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Concert Review: Paul McCartney at Safeco Field, Seattle, WA, 7/19/2013

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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…

Setlist:

Eight Days a Week
Junior’s Farm
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It
Paperback Writer
My Valentine
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
Another Day
And I Love Her
Blackbird
Here Today
Your Mother Should Know
Lady Madonna
All Together Now
Lovely Rita
Mrs. Vandebilt
Eleanor Rigby
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Something (Paul on ukelele)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Band on the Run
Back in the USSR
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

Encore:
Day Tripper
Cut Me Some Slack (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Get Back (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)

Encore 2:
Yesterday
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

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Kathy Fox

    Don’t you think Neil Young is up there with Sir Paul and Springsteen? I was at Safeco last night and LOVED the show!

  • Hannah-Rose

    I’m with Kathy. Neil rocks hard baby. Paul was fantastic last night. I’m hoarse today from the excitement of it. Swoon is right…

  • broo

    thanks for great review, almost like being there!

  • thrasher

    “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.”

    hmm.
    Can’t really think of anyone either? Oh wait. Just thought of someone
    but name escapes me at the moment. I’m sure it’ll come back….

    ps – great review and good to hear you got a fantastic concert. Sirvana? Who came up with that?!?!

  • lovely Rita

    You nailed the review in every way…and even gave us some of the 76 Wings show…..thanks for giving me a way to share it with the so many that couldn’t get tix….what a living legend.
    (But, Mick can do it too)
    Sir Paul was every bit that unique combo of rockstar and knighted gentleman, here for his fans and bringing in local boys, too.

  • Stix boy

    Great show. However, after driving 300 miles and dropping a ton of $$$ on Seattle, I find that there is a giant black light pole directly between my seat and the stage. That was a real downer. Shame on Safeco for selling sight limited seats with no warning!!!

  • Spin That 45

    Great write up! Loved that Paul performed trax from Band on the Run! For being 71, his voice was RIGHT ON! Tributes were heartfelt. Band was Stellar! With Nirvana…SICK! Truly the best concert I have ever seen! He brought back the old days when performers could go for 2+hours! AMAZING!

  • 007

    WOW! That was the best concert I have ever seen! You would never guess that Paul M. is 71!!! This show was a class act and the Nirvana addition at the end was quite a special surprise for Seattle. Live and let Die song was just incredible! So glad that I didn’t miss this concert. The only bummer of the night was standing in line for a 40 dollar t-shirt only to find out all the good ones were sold out. Oh and that my girlfriend got me in trouble for J-walking :)

  • Natalie206

    In the last ten years I’ve seen some of the “greats” – The Who, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Steve Winwood….I find it hard to believe I will ever see a concert that can top last night. Three hours of music, and the man never left the stage. The Nirvana encores were icing on the cake. The fact that I – along with 44,999 other fans – got to sing Beatles songs WITH a Beatle…I can’t find the words to convey how epic the whole experience was. The Hey Jude singalong sent chills down my spine and brought a tear to my eye. I jut hope his voice hangs in there for another couple of years, and that he comes back to Seattle very soon!!

    Great review and videos, Glen.

    • Linda Gebaroff

      There are some great posts to youtube with the Hey Jude song from last night…..naaaa na naa na na na na….I’m still singing it today.

  • gindingcrewhouse

    dave grohl and crew did not play on the final abbey road segment as the list suggests.

    • Chaz Lipp

      They did come out and play during “The End,” during the guitar solo part.

  • Glen Boyd

    As anyone who knows me certainly knows, Neil Young certainly ranks right up there as well. It’s just a different sort of energy with what he does with Crazy Horse. What Macca delivered last night prompted the Springsteen comparison…the energy level Paul maintained for 3 hours – at 71 years old, for cryin’ out loud – was just freaking off the charts. I’m also pretty sure the Nirvana guys did play on at least part of the Abbey Road medley. Thanks for the comments everyone.

  • Reality Bites

    Big fan of Sir Paul, honored to see him on stage last night. But honestly, Safeco is a disaster of a venue. The sound system was just horrible – whatever joy I experienced was only because I know the songs so well and was thrilled to see them being performed. Band was rocking and tight but I took the coward’s way out and left after an hour rather than have the muddy distorted sound destroy my love of this man’s music.
    Shame on the sheep for gushing over the emperor’s new clothes (Safeco I that is).

    • Chaz Lipp

      Were you using earplugs? I was and thought the sound was quite good for such a huge venue. Human ears simply don’t handle the decibel level required at such a show and earplugs are essential for actually hearing the music clearly (and protecting one’s hearing).

    • Bill Kelley

      I must have been at a different Safeco Field than you were, because I thought the venue was beautiful, the weather perfect and the sound system simply incredible.
      I saw Paul at Key Arena in 2005 and the Kingdome in 1976 and this was the best of the three (the ’76 concert in the Kingdome had some early sound problems that were fixed in the first 15 or 20 minutes).

    • Greg

      I was in an area where the sound bounced up and down between the floor and the ceiling created by the tiers below and above me. I was three rows from the doors leading to the inside. The sound concentrated in that space and caused me hearing damage that has lead to vertigo. I am not kidding. Right after I left the concert I bent over and almost fell down. I am now treating the vertigo with the Epley Maneuver. Next time earplugs will be required!

  • Pere Rene

    the 2nd time I’ve seen Sir Paul within 8 months (Vancouver in Nov ’12). It was a pure joy to see last night’s concert with all of my family last night. My youngest son (16) sang along with many songs (raised him well, I did). The interjection of “Another Day”, “Lovely Rita” et al was my personal highlight – plus loved the acoustic 12-string. Long live Sir Paul!!!

  • B

    I’m a Woodstock Veteran. Yep, the original one back in ’69 but this concert was right up there with it. Definitely saw music history last night. Absolutely fantastic concert. Seeing 70 year old Sir Paul rock out to Long Tall Sally and sounding as good as he did back in his 20’s and 30’s was awe inspiring. The man is a true music legend.
    After last nights show I’m even now thinking of becoming a vegetarian!

  • Linda Gebaroff

    Wow wow wow! Best performance ever! Great to see KJR there. I was at the first in 1964!

  • Glen Boyd

    Just modified this article with some better video clips. Enjoy.

  • Marlene Hirzel

    Wasn’t there last night, but am enjoying the videos, the review and the comments. Also was listening to the pre-concert get together hosted by KJR – sucking up everything McCartney/Beatles.
    Thanks so much Glen Boyd. Looks like a success last night and a blast all way around.

  • Carolyn Abbot

    Did anyone see the dove circling the stadium? Towards the end there was a dove with a spotlight on it dead center…….thought it was a projected image, but it flew to the outside of the stadium. We we got out we saw about 12 white doves right at the edge of the stadium……………flying over the street and edge of stadium.

    • Chily

      we didnt have doves in Brooklyn NY …but my life is now BPM and APM <3

  • Carolyn Abbot

    Absolute music history. He never tired, he just kept giving. What a honor to be there. I hope he hangs in for another tour. I just cant get enough… tears kept coming. Incredible.

  • Glen Boyd

    I saw that dove too (or maybe it was a seagull). The effect was almost a religious kind of eerie…in a good way, of course.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      it was definitely a serendipitous seagull with amazing timing :)

  • Tom Whalen

    Paul did a short “Foxy Lady” homage to Seattle son Jimi Hendrix that was cool, too.

  • Sharon Anderson Brennan

    Thank you for an awesome review with videos. I was at the concert last night and your review is confirmation for me that it really was that amazing and epic!! I enjoyed every minute of the show from the pre-concert Beatles/Wings song mixes; the scrolling collage images of Paul from early childhood to now; and, of course, the concert itself with 2 amazing encores that included the remaining members of Nirvana. WOW! The tributes to Jimmy Hendrix; John; George; and Linda brought tears to my eyes. The man is a legend and I hope I never forget that I was somehow a part of rock history witnessing that unique performance last night. I saw the seagulls with the spotlights too and now I want to believe that they were doves. The entire evening was a religious experience!! Thanks again!!

  • cfo

    Thanks for the review. Great write-up. He also played “Ram On” during his sound check. :)

    • PaulFan

      I wish that we were able to hear this outside!

  • Linda Gebaroff

    I wonder what people outside the stadium around downtown were thinking about all the noise, canon blasts and fireworks coming out of Safeco Field. We’ve never had a concert like this in an outdoor venue.

  • G Bruce

    This was the greatest rock concert I have ever attended. Safeco was a great venue for McCartney. My seat was in the field section in front of the stage and the sound was fantastic.. Looking back at the stadium the crowd wrapped around you. We sang along with every song and danced for most of the 3 hours. It was an adoring multi-generation audience. The performance was magnificent. I hope this ends up as a Blu-ray DVD.

  • C. Channing

    I am pretty sure Grohl wasn’t even close to being an original member of Nirvana

    • Glen Boyd

      Details. Grohl was definitely a member of what most would call the classic lineup (that recorded Nevermind).

      • tweedpatch

        “C. Channing”? ha ha

        Don’t forget ‘Nevermind’ wasn’t the first Nirvana album. The Cobain-Novoselic-Grohl lineup was NOT the original incarnation of the band:

        1. Cobain-Novoselic-Bob McFadden (drums)

        2. Cobain-Novoselic-Aaron Burckhard (drums)

        3. Cobain-Novoselic-Dale Crover (from the Melvins, drums)

        4. Cobain-Novoselic-Dave Foster (drums)

        5. Cobain-Novoselic-Aaron Burckhard (again, drums)

        6. Cobain-Novoselic-Chad Channing (drums, see above)

        7. Cobain-Novoselic-Chad Channing-Jason Everman (guitar)

        Then Everman was out, and a few more drummers rotated through before Grohl came in.

  • PaulFan

    Outstanding review !!! This was my 4th Paul concert and I traveled to Seattle to see this concert. It was the perfect place and Seattle is the best! Only frustration was not being able to HEAR the sound check with the rare songs because a radio station and drummer needed the attention!!! Anyone who has attended previous concerts looks forward to hearing the sound checks while waiting in line.

    • Glen Boyd

      I walked over to the other side and heard the soundcheck just fine (or at least two songs worth…have read elsewhere there were others like “Ram On” and “Matchbox”).

      • PaulFan

        Your right!! Incredible songs!!! Only going to the other side of the stadium to hear the sound check would put us to the back of the line down the street with my 10 year old. A better idea – Maybe the people who want all the attention could do it after his sound check. There was at least an
        1 1/2 hours after his sound check before they let us in!!