Mark Drobnick
Mark Drobnick

Roll Up for Sir Paul McCartney Tour - My Take (2013 Concert Review, Milwaukee)

"Roll Up for McCartney's 2013 Tour" by Mark Drobnick

"Roll Up for Sir Paul's 2013 Tour-My Take"


When you go see Sir Paul, get there early.  His public absolutely loves him. 
He filled the major league, baseball stadium, from center field to home plate, from the ground to the rafters, all around the structure's circumference, engaging every viewable seat.  Here is an individual the world truly appreciates, for what he has done to make their lives improved, principally thru his music.

Film critic Gene Siskel summed it up very well, back when Paul's, "Give My Regards to Broad Street", came out.  "This is one entertainer who really, really attracts a crowd."  That was when Paul was in Chicago, back in the 1980's, promoting his musical, which he also scripted. 

So, what a full life leads this man, I thought, as we waited to get in to Miller Park (Brewers stadium), Milwaukee, last Tuesday evening (16 July 2013).  And it was then, when I fully understood what Siskel meant.

Since security opened parking at 4:30, for a concert scheduled to begin at 8:00, that should have been the tip-off.  Internet's Mapquest tells me the trip is 1:04 (one hour, four minutes) from my house to the stadium. 

Well, scratch that.  Because, as one got near, the exit ramp to the stadium was backed up for three miles awaiting, while one wended his way along the freeway in the approach segment of the trip's extension, to finally meet up with this obstacle, the traffic bottleneck. 

Change that 1:04 to more like 2:15.  The end of the trip was at a snail's pace.  You could have gotten out of your car and walked to the stadium in less time, since your vehicle was only averaging three miles per hour! 

To me, Milwaukee has pretty good infrastructure.  So, this massive, highway back-up was largely unanticipated.

I saw Ringo at the Genesee Theatre, Waukegan, in 2005.  For more info, Google:  Mark Drobnick Ringo Starr

Back then, it was, the house packed, for a PBS documentary he was filming.  The capacity there is 2,400.  But, hey, unless Sir Paul McCartney was doing nite club warm-ups like the Rolling Stones, then why would he perform this venue?  Not when you can fill a stadium with forty thousand (40,000) spectators.


Let's do the math.  Tickets were from $40 to $200+ each.  How much box office is that for one show?  Let's say average ticket price is, $80.  Then fans spent, on 16 July 2013, to see Sir Paul McCartney do a three hour show, three million, two hundred thousand dollars ($3,200,000.00). 

Hear what I'm saying?  That's three point two million dollars, for three hours work, and preparation (setting up, afternoon sound-check, etc.)!  And, this is happening during an economic recession.  "Maybe I'm amazed!"

As he observed to us during the show:  "I'm told we've set a house record tonight!"  How credible his statement, and true!   

Check out, per Wikipedia, how Paul's U.S. tour has sold last month, and two months ago.  It ranges from $2.0 to $5.2 million gross, box-office revenue, per show, with 98% to 100% of tickets sold out, each concert.  That totals to 18.3 million dollars for five shows, at Orlando, Austin, Memphis, Tulsa, and New York City!  

Now, for the mundane.  I briefly negotiated with a scalper in front, as I walked in to the stadium, since he was buying.  I figured he'd turn around and sell at a premium, so I asked $40.  Twenty was all he'd give. 

"It's already started", he explained.  No go.  So, I kept my "$20 souvenir" (which had costed me, $55).


This lifestyle has got to keep Sir Paul young.  I simply marveled at how flawlessly the program came off.  And the pace, one song after another, segued into the next, went seamlessly.  Some fifteen times or so, he made monologue (and dialogue) with us, between numbers, 38 songs in all.


We learned what went over well, in the Ukraine:  "ho hey ho", the chorus from the album, Band on the Run's "Mrs. Vandebilt".  One of Paul's guitar players, Rusty Anderson, stage left, did the Russian kick dance, "Kazatsky", knees bent, legs kicking and flailing out, most adroitly, to highlight their bow to Cyrillic alphabet country. 

Paul recounted how one, Soviet government leader's first, record purchase was Beatles' "Love Me Do".  Paul, imitating Russian accent, then mimics another official, their secretary of defense:  "it iz vear I lurn Inglesh langwuj fear furst tihme!", from Beatle records.  Then Russian said:  "El-low, gud-bie"!


Paul did two, love songs of the superlative, romantic degree:  "Maybe I'm Amazed", and "My Valentine" (written for current wife when their Moroccan holiday became rained out, as his way of saying, I'm sorry about this).  By the "ultra" appellations, I mean, they were penned, specifically, for that significant, leading lady in his life, during their moment.  The former, was to Linda McCartney nee Eastman (fka Epstein), and the latter to Nancy McCartney nee Shevell.

Like anyone, he has suffered his share of setbacks.  There's the loss of two wives, the first to insurmountable illness.  [And, it's] Ditto as to their svengali manager from the early days, to o.d. on prescription meds, Brian Epstein.  Two of his original band mates, from the musical group the world venerates, are gone prematurely, too:  John Lennon to crazed violence, and George Harrison to terminal illness.

But, you'd never have known any of this, concert nite.  He superseded it all, appearing chipper and care-free.  He professed numerous, Elvis Presley style, "thank you, thank you very much," acknowledgments, following various songs, which served to endear him to us even more.

He's got a very functional vibrato to his voice.  That's an essential element in transmitting a song's emotion and feeling, although we're used to hearing most rockers lacking it.  Well, at least they can carry a tune.

In singing, vibrato and breathing, really are the final two hurdles in acceding to excellence.  McCartney's vibrato is serviceably in force, thankfully not ostentatious, and entirely appropriate, employed sufficiently enough to give the songs that extra oomph, which penetrates most profoundly to the listener.


He takes great pride in that musical catalog he has generated, and rightly so.  He came off like a kid at high school prom, spinning one disc after the next for the youngsters to dance to.  Only, here was he, author on site, singing what he had written over the years, and strumming along, or picking, or piano playing, as indicated.

He asked for a show of hands, how many guitarists were in the audience who played "Blackbird".  Many hands went up.  I raised mine.  Then he chided, "well, you've all got it, wrong."  That sounded like Paul.  No one begrudged him his good-natured kidding. 

Next he picked away and sung at the song.  We knew he was leading up to it, when he told us of how the words came to be, and what they signified.  This is the composer of, "Ebony and Ivory", after all.

How strange back then, he said, they were a world away in England, to be reading in the press about the civil strife in the USA's south, happening.  So, he wrote, this not so, "sad song, to make it better."  He sought to give succor and animation to the Blacks' crusade, to let them know, he stood with them.    


He gave us this advice on life.  If there's something about your companion, colleague, friend or associate, that you admire and relish, then tell them, thank them, appreciate them, right now.  Don't delay.  "Life is very short and there's no time for fussing and fighting." 

Then he launched into a John Lennon tribute, "Here Today", simulating an imagined conversation between Paul and John:  "if you were here, you'd probably say, you don't have a clue as to who I am."  And, "how different we are."  Which declarations, the song promptly contradicts.  Oh, but I do; and you are not; implies Paul.   


Included, were performed rockers, like "Helter Skelter".  The sound level was about right, thanks to how far I was removed from stage.  But, I thought, the musicians had to have on some heavy duty, ear protection. 

I have worn ear plugs, for example, when I was close to stage front at House of Blues, Chicago, several summers ago, for a performance by Robin Trower.  Believe me, that was good planning on my part.  One is still able to hear the music, but without suffering pain, nor incurring damage to one's auditory apparatus.

So, Paul and co. have to wear something concealed, plugging their ears, of the U.S. Steel foundry, headphone, hearing protection caliber.  This is as they rock us, with Mesa Boogie speakers staged behind, becoming our portal to nirvana. 

Besides the ears, there's the vibration one feels, corporeally.  If you've ever been in an earthquake, you have an idea.  Those shock waves penetrate to your innermost essence. 

Apples and oranges the comparison is, maybe, but quakes feel like you're standing on quicksand.  That's a very very odd sensation when you're certain it's solid ground you were set upon, just a moment ago. 

Overall, I'm glad I was seated where I was, so even though unprotected as I was, it manifested as nothing adverse.  Come the next day, "I Feel Fine".


There are two, twin, television monitors, each some 50 feet tall, of the vertical geometry, arranged as stereo speakers, at both sides of the stage.  These frame the action, which is happening stage center. 

So, just as you would not be able to see the face of an outfielder, pitcher or batter, if it were a baseball game, similarly, you would be disappointed in expecting anything more at the concert.  But, the TV's solve all that. 

It's as if you were in your living room, in front of your favorite widescreen (plasma or LCD) set.  There's everything important covered.  You get all the action.  You don't miss anything significant.


I have seen a video, PBS broadcasted on 27 Feb. 2006, of Paul at Abbey Road, taped July 2005.  It was an hour of him performing songs for a nightclub-style crowd.  Then, as now, I am struck by how professional is Mr. McCartney.  No zig-zags, that chap travels a straight line. 

And, he knows what he's doing.  Any surprise there?  He's a master of his craft. 
Seems that his life has a laser-beam focus and direction.  He wastes no time in distractions.  "When there's a job to do, you got to do it well, give the other fella (a) hand." 

The concert really had a clip to it, as if there was a hidden metronome ticking away, which all performers were marching to.  He literally pulled the audience of 40,000 along with him. 

Encores?  It felt like those decisions were made by him, every bit as well as our requesting so. 

Actually, the Tuesday nite crowd was largely docile and reverent, in my experience.  No way, were they anything approaching comedian Mike Myers' mis-guided, boisterous, anarchic and lunatic, "Scottish Soccer Hooligans". 

Sir Paul was our chauffeur and tour guide.  'Baby, you can "Drive My Car".'  We, in turn,  were the most exhilarated to be along for the ride, witnessing and participating in the spectacle.


He is quite the showman.  There were fireworks, flag waving, laser projections, holographic effects quite hypnotic, zoom effect of blue light upon stage front audience -- very avanti, those under light were zoomed in, magnified, made to give illusion of being placed closer to you, while the rest maintained the appearance of their normal, expected distance from observer. 

There were shown kaleidoscope-type effects, displayed against backdrop of upper grandstand opposite from stage, also green screen behind Paul with images to help tell song's story, plus geometric effects of rapidly morphing designs (video graphics) broadcast thru TV monitors, which lent augmented movement and urgency to music generated on the soundstage.  The Helter Skelter montage is a case in point.


Driving home from concert, what I experienced was not a Beatlesque, psychedelic experience, but rather a surreal one.  It was with the radio.  Local FM was broadcasting a bootleg of the concert I had just attended! 

It was so weird and unexpected, listening to a replay of myself applauding and cheering, in the very, very recent past.  Since transmission, all vestiges of it have gone underground. 

But, I'll track that sucker down, sooner or later.  Was mighty good!  Sounded super, identical to what we had heard inside the stadium.  Apparently, was recorded on top-notch equipment.

I finally got home at 2:30 a.m., having started out, from around 5:00 p.m.  So, nine and a half hours were needed. 

There's your itinerary, if this mammoth event lands an hour away from your home.  What else can I say?  Here it is,...


A.  "8 Days A Week"-guitar intro is easy and catchy, three chords same fingering, up and down fretboard; at first Beatles thought to do this as a cappella harmony which sounds quite fine, listening to the studio edits, but, I believe the well-known, final release, guitar version, has effectively more "kick" to it and is the definitive, better way to go.
B.  "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite"-great song, many, unusual chord changes (including B-flat, augmented chord, major 7th, minor 6th, & minor 7th); great Geo. Martin experimentation creating jumbled, hodge-podged, calliope at finale; but, am still used to Lennon's nasal vocal, singing it.

C.  "Long and Winding Road"-I share Mark Caro's (Cgo. Trib. reporter) perplexedness that, altho Paul did not like the Phil Spector, orchestral production originally, nevertheless here, in concert, is way that it's interpreted; notwithstanding, rightly so, McCartney plays how we're used to hearing it, not a bad idea for this kind of crowd.  
D.  "Let Me Roll It"-observation about Hendrix riff ("Foxy Lady", appended to end of song):  anyone who knows pro musicians, experiences, that in daily practice, riffs from other songs frequently filter in, so that their being appended in performance becomes entirely comprehendable. 

E.   "Your Mother Should Know"-I play it on rhythm guitar, Paul utilizes piano.  My wife keeps asking, "mother should know,...?what?"  (Loida Maria is zealot at divining profound meaning of lyrics in all, popular songs!)  Well Loidy, it's the song, the "song that was a hit before your mother was born", that mom knows!
Still not enough!  "But, what is the song?  What is its name?", Loida continues, remaining unfulfilled.  Exigente, as we say in Puerto Rico, often a good thing. 
F.  "Let It Be"-"Mother Mary Mary comes to me":  how poignant!  Here is the true artist manifesting himself and his life, in his created work.  Recalls Paul's mom, whom he lost when he was teen.

G.  "Yesterday"-maybe Paul has publicly performed "Let It Be", nearly 500 times, but, this song has got to have been done by him even more, yes?  Here's our clue:  there exist three thousand plus covers (by other artists) of it, last time I looked.   
H.  "Hey Jude"-in its time, was awesome how a pop song could drone on for 7 mins.+  and get played in its entirety by top 40 radio, where the standard fare was only 2 and a half mins., for the average song.  Only Beatles, no one else, could pull this off. 
Singer Tom Jones thinks it a great song; so do rest of us.  Yet, the 4-minute coda (outro), consists of no more than three standard chords, E-D-A, repeated, over and over and over, thru fade out.  I continue to be astounded! 

I.  "Listen to What the Man Said"-I love this song!  Really blows those blues away, though it's not arranged, geared, for guitar nor piano (my fortes).
J.  "Paperback Writer"-case in point, how simple, two-chord --- I'm classing G & G7 as one --- song, transcends into a timeless hit, via fantastic, vocal harmonies, dynamite guitar riff, cool echo effect, spot-on Ringo drums, and engaging storyline.

K.  "Lovely Rita"-we knew a classmate named Rita, back in the day, very classy, fine female.  Song is very cute, and evocative for me.
L.  "Get Back"-essentially, its strengths are arrangement and spirit.  How much the Beatles could do, with chords and tones so fundamental!

M.  "Another Day"-love it!  Takes me back to when life was perfect, (still is, but now thru grown-up eyes).  What empathy the composer possesses(!), for situations and lives different from his own.  Great story told; great message conveyed.
N.  "Ob la di, ob la da"-excuse me, but I've frequently felt this song is overrated (altho story line's quite charming).  Thank you John, for definitively arranging piano, so band could get beyond it and on to other business!

O.  "All together now"-my wife was pre-schooler when she heard a version played on Sesame Street, televised in Puerto Rico,...I still have engrained in my memory, the non-cartoon, closing vignette from the film, Yellow Submarine, of Beatles chatting with us, then launching into this one.  Ah, happy, wonderous times!!     
P.  "High-hi-hi", from Venus and Mars-cool, slide guitar.

Q.  "Helter Skelter"-Paul asks us, are you ready for more rock and roll?  Oh yeah!  Encore piece-great video graphics. 
R.  This cool cat could wake up the "World War Z" villains from their resting place!  (And, I think he did, with "Live and Let Die".  Paul recurs to Dorian, diatonic mode, for signature riff.)  

S.  "Eleanor Rigby"-"Paul's baby", per John.  Dorian, diatonic mode, again. 

Beatles' only interpretive participation was as singers, and not playing any instrument (were backed by classical, double, string quartet).  Was it only Paul, multi-tracked, or cohorts too, harmonizing behind him? 
By the way, Producer Geo. Martin's original enthusiasm for Beatles, was with how impressive were their vocal harmonies, which was something new and distinct in the rock and roll genre then (perhaps Everly Bros. being one exception). 
The song,...what a breakthru work!  What vision Beatles and Martin manifested! 
Upon its release, imagine and compare, the rest of what was then being played on pop radio.  There simply was nothing in existence, even remotely approaching its virtuosity, experimentation and shock novelty. 
I can still recall a jealous neighbor my age, and he, not even a musician.  Simply jealous of the Beatles' success!  There you go, straight from the Bible, one of the seven, deadly sins.   

T.  "Ram"-no excerpts were played!  But, it's one of my favorite fab four, or portion thereof, albums. 
Please, Sir Paul, Monkberry Moon Delight (what unusual lyrics!), Long Haired Lady, Eat at Home, Back Seat of My Car, and/or Heart of the Country, etc., --- so many good songs! --- next time around.  And there's some ukelele, besides George Harrison's Something, that you can play for us. 
I tell you Sir Paul, John is being completely crabby and grouchy and of sour grapes, when he calls it Granny music.  Kindly ignore that comment as much as I do, and bring us some of this fine material.  Methinks Uncle Albert/Adm. Halsey overexposed, but in any event, we shall confide in your judgment. 

Hasta luego.  Hope to see you again, soon.  Thank you so much, for a dynamite, unforgettable evening!

by  MARK  DROBNICK ©2013


Mark Drobnick


Waukegan, Illinois  USA


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