I spent last Saturday night with Paul McCartney.
OK, it was along with 40,000 other people.
As lagniappe during our family vacation, a friend gave us tickets for Paul McCartney’s first San Francisco concert since the very last Beatles 1966 public performance in Candlestick Park.
The fog was thick. The night was cold. Much a surprise to our Louisiana bones, we snuggled under a fuzzy red blanket in AT&T Park and felt lucky.
During a few mind-bending moments, the thousands of arm waving, screaming fans filling the outfield between Paul and me faded. In those moments, I didn’t even notice the very happy man smoking a funny-looking cigarette two rows ahead.
Twelve songs in, Paul – still wearing a black Beatles jacket – took time to explain that he wrote the song he was about to sing for his late wife, Linda.
And, he launched in to “My Love.”
It sounded just like it did on the radio all those years ago, and a tear sneaked down my cheek.
Singing his 68-year-old Beatle heart out while the audience has a past-tense experience must get a little old for Sir Paul. The sheer quantity of lyrics and tunes this man has written and sung shaped so much perspective for so many.
That night, I totally got what all the fuss had ever been about The Beatles.
The concert was like a conversation. Fifteen songs in, McCartney started talking about the American South and back in the 1960’s how he read about the racial strife and fight for equality.
“So,” he said, “I wrote this song.”
And he sang “Blackbird.”
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
I had no idea of the genesis of that song and will sing it with a more reverential heart now.
Then, he talked about the importance of speaking the truth to the people you love when you’re able.
“I wrote this song for John.”
And he gave a very emotional acoustic performance of “Here Today,” the song he wrote after John Lennon’s death.
And if I said I really loved you
And was glad you came along
Then you were here today
For you were in my song.
Then, McCartney took a ukulele that George Harrison gave him and sang “Something.”
You’re asking me will my love grow,
I don’t know, I don’t know.
Forty songs that man sang — plaintive, mournful and full of spirit.
Much of the evening had the feeling of an elegy – not just for McCartney’s loved ones, but for things lost along the way for all of us.
Holding back tears, for me, was impossible. Even crusty old men were crying.
The proof of the timelessness of the music showed as my whole family swayed to the beat and sang the words – music my husband learned on a 45; I learned on an 8-track, and my 12-year-old learned on her IPod.
She hooked the IPod to the car speakers on our trip home, and we all sang along.