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When Summerfest booked the Stones last year, it was hard to imagine how it might top that high watermark. But Friday night, Summerfest 2016 began its final weekend with a tidal wave of a gig by living legend Paul McCartney.
The show marked the U.S. return of McCartney's One on One Tour, which took a break in early May as Sir Paul spent the second half of the month and much of June performing in South America and Europe.
Though McCartney's no stranger to Milwaukee – he last performed here at Miller Park in 2013 (though technically, he last took the stage here just yesterday) – any visit by the 74-year-old ex-Beatle is a cause for celebration. The fact that his lengthy set lists, while overlapping a fair bit, also offer up a lot of variety (plus they're looonnng) makes it even more fun and interesting.
Across more than 30 songs, Macca mined material from the Beatles, Wings and his solo records. McCartney's approach to the Beatles era was interesting in that he didn't stick only to the Macca classics you'd expect – "Hey Jude," "Blackbird," "Let It Be" and "Eleanor Rigby" – though he did perform those.
He also played a very early Quarrymen song called "In Spite of All the Danger," as well as George Harrison's "Something" – kicking it off on ukelele before trading it for a guitar about halfway through – and John Lennon's "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." Perhaps the latter should come as no surprise at all considering the fact that McCartney has said the song's bassline is his favorite to play.
McCartney also dropped in a version of "FourFiveSeconds," his 2015 collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna, as well as a few tunes from 2013's "New," including one called "Save Us," which was the second song of the night, "Queenie Eye" and the title track.
The first song, however, was a real doozy.
The show began with that familiar and iconic chord that opens "A Hard Day's Night," a song that McCartney hadn't played live in its entirety (before this tour) since 1965. "Love Me Do," another song he's never performed post-Beatles, also made the set list, as did "I've Got a Feeling" from "Let It Be."
Expecting McCartney might stick to the set he played at his previous show – June 30 in Belgium – there were a few pleasant surprises. Though he did in fact perform all 31 of the songs he played that night in Europe, he slotted in even more, including "Here, There and Everywhere," "And I Love Her," "Yesterday" and "The Fool on the Hill."
Most enjoyable of all for this long-time fan was hearing him play "You Won't See Me" from "Rubber Soul," a record that's been getting excessive playing time in my car these past few months.
But, really, there were no real low points, except perhaps a lumbering version of "Temporary Secretary" from 1980's "McCartney II," which did little to move the crowd, except downward off their feet and into their seats.
Other solo and Wings-era tunes were considerably more successful, from the rocking "Let Me Roll It," to the tender "Maybe I'm Amazed" and the bombastic "Live and Let Die."
McCartney is the consummate showman, as ever, engaging in banter, doing his little two-step dances, striking poses and reading aloud signs held aloft by audience members. Toward the end of the two-hour and 45-minute show, he invited a pair of sign holders – a father and daughter – on stage for a hug.
As always, McCartney is supported by an able team of musicians – the same ones who performed here with him in 2013.
Reviewing a Paul McCartney gig is a difficult thing for someone who has spent his whole life listening to the Beatles, who were as ubiquitous in my youth as hamburgers and baseball. Reviewing McCartney is sort of like reviewing my left arm.
Sure, it's showing some signs of age and maybe it doesn't move quite as quickly as it used to, but I've gotten a lot of use, enjoyment and benefit out of it, and I can't imagine my life without it.
"A Hard Day's Night"
"Can't Buy Me Love"
"Let Me Roll It"
"I've Got a Feeling"
"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five"
"Here, There and Everywhere"
"Maybe I'm Amazed"
"We Can Work It Out"
"In Spite of All the Danger"
"You Won't See Me"
"Love Me Do"
"And I Love Her"
"The Fool on the Hill"
"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"
For more McCartney musings, you can read Andy Tarnoff's thoughts on the show here.
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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.