Walking into Foxboro Stadium last week, the music of "Got to Get You Into my Life" sounded, felt and looked as if the Beatles were playing it live. On its feet and cheering, the crowd saluted only one-fourth of that celebrated group. On stage was Paul McCartney, one man trying to revive the magic that was the Beatles.
And with a set of green, yellow and blue behind him, McCartney tried to re-create the mood that the crowd had come to experience. "Now we are going back in time to the Sixties," said McCartney with a smile, launching into a convincing rendition of "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band."
Apparently, McCartney has learned over his long struggle to establish himself as a musician apart from the Beatles that musicianse must inevitably give concert-goers at least a little bit of what they want to hear. But this crowd didn't come to hear Wings, and it certainly didn't come to hear "Say, Say, Say." It came came to hear the Beatles.
McCartney's latest release, Flowers in the Dirt, was modestly successful, and produced one Top-10 hit, "My Brave Face," and the little-known but solid "We Got Married." But strangely enough, the first Paul McCartney world tour since 1976 began almost a year after the album's release. McCartney obviously wasn't counting on the strength of his recent work to draw his overwhelmingly middle-aged crowd.
McCartney took the zero-risk option and waited until his LP faded off of Billboard's charts, lest recent success detract from his old standards. The crowds, desperately weary of the soundbite, searching for a bit of the past, seemed to especially appreciate the old Beatle ballads.
The trip to the past apparently stirred even the most lethargic members of the inter-generational crowd. Even the two fellows passed out and sagging in their seats for most of the show, remembered to turn on their bootlegging cassette recorders when the crowd joined in for "Hey Jude."
McCartney inundated the thirtysomething crowd with nostalgia, wowing their children as well. But once the crowd was safely esconced in the Sixties, McCartney would inevitably jolt them back to reality with a song from his post-Beatle days.
Some songs, like "Band on the Run" and "Figure of Eight" inspired a loud roar of recognition. But many, like "Put It There," vacated the arena, causing ridiculously long lines at the stadium hot dog stand.
When performing the music he once shared with co-band members, Paul should have at least made it his business to acknowledge John, George and Ringo. But only Lennon--whom McCartney called an "old friend"--got a special dedication in a short rendition of "Strawberry Fields Forever." The idea of McCartney mentioning another Beatle only once seems a bit stingy.
Many believe that the tours of former Beatle members now only serve to add quick cash to their already huge fortunes. McCartney himself is one of the wealthiest people in England. And when McCartney played old Beatles songs as if they were his solo works, it was hard not to question his intentions and find cynical answers.
McCartney's token nod to the public good came with the concert's connection to an environmental group called Friends of the Earth. The group sponsored the tour and received a generous four-page spread in the 100-page program.
The brief, almost curt, environmental plug that McCartney gives once between songs is the basic "You should call your elected official and let them know you care," which, like McCartney's performance, was nice and inoffensive.
Nice and inoffensive is not quite the praise of unadulterated genius that the Beatles used to garner, but it is enough to get McCartney around the world. His tour includes 14 countries and Mother Britain, but one has to wonder how the show will fare in nations not so nostalgic for the Sixties, Beatlemania, and adolescence. But as McCartney winds up his U.S. leg of the tour, there's no doubt the affection American audiences have for this member of the Fab Four. Women might no longer bare their breast the way they would when the group played, but their hearts are still belong to McCartney.