The Long and Winding Road

Don called me on Monday morning with two extra tickets for Friday night’s McCartney concert. $60! Oh well. When would I get a chance to see a Beatle again?

Friday was my last day of work before two weeks of much needed vacation. I had been hoping for a quiet day of paper shuffling. Instead the day exploded with undelivered mail, lost checks, and problems that would need six days to solve when I had but six hours to offer.

By 5:30 I was wired. I had convinced Don of the need to get downtown early for the concert. Six of us settled for dinner at the food court in the Galleria. Now I admit that the Chinese restaurant there is very good, but if I’m going to spend big bucks for concert tickets, I want to eat dinner in a place that takes reservations and serves your dinner on China not styrofoam.

By the time we got to our seats, box seats with a view partially obstructed by a bank of speakers, I had enough. I was in no mood to be there and the fact that I couldn’t see half the stage wasn’t helping.

I was settling into a well-deserved funk as the sun set and the concert began with an eleven minute montage of the last twenty-seven (yes twenty-seven) years of McCartney’s musical career and the world events his music reflected. There were huge screens on each side of the stage as well as one behind the performers. By the second song of the clip, I was calmed and ready to be entertained.

Paul McCartney bounded onto the stage with that same boyish grin that won over a world so long ago. Here was a man who loved to perform. It is no secret that he doesn’t need the cash. He feasted on the adulation. He mugged. He bowed. One could even say that at certain points in the concert he milked it. But he returned an equal measure to his fans. This was a live, sweat poring off the bodies, performance. Two and a half hours of music played by a tight band that was an equal to the material. When Paul’s microphone failed during the Long and Winding road, he joked that we should “talk amongst ourselves.” After the mike was replaced, they picked the song up in the middle and finished it without a hitch. You won’t see that at one of those tape/lip synched affairs.

The audience sang without inhibition throughout most of the concert. Before one song Paul talked for a moment and ended his remarks saying that we might want to join him at the end of the song. Don’s twenty-four year old future brother-in-law turned to me and asked what McCartney had just said. I told him that “Hey Jude” would be the next song. He asked how I knew.

As the song started I found myself sitting in Taft Junior High School, eighth grade, Canton, Ohio. Mr. Spitz was teaching art. Spitz was a free-spirit who once got on stage during a school sock hop and sang “I’ve Got A Line On You” with the band. He had shoulder-length brown hair and an attitude. As we drew our balloon lettered posters and abstract pictures, Mr. Spitz played “Hey Jude” over and over and over again. Everyday for weeks on end we absorbed “Hey Jude”. At first it was a novelty. Then it became tiresome. Finally the message sunk in and we realized what both McCartney and Spitz were trying to say.

Na Na Na Nananana Nananana, Hey Jude

A stadium filled to capacity joined in the chorus. The tears streamed from my eyes as I found myself back at the concert swaying in time to the music. It had been years since I had thought about Spitz or eighth grade. The experience was wonderful.

The balance of the concert had a potential to be anticlimactic, but it wasn’t. For some the lasers and special effects of “Live and Let Die” was the highlight. Other may have found the touching tribute to John Lennon as the most special moment of the show. I’m sure that everyone loved the encore. Paul played “Yesterday” on acoustic guitar and finished with the last cuts from Abbey Road the Beatles final album. He even proved that he could play a mean lead guitar. Me? I danced. I sang. And mostly I just stood there basking in the afterglow like a couple sleeping in each other’s arms after passionately making love.

A banner hanging from the upper deck read “John Is Here”. He was. I saw him sitting next to Mr. Spitz in the front row.