I still have a copy of the Beatles record, Rubber Soul that came out when I was six years old in 1966, and which I played repeatedly, sneaking into my sister’s room to use the record player. At that early age I became a complete Anglophile. Ten years later, I was spinning anything out of Britain from the progressive rock acts of the time, including Jethro Tull, Yes, Genesis, Camel, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, and more. But it all started with the Beatles as it did for so many musicians and fans born during our time. Many reference the Beatles and producer George Martin’s work on the famous Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from 1967 as setting the stage for the progressive rock music that followed.
But, Rubber Soul is still my favorite Beatles record. The tour to support it would be their last, as they performed their final show in San Francisco, at Candlestick Park, on August 29, 1966. The follow up album Revolver had just come out that same month, though no tracks were performed on the tour. Instead they did eleven songs, three from Rubber Soul, and headed home to the studios to work on Sgt. Peppers. Fourty eight years later, last week on August 14, 2014, Paul McCartney returned to play the last show that will be staged at the now aged Candlestick Park, a venue that will be demolished after the event. It’s fitting closure to that now decrepit site, as it hosts one of the most important musicians of our times, and beloved son of Britain, who is in part responsible for the deep love of music so many of us have experienced.
The show was absolutely fabulous! Paul and band played an eclectic set during a three hour extravaganza, including my favorite track “I’ve Just Seen a Face” that opens the Capital Records release version of Rubber Soul. Although not much was changed in Paul’s set list to commemorate the Beatles last show, he did mention the event, and added “Long Tall Sally” to the set list, which has only been played a few times since that final night, nailing it’s grinding vocal. So for the most part, we witnessed a typical night on the mighty “Out There” tour. Paul’s voice held up very well through the set list, and his bass, guitar and piano work are undiminished by time. A favorite moment for me was his guitar riff and vocals on “Let Me Roll It” – a smoky Wings rocker and tour staple. Throughout the set, The band accompanied him with precision, and captured original sounds and more modern interpretations where needed. Drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. is particularly exuberant during the show, and keys player Paul “Wix” Wickens plays beautifully and covers a great many sounds including winds instruments from his kit. Guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray fill out the band that have now been playing together since 2002 – something that shows in their delivery.
Stage craft for this tour is tasteful – powerful lighting rigs, and multiple screens which lit up with photos, short films and graphic imagery. These were particularly effective during “Back in the U.S.S.R.” as they displayed images from the former Soviet Union. One bit that didn’t work for me was a large riser that carried Paul half way up the stage height while he was playing “Blackbird” as it seemed to detract more than add to this delicate gem of a song. Most exciting were the pyrotechnics during the Wings “Live and Let Die” as fireworks and lasers shot from the large stage during the instrumental segments.
The first time I saw Paul McCartney play was in Los Angeles during the 1977 Wings tour. As an aside, there is a wonderful new DVD that captures that tour on it’s Seattle stop. At that time the awesome Venus and Mars record had just released. Most of that record and other Wings material was performed back then, with only a few Beatles tracks. Paul included some Wings favorites this time out including “Band on the Run,” “Listen to What the Man Said,” and “Hi, Hi, Hi” among others. But at this point Paul plays more Beatles tracks, including early hits like “Eight Days a Week,” “All My Loving,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Paperback Writer,” “Day Tripper,” “We Can Work It Out,” a very beautiful version of “Eleanor Rigby” and a particularly sweet rendition of “And I Love Her.” Mid period Beatles tracks included “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” and “Lovely Rita” from Sgt. Peppers, along with “Lady Madonna,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Hey Jude,” Let It Be,” and the coda from Abbey Road. At one point Paul pulled out a ukulele and a short anecdote about George to start a sweet rendition of “Something.” At that point, as on “Let It Be” quite a number of iPhones raised as candlelights reflected our emotions.
Several new Paul McCartney solo tracks were played including the fun ditty “Queenie Eye” from New, and the touching standard “My Valentine.” But the night belonged to the Beatles songs, which rightly receive fan adulation and the respect deserved for this member of one of the greatest bands ever assembled and all his work that has followed. It’s a long set list and a wonderful experience – on this night a fitting send off to the old Candlestick Park as Paul winds through his second year on this worldwide tour.