On Tuesday, June 11, my wife Tammy and I and my brother Mike and his wife Julie made our way to the Taxslayer Center in Moline, Illinois for a stop on Paul McCartney’s Freshen Up tour. This would be the thirteenth time I had seen McCartney in concert, with the first being at the Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena) with my brother-in-law Al in December, 1989. In addition to the recent concert in Moline, I have seen him in Chicago six times (Rosemont Horizon, Soldier Field, Wrigley Field and three times at the United Center), Indianapolis (at the old Market Square Arena and twice at Conseco Fieldhouse, now known as Banker’s Life Fieldhouse), Milwaukee (the old Country Stadium) and Summerfest, and St. Louis (the old Busch Memorial Stadium). Five of the concerts have been held in outdoor stadiums, with the remaining in indoor arenas. None of them have been in as intimate a setting as the 12,000 seat Taxslayer Center.
It’s hard to over-emphasize how much of a part of my life that the music of the Beatles, and in particular McCartney, has been. Many of their songs take me back to great memories in my life. McCartney concerts always stir emotions in me that no other concerts can, as the songs are really from the soundtrack of my life. For example – I can remember my Aunt Linda screaming at the television in her parents’ (my grandparents) living room as the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Later in that same home, my brother Mike and I first saw the Beatles Rubber Soul album in our Aunt Cindy’s room. Linda and Cindy both saw the Beatles in concert at Chicago’s Comiskey Park! My first single was the early 1964 Beatles’ two-sided hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand”/”I Saw Her Standing There”, with its black & white cover sleeve with the boys in their “Beatles suits” and McCartney holding a cigarette. (see below).
Moving forward, I remember seeing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the “White Album” for the first time at our local K-Mart. I remember excitedly telling my Mom about Sgt. Pepper when we picked her up from work that warm June, 1967 evening. I had to wait for Christmas 1968 to get the double “White Album”, which was released November 22. I can remember investigating all of the ‘Paul is Dead’ rumors, including listening to “Revolution #9” backwards when it clearly said “turn me on dead man”.
I can remember singing “Hello Goodbye” with teammates on the bus traveling to a 6th grade basketball game, “Get Back” with classmates in junior high school, and talking about the sudden ending to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” from Abbey Road on the school bus in 1969. I listened to the “bootleg” recordings from the Get Back sessions (later released as Let it Be) with a friend; went to see the Let it Be movie with my Dad followed by pizza at our favorite place in town, and seeing the Yellow Submarine movie with my brother. I remember listening in my room to Larry Lujack play “Lady Madonna” on Chicago’s WLS “The Big 89” radio station in 1968, when Lujack mistakenly said that Ringo was singing lead. The single “Band on the Run” was topping the charts as I graduated from high school in 1974. And I could go on (and on).
As we headed to Moline, anticipation was high. Although my wife and my brother had seen several McCartney concerts, this would be the first for my sister-in-law. As we arrived in Moline and drove closer to the Taxslayer Center, we saw many billboards and signs welcoming McCartney to Moline.
One of the challenges for McCartney is determining what songs to put on his setlist. Inevitably, he will have to leave out some fan favorites. The soon to be 77-year-old McCartney indicated that he and his long-time band would be playing “some new songs, some old songs and some in-between songs”. They would play a total of 38 songs over nearly three hours, without a break. The songs were a mixture of Beatles, Wings and solo songs, including one song by the Quarrymen (pre-Beatles). He would preform three songs from 2018 chart-topping Egypt Station and two from his 2013 album New.
There was no opening act. As the excited crowd filed in the arena, a DJ played a mash-up of songs and cover versions of McCartney’s songs set to new background beats, while a scrolling video showed photos of McCartney, the Beatles and others. That culminated with a large image of his famous Höfner violin bass on the screen just before he came on stage, traditionally late, and the band launched into a perfect rendition of “A Hard Day’s Night”.
McCartney always engages with his fans, who come in all ages, many of them wearing Beatles or McCartney t-shirts. He took time to read the signs that people made and held up, told stories about Beatles producer George Martin, Jimi Hendrix (after a blistering bit of “Foxy Lady” at the end of “Let Me Roll It”), how he wrote “Blackbird” to encourage those fighting for civil rights in America, playing in Russia’s Red Square, and how he and John Lennon got the lyrics for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” off of a circus poster in John’s bedroom. There were audience singalongs with many songs, notably “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
and “Hey Jude”. McCartney dedicated “My Valentine” to his wife Nancy who was at the show, “Who Cares” to those who have been bullied, “Here Today” to John Lennon and “Something”, played on a ukulele that George Harrison had given to him, to Harrison.
Throughout the concert McCartney played his famous bass, electric and acoustic guitar, piano, mandolin and ukulele. A three-piece horn section, sometimes playing out in the audience, added a lot to songs such as “Letting Go”, “Got to Get You Into My Life”, “Lady Madonna” and “Let Em In”. The stage had vertical screens on each side so fans could see McCartney and his band, and one horizontal screen behind the band to show some video effects for each song. He performed “Blackbird” and “Here Today” on a platform elevated high above the stage.
McCartney’s voice sounded strong, even better than it did when I saw him at Summerfest in 2016, though it did seem to tire on “Live and Let Die” and “Hey Jude”, before regaining strength for the six-song encore, led off with a rocking version of “Birthday”.
It’s always hard for me to pick my favorite songs at a McCartney concert, but on this night they would be “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Got to Get You Into My Life”, “From Me to You”, “Love Me Do”, “Band on the Run”, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and the dramatic fireworks enhanced “Live and Let Die”, always a show stopper.
Here is the entire setlist from the Moline show.
I hope I can bring joy to people’s lives like he has “when I’m 64”, or almost 77.