Sir Paul McCartney brought his Out There tour to the Seattle Mariners ballpark at Safeco Field this past Friday – and over the course of an epic 39 song, three hour set, he also gave the sold-out crowd of 45,000 ecstatic fans a little hometown bonus, in the way of what you might call “Sirvana.”
For the encores, McCartney was joined onstage by original, surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic (along with Pat Smear) for several songs. These included a ripping “Long Tall Sally” (which got everyone out of their seats and dancing in the aisles where I sat), and “Cut Me Some Slack” (which was also played with “Sirvana” at the 12/12 Concert for Hurricane Sandy).
Much as he did with Wings at the Kingdome nearly 40 years ago, McCartney was once again tasked with breaking in Safeco Field as a venue suitable for live concerts, and the 13 year-old ballpark passed the test with flying colors.
Although you could occasionally hear the whistle of passing trains from the nearby station in between songs, “The Safe” appears to have a bright future ahead of itself for big-time, stadium-sized rock shows. The clear, beautiful (and unseasonably warm for Seattle) summer night certainly didn’t hurt. But the sound was mostly stellar throughout (although Paul’s microphone briefly went dead during the encores).
Safeco Field is also unique in the fact that nearly every seat in the place offers a clear, unobstructed view of the stage. Gigantic screens on either side of the stage displayed HD quality images not only of Paul, but of his entire band as well. From a production standpoint, it was as good as anything I’ve ever seen in a stadium setting for a rock and roll show. If there is a DVD/Blu-ray of this tour planned at some point down the line, I can’t imagine it coming from a better location, or from a more magnificent show.
The setlist was also one of the best I’ve seen.
My first Paul McCartney show at the Kingdome with Wings back in 1976 (much of which can be seen on this year’s reissue of Rockshow) will always carry a certain sentimental significance, as one of my all-time greatest concert experiences. But the song balance at this show – between McCartney’s years as a solo artist, with the Beatles, and with Wings – was nothing short of a fan’s dream.
This was about as close to perfect as it gets.
You not only got the expected hits (“Band On The Run,” “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude” and the most explosive display of pyrotechnics yet for “Live And Let Die”). You also got the songs you never expected to see played live. Perfect recreations of “Lovely Rita” and “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (the latter being a John Lennon song) sounded nearly as good here as they did on Sgt. Pepper – something that many wouldn’t have even thought possible way back when.
McCartney’s touring band deserves particular credit here, especially keyboardist Paul Wickens for reproducing the swirling, psychedelic kaleidoscope of “Mr. Kite.” The closest match in recent memory that I can think for nailing such a complex studio work in a similar concert setting, would be the way Brian Wilson’s band did it with the live shows for Smile a few years back. Guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray were equally stellar, and Abe Laboriel, Jr. is quite simply a monster drummer.
But McCartney himself remains a force of nature. At 71 years old, he has clearly inherited the mantle of “world’s oldest teenager” once held by Dick Clark. His voice did falter a little at times during this show. He didn’t nail all of the notes he once could during “Lovely Rita” and “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and attempting something like “Oh! Darling” may be out of the question at this point.
But outside of Bruce Springsteen, there is probably no other performer on the planet of his vintage who could go for three plus hours the way he did in Seattle on Friday night.
That patented scream may be a little muted these days. But man did he turn it up in those encores.
Beginning with “Day Tripper,” and then going toe to toe with Dave Grohl and company for the impromptu Nirvana reunion on “Helter Skelter,” “Get Back” and “Long Tall Sally,” Macca never looked or sounded better.
From where I sat, he still had the girls swooning too. Must be that vegetarian lifestyle…
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!
Something (Paul on ukelele)
Band on the Run
Back in the USSR
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Cut Me Some Slack (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Get Back (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Long Tall Sally (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Helter Skelter (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Golden Slumbers (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Carry That Weight (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
The End (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Also heard during soundcheck:
Drive My Car
Things We Said Today
*Article first published at Blogcritics.