By Bo Emerson
A little rain didn’t dampen the spirits of a cross-generational crowd of 40,000 who came to Piedmont Park Saturday to sing old Beatles songs with an old Beatle.
Sir Paul McCartney, 67, put on an enthusiastic two-and-a-half hour show, his voice and energy undimmed by time. Plenty of parents (and grandparents) in the audience danced with little ones on their shoulders, and time-tripped back to when their own hearts went “boom” when they saw a certain someone standing there.
But McCartney’s appeal extended to younger audiences as well. Celia Way, 24, of Charlotte sported a tattoo between her shoulder blades of the words to the third encore, “The End,” from “Abbey Road,”: “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
“It sort of fit where I was at the time,” she says, of getting the inking last March. McCartney’s music, she says, is up there with Kings of Leon, Led Zeppelin and just a shade below Tom Petty.
Flanked by 50-foot-tall video screens, McCartney and his young band kicked off the show at 8:40 under glowering skies with “Drive My Car,” Macca’s voice as blues-rootsy as it was in 1965.
After the Wings-era tune “Jet” McCartney switched his trademark Hofner bass for a Finster-esque electric guitar and segued from “Let Me Roll It” into a “Foxy Lady” coda.
“I had to do that,” he said with a grin. “Tonight’s the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and I had to do a little Jimi there.”
The show included newer material from his work under the pseudonym The Fireman including “Highway,” but no fan of the Beatles music went away from Saturday’s show unsatisfied.
Some of the pleasures involved hearing songs that are never played live, including a version of “A Day the Life” and the “Sgt. Peppers” reprise, sandwiched with the triple-guitar battle in “The End.” “Day-Tripper” and “Got to Get You into My Life” were both thunderous.
As McCartney switched to acoustic guitar for a solo version of “Blackbird” and a full-band treatment of “Eleanor Rigby” (with synthesized violins) the skies opened up.
But spirits stayed high, no one sat down, and the rain dwindled by the time of the pyrotechnics of “Live and Let Die.”
The Script, a band from Dublin, Ireland, ably opened the show.
McCartney played a set list almost identical to those earlier on the tour, and included tributes to his colleagues John Lennon and George Harrison (a version of “Something” played on ukulele) and his late wife Linda McCartney that are set pieces within the show.
The concert, a benefit for the Piedmont Park Conservancy, closed down 10th street and took over most of the park, and the massive column of concert-goers marching toward the Midtown MARTA station at the end of the evening indicated that many took the “green” part of the “Green Concert” to heart. (The trash left behind did not reinforce that impression.)
Many Midtown residents threw listening parties on their own decks and patios, enjoying the music from the comfort of home.
“We’re just chilling in our front yard,” said Patrick Allos, who sipped a beer in the late afternoon sun and waited for the music to begin, situated advantageously on Monroe Drive with his friend Alan Kippeny. “We’ve got some rib-eyes coming later.”