Paul McCartney made his Milwaukee debut 49 years ago (September 1964) at the Arena as a member of the Beatles. When he performed in Brew City for the fifth time Tuesday night at Miller Park – as part of the ongoing "Out There" tour – the show was an explosion of Fab Four nostalgia.
McCartney has been releasing solo material since 1970, though most of his '70s era output was made with his band Wings, which also featured his late wife Linda McCartney. Yet the bulk of his more than two and a half hours onstage Tuesday night was dedicated to the music of the Beatles.
Glance at the setlist below – identical (except for the inclusion of "Get Back" and exclusion of "I Saw Her Standing There" in the first encore) to the song selection McCartney's performed at his shows in DC, Indianapolis, Boston and other cities recently – and you'll see that 26 or 38 songs (68.4%) date to his time with the Fab Four.
Interestingly, one of them was a ukelele-fueled reading of "Something," penned by the late Beatles guitarist George Harrison, and another was John Lennon's "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite," from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
"Kite" was one of five Beatles songs McCartney featured that have never before been performed in concert. The others were "Lovely Rita," "Magical Mystery Tour" favorite "Your Mother Should Know" and "All Together Now," from the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack. Meanwhile, "Eight Days A Week" – a song Lennon famously lambasted as being "lousy" – was performed only in lip-synced TV appearances in 1965.
He definitely played more Beatles songs in Milwaukee Tuesday night than the Beatles themselves played in their short set at the Arena in '64.
But, that's OK. Regardless of how you rate McCartney's music since 1970, no one can deny that the Beatles were not only McCartney's apex, but also one of the still-untouched pinnacles of the rock and roll era.
And the chance to see and hear McCartney play not only "Let It Be" and "Yesterday" and "Hey Jude," but also "Your Mother Should Know" and "I've Just Seen A Face" onstage? Come on, who would pass that up? Surely not Tuesday's sold out and Miller Park-record crowd, which spent nearly three hours snapping flash photographs and lighting up the stadium with the glow of smartphones.
A highlight for me was hearing "All Together Now," as I sat in the stands looking out toward my grandparents' near South Side home. As a kid, I can remember making my Milwaukee grandfather laugh with maniacal dancing to the song.
With his long-standing backing band – guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, keyboardist Paul Wickens and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. – the 71-year-old McCartney performed eight songs from the Wings era – including "Listen to What the Man Said," "Band on the Run," a pyrotechnics-laden "Live and Let Die" and a rocking rendition of "Junior's Farm."
He played four songs from his solo records: "Maybe I'm Amazed" – rendered at a break-neck pace – and "Another Day" from 1970-71; "Here Today," a song about the death of John Lennon from 1982's "Tug of War"; and "My Valentine," from 2012's "Kisses on the Bottom."
But the audience made it quite clear that it was those Beatles songs they really wanted to hear most, often heading to the bathrooms and the beer vendors during the solo tunes.
After getting a late start due, it seems, to a longer than expected soundcheck which delayed the opening of the gates, McCartney was affable and chatty, sharing stories of his former Beatles bandmates, Jimi Hendrix and the vacation to Morocco that inspired "My Valentine." He also frequently broke into quirky little dances, revealing his skills as a showman.
Most amazing of all, however, was McCartney's stamina on a sizzling hot night in a Miller Park that was especially steamy. Despite his age, McCartney took nary a break and no one I spoke to saw him even stop to take a sip of water during the performance.
"This has been a hot one in more ways than one," McCartney said as the show wound down. It sure was.
Eight Days a Week
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I'm Amazed
I've Just Seen a Face
We Can Work It Out
And I Love Her
Your Mother Should Know
All Together Now
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hi, Hi, Hi
Carry That Weight
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.