Let’s cut to the chase. If you haven’t seen Paul McCartney live before, go see him. Please. Heck, even if you have seen him before, go see him again. If you need someone to give you a reason why, think of it as going to see the Grand Canyon or Michelangelo’s David in Florence. No matter what you think the experience will be, actually being there in their presence, with all five senses taking in the moment, is precisely the thing that makes being alive worth it. Paul McCartney is Yosemite or Banff or the Eifel Tower. He’s music’s greatest national park, its remaining 7th Wonder Of The World.
Macca will turn 80 years old in about a month. But you wouldn’t know it in Los Angeles on Friday night. Performing in front of a packed SoFi Stadium that just hosted the Super Bowl, he made his way through 36 songs over the course of 2.5 hours of music. He didn’t take many breaks, occasionally slowing things down to tell a story about one of his old friends John or George, or thanking director Peter Jackson for cutting some Get Back footage for the tour. As someone with parents near his age, or as someone with a President also near his age, seeing what McCartney can still do on stage is miraculous. For someone with as much timeless music in his catalog, no one ever expected he’d also become timeless as a performer.
But while I can go over the many highlights of the show, from the pyro spectacle that accompanied “Live And Let Die” (the heat warmed up the stadium’s floor section so much, I was legitimately worried about the former Beatle) to his memories of the civil rights movement inspiring “Blackbird,” there were few moments that didn’t feel special. And particularly following a strong couple of years for McCartney-led musical endeavors (aside from the Disney+ Get Back film taking over social media for a week last year, there was his recent McCartney III solo album, reissues of RAM and Wild Life, and a collection of his lyrics, appropriately titled THE LYRICS: 1956 to the Present), the evening’s presumed nostalgia still felt as relevant as possible, as one of the world’s best living songwriters is still finding ways to connect to fans and keep his work in the cultural conversation.
On this night, though, I often found myself looking around, away from the stage. The joy that permeated the massive stadium (which, though I have been for a few football games, I have to acknowledge SoFi is also a pretty great sounding and comfortable location for a big show, instantly placing itself as the area’s best option for the size) was unmistakable and contagious. I saw a pair of grandparents walking in their young child of maybe six years old, with the kid gleefully excited and quizzing their elders about the times they had seen Macca previously. Another kid next to us knew the lyrics to Beatles songs better than I did. A security guard for the show was next to me in line for merch, buying up t-shirts for his family, clearly not treating this like another day at the office. The influencers were out taking selfies with Paul performing in the background, while another person in a wheelchair couldn’t help but swerve his device through the aisles to the music, swept up in the songs and dancing the best way he knew how.
There is a bit of melancholy involved with the concert, too. And maybe that’s what really highlights the beauty and joy of McCartney in 2022. From his wife Linda to his producer George Martin to his old bandmates John and George, Paul McCartney has lived to see many of his closest friends and loved ones pass on. And while he gave many of them their shine and paused for audience applause, he also seems to know that the best thing he can do for their legacy is continuing on, playing these songs for tens of thousands, living a life that honors all those that have lived closely with him.
The Grand Canyon is 6 million years old. The sculpture of David has been standing for more than 500 years. And McCartney is nearing 80, with some of his songs having been heard for more than 50 years. These things are all eternal, as much as anything is; as long as there are people to witness them, they will still exist. But we, the audience, have a finite time. If the last few years of the pandemic have taught us anything, it’s how fleeting this time can be, and how much we take it for granted. So don’t waste YOUR time. Go experience these things while you can. Especially Paul.