm so the mother and daughter will now have matching tattoos!

    13. Rhonda says:

      Saw Paul August 5 in Montana. Still haven’t come down from that high!

    14. John says:

      Great show, excellent music. Everyone performed at the top of their game! But whoever was running lighting had an extremely bright multi-color light shinning from the stage on the Top Deck seats (cheap seats) throughout most of the show. Could not see Paul or the stage for most of the show (expect for the ballads) – ruined a wonderful show for hundreds of fans.

    15. Annie says:

      I was there last night and Sir Paul rocked it. The author of this piece nailed it. However, you left out the wonderful “Live and Let Die” with fireworks. Great show and as long as Paul wants to perform, I will be there.

    16. janet gunter says:

      Extraordinary! Brilliant!! Sir Paul is an amazing talent that never ceases to amaze!

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