I admit it. I was hesitant to see the Paul McCartney concert August 1 at Wrigley Field for a couple of reasons. First, I’m not a fan of his solo stuff. Second, he yelled at me.
It was in 2006. Beatles LOVE opened in Las Vegas. I was a stringer for People magazine, working the red carpet. The Mirage was thick with celebrity that night, including Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Kevin Nealon, Sheila E., Richard Marx, Giles Martin, George Martin, Carrot Top, Siegfried and Roy and, of course, Sir Paul McCartney.
Now, the red carpet can be a degrading experience, at best. There you are, standing on the edge of a dirty, blood-colored rug, trying not to get elbowed by another hack or knocked in the head by a camera man, all the while, screaming questions at stars you don’t personally care about to get quotes for magazines you don’t subscribe to. The celebs you talk to expect that you know everything about them, including what their last Christmas tree looked like, who they’re screwing, what they want to name their upcoming scent and their astrological sign, for starters. Fact is, much of the time, they’re low enough of the star scale that I would have to ask a nearby camera man to help me ID whom I was about to speak with.
Of course, I knew who McCartney was. He practically sashayed up the red carpet, hugging the far edge, away from the press, as though a force field was prohibiting him from getting too close. I watched him ducking questions like a game of papparazzi dodgeball. He smiled and waved, simply ignoring most of us.
Then he was in front of me. I was determined to talk to the guy, and morphed into an overzealous red carpet groupie, “Paul! Kate Silver, People Magazine!” Suddenly, he snapped to attention and for god-knows-what-reason decided that this was a question he was going to take. Our eyes met, he smiled and started walking over to me. To my left was the “E!” crew. To my right, local press.
Everyone was shouting, trying to get him to answer their questions. But he was still listening to me. “What would George and John have thought?” I yelled out. It was a perfectly reasonable question. LOVE by Cirque du Soliel is inspired by the Beatles, after all. There are talking Beatles holograms. The entire show consists of Beatles songs. Isn’t it only fair to pay tribute to those whom the show pays tribute?
McCartney heard me, clearly, because his eyes narrowed into dragon beads. “Why don’t you ask them,” he spat, and strutted up the red carpet like a bowling ball headed for a strike. He was done answering questions. (Although, in a surreal twist, he did take the time at the end of the carpet to walk back and forth using the crutches of Roy, who had recently been mauled by Montecore the tiger.)
For years after that, I read about McCartney and his horde of Macca fans. For years, I dismissed the awed reporters who saw McCartney at a LOVE performance, mouthing the words. For years I changed the station with disdain when “Band on the Run” or “Silly Little Love Song” came on.
But then the concert came to town. Neil’s mom is a die-hard fan, and we knew how much she would love the show, so Neil bought tickets. It all started out as a favor to his mom. We’d go along. It would be good people watching. Maybe, we thought, McCartney would play some of his good stuff–the Beatles songs, of course. He got a lot of press leading up to the show, and it seemed like every story was by a Macca apologist on the defensive. “Paul McCartney is Cool. Really,” read the headline in Time Out.
Finally, August 1 came. The area around Wrigley was a swarm of fans, unfazed by the 90-plus degree weather. Inside, the women’s bathroom lines went around the corner before the show even began. You needed a sherpa to get through the crowds and find your seat. Elbows touched elbows, drunks hugged drunks.
The show started about 20 minutes late, but what a show. I’d like to know who McCartney’s plastic surgeon is, because I’d love to look that good and have enough energy at 70 to play a three-hour show. We rocked our way through “Back in the USSR” swooned to “Something in the Way She Moves,” wiggled our hips to “Ob La Di” and belted out “Na na na na-na-na” to “Hey Jude.”
After the phenomenal event, I am a true Paul McCartney convert. I don’t foresee getting MACCA on my license plates or buying any solo albums, but come next show, you just might find me writing the “In Defense of Paul” piece for the local press.