By Deborah Schwartz, Community Contributer
It was a night to celebrate. And it wasn’t only about the music.
New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium was packed Thursday night for the final show of superstar Paul McCartney’s “Got Back” U.S. tour. And for the first time in a long time, it finally felt like things were getting back to normal.
The parking lot was filled with tailgaters hours before the 8 p.m. concert. All of us greying New Jerseyans who haven’t left the house much since COVID were out in full-force, grilling, drinking, and laughing. We were striking up conversations with complete strangers about our love of McCartney’s music, commenting on each other’s Beatles t-shirts and wondering if it was going to rain. (It did rain, but it was brief, and well-worth the soaking). Children brought along for the fun were being schooled by their parents on the history of the Beatles and rumors were flying about a possible onstage appearance by New Jersey rockers Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. (They both did show and were amazing, as always.)
It takes a lot to draw this 50-and-over crowd out of our “work-from-home bubbles” and onto the traffic-clogged New Jersey Turnpike for anything, but legendary McCartney’s magnetic pull was strong enough to do the trick. Sure, the machinegun-toting law enforcement officers stationed at the parking lot entrances were a bit unsettling, as was the stadium evacuation procedure PSA played on the jumbo screens. But the crowd seemed accepting of this new normal. The general sentiment: This is just the way it is now, so let’s get on with it.
And with McCartney’s help, we did. His three-hour-plus concert took us on a trip down memory lane via many of his greatest hits with the Beatles and Wings, from “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be” to “Band on the Run” and “Jet,” complete with video clips of the Fab 4 through the years interwoven with personal stories from McCartney and special tributes to the late John Lennon and George Harrison. He also sang his sweet love song “My Valentine” for his wife, Nancy, and there was a spectacular pyrotechnic and fireworks display set to “Live and Let Die” before his six-song encore.
People were dancing, singing, swaying and waving their phone flashlights in the air throughout the night. McCartney looked great as he delivered an incredible performance throughout the show, ending it as strong as when he started. The crowd went insane when Bruce appeared on stage. “Happy Birthday, Paul!” Springsteen shouted. “Here’s to 80 more years of ‘Glory Days.’” Together they sang Springsteen’s “Glory Days” followed by The Beatles, “I Wanna Be Your Man.” Bon Jovi also came on stage with balloons and led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to McCartney, who is celebrating his 80th birthday this weekend. Many fans held up signs wishing McCartney a happy birthday, and the cameras panned the audience for everyone to read.
And before McCartney’s oldest song of the night from 1958, “In Spite of All the Danger,” he told the story of how the song’s recording cost him and his original bandmates one pound each, 5 pounds in total, to record. They made an agreement to allow each band member to keep the demo record for a week or two, but the last member to receive it, John “Duff” Lowe, kept it for 20 years. “Then he sold it back to us, at a considerable profit,” McCartney joked.
I think seeing these stars on stage transported many of us in the audience Thursday night right back to our own “glory days,” remembering what it was like to get out and have fun in the days before COVID, and giving us hope for more fun again in the future. But more importantly, I think that McCartney proves time and time again with performances of his unparalleled collection of songs is that age really is just a number. Lesson learned on Thursday night? Whatever it is that you love to do, don’t let age keep you from doing it, and keep doing it for as long as you can.
Editor’s note: It was announced on Friday that McCartney’s three iconic solo albums (McCartney, McCartney II, and McCartney III) will be available together for the first time as a limited-edition box set starting Aug. 5.
McCartney I II III box set will be available in three different formats – Limited Edition Color Vinyl, Black Vinyl Edition, and CD – each including three special photo prints with notes from Paul about each album. The newly created boxset cover art and typography for the slipcase are by Ed Ruscha. To pre-order McCartney I II III, please click HERE.
About the new box set:
Bookending 50 years of unparalleled work, each album demonstrates Paul McCartney’s restless creativity and adventurous artistic spirit. McCartney, the Number One Album was Paul’s first solo album released in 1970 and features timeless tracks “Every Night” and “Junk,” along with the immortal classic “Maybe I’m Amazed.” This album saw a global music superstar pioneer a novel homespun approach to recording that would, in time, become a sought-after sound and the highly influential precursor to the “lo-fi” alternative genre.
Just as McCartney marked the end of an era with Paul’s first release after leaving the biggest band in history, Paul did it again in 1980, this time signaling the end of 70s rock giants Wings. Taking a fresh approach to things, Paul wrote, performed, and produced the avant-garde masterpiece McCartney II, which reached Number One in the UK, and Number 3 in the US, producing such classics as “Coming Up,” “Waterfalls,” and “Temporary Secretary.”
With McCartney III, Paul went back to basics again to create some of his most revealing work to date. Released in December 2020, just two years after Paul’s Billboard-topping Egypt Station album, “Rockdown,” saw Paul turn unexpected time on his hands into an opportunity to get into the studio on his own. An intimate and loose record featuring “Find My Way” and the now live favorite “Women and Wives,” McCartney III features Paul’s melodic gift at its forefront throughout. Upon release, McCartney III charted at Number One on the UK’s Official Album Charts and Number One on Billboard’s Top Album Sales Chart.
In an unrivaled career, Paul has always been willing to take risks and have fun along the way – his musical projects have included classical albums, electronic albums, ballet scores, writing for video games, and left-field collaborations — along the way, breaking chart records, box office records, winning countless awards and remaining one of the world’s most influential and revered artists of all time. McCartney, McCartney II, and McCartney III captured and documented landmark moments of his singular career, each offering a personal snapshot of a unique artist at a particular moment in time.