Back when the Beatles were touring the US, they came to St Louis, Missouri. Dad thought, “surely, they’ll come closer – at least to Kansas City,” but they didn’t. And then they broke up.
When Sir Paul’s Back in the US tour came through Omaha in 2005, we were dying to go. I’ll always remember being in class, seeing that I had a voicemail from mom. I dialed it up and cradled my phone in my arms with my head down. I had to keep from crying right there in class as I listened to mom breathlessly announce, “Happy Birthday, Nina! Oh my God, I got them; I got the tickets! We’re going to see Paul McCartney!”
Tickets sold out in something like eight minutes.
When Paul McCartney announced he would be coming to Lincoln, Nebraska this year, there was literally no thinking-about-it to be done: I was going.
Furthermore, my dad was going.
I was in Australia when I got the notice about tickets being on sale. I had to tell the girls to pause our Game of Thrones marathon because there was something I had to take care of. I think it was about 1 or 2am there.
There were some VIP tickets and some levels of ‘special’ tickets and I knew I was going to spend a hell of a lot of money, but I was prepared.
Right away, the VIP tickets were sold out. I mean, within seconds. I hurriedly put two of the Gold Package tickets in my basket and then thought, shit, I should see about two normal tickets just in case, so I threw those in the basket, too.
Near $2000 later, I had four tickets. The concert was shortly after mom’s birthday, so I figured she and her fiancée could go.
I called dad right away, knowing it was about 10am at home. “Dad, did you get the tickets?” He said, “Shit! I’m not even home, I totally forgot.”
“Well, I guess you’ll have to settle for my main floor tickets then.”
In true Dad fashion, he replied: “I mean, if I have to, I guess those will be okay.”
Then I called mom and asked her if she got tickets. “No! They sold out too quickly!”
“Well, I’m sorry, but you’ll be getting tickets for your birthday.”
Trying not to cry right now with the memory. Ahem.
(See, I’ve been putting this off because it makes me so damn emotional).
Fast-forward to the night of the concert. And hand me another tissue.
Dad drove over to my place and we hopped in my MINI to head to Lincoln. I can’t even remember what all we talked about, except when someone almost sideswiped us in front of the gas station. I let loose a string of “fucking motherfucker”s and “cunt sonsofbitches” and dad just cracked up. Upon pulling out of the gas station, I said, “ugh, let’s just get out of here!” Dad: “You mean, get the FUCK out of here!”
Conor says he can always tell when dad’s been around me because his cussing game is too strong. *bows*
We get to Lincoln and I’m about to ask dad just where the Pinnacle Bank Arena is when this massive, shining, 2001:-A-Space-Odyssey-lookin’ building appears out of nowhere. The exterior actually reminded me of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
We found the parking lot (after being cut off by some douche bag in an Eclipse, who then rolled up his windows when dad and I started loudly mocking him – holy shit, we’re a bad influence on each other), which was only about a five minute walk from the arena.
The arena itself had really adorable British decorations going on out front. There was a street sign that said “Abbey Road” and a red phone booth with Union Jacks all over it. There were also tons of people.
Dad and I are forty-two years apart. There were some folks younger than me and some folks older than dad. It was the most obvious display of the absolute reach the Beatles have had. And continue to have. Talk about timeless.
Anyway, after some selfies with the phone booth and tour banner, we got inside. Dad didn’t know exactly where we were sitting. He saw the tickets said ‘Main Floor’ but they also said ‘Sec 51′ which sounds like it could be anywhere. I led him ’round to the floor entrance and tried very hard not to get stopped by any helpers because I didn’t want them to give away just where we were sitting.
On the floor, there were about six or seven different sections, and we were directed to walk up the middle. We would get to a section and I’d turn around to dad and muse, “mmm, no, a bit farther, I think.”
Finally, we got to our section. Our seats were 1 and 2, right on the end, and we were row MM. I didn’t count, but I’m going to assume that as M is the thirteenth letter in the alphabet, we were thirteen rows from the stage.
Dad just kind of looked at me in disbelief as we sat down, and then shook my hand. :)
Mom and Tom wandered up and found us – they were on the main floor, also, just a few sections back. They were so excited; it was adorable.
I think by the time the lights went down, I was already tearing up. (I told you, I’m seriously emotional about this. I’ve been waiting for a day where I’ve got no makeup to ruin because I knew I would cry just typing this shit up).
I said to dad, “it hasn’t hit me yet that we’re seeing Paul McCartney.”
Dad: “Paul FUCKING McCartney.”
I was in a bit of shock when he first came out on stage. The same thing happened in 2005. It’s just the “holy shit, that’s Paul McCartney, that’s one of The Beatles; he’s about to sing and play music, live, right here, and I’m here, and he’s there, and I’m going to hear and see him sing and play music, but not just any music, music he wrote for The Beatles, music he wrote for Wings, music he wrote solo, music I’ve been listening to my entire life, music dad has been listening to almost his entire life, and we’re here together, to hear Paul McCartney – PAUL. MCCARTNEY. – sing and play, sing those songs he wrote, play that iconic Höfner bass, play that colorful upright piano, oh my God,” you know, that whole thing.
He wore a Husker red blazer at first. It reminded me so much of Tom Osborne. I wonder if he met Coach. I wonder if Coach is a fan. I know he hung out with Warren Buffett in Omaha the night before the concert. Just up town from where I was drinking. If only I knew. I mean, seriously, the two of them got ice cream and sat on a park bench. Ridiculousness.
Anyway. Since I’m on the topic of the Huskers and all-around Nebraska awesomeness, during some of Sir Paul’s little talk-to-the-audience breaks, he said some things that I swear I’ll never unhear: “Go Big Red!” “There is no place like Nebraska!” “Go Huskers!”
Now, I know he tailors all talk-to-the-audience breaks appropriately, but in that moment, all he cared about was us. For a lifelong Husker fan as well, hearing one of my heroes say those things… Like I said, I’ll never unhear them. Dad and I looked at each other, and the shock and awe that were written all over his face, well, I think we both could have died happily right then.
It sounds utterly ridiculous and dramatic, I’m sure, but it was everything.
I can’t remember every song he played. I took about a thousand photos and as many videos as I could get away with: Let Me Roll It (which went into Foxy Lady by Hendrix), I’ve Just Seen A Face, And I Love Her, Something (played on ukulele as a tribute to George), Back in the USSR, LIVE AND LET DIE (caps added for the fucking unbelievable amount of pyrotechnics used), Hey Jude (oh my God, they did the bassline from the ‘Love’ version and it was positively glorious), he and the band came out with a US flag, UK flag, Nebraska flag, and a Blackshirts flag (Go Huskers!), Hi Hi Hi, Saw Her Standing There, Golden Slumbers medley (started on the piano and then came out for the three-leads bit). I got some audio, also: Blackbird, Here Today (as a tribute to John), All Together Now, Lovely Rita, Let It Be.
All Together Now was fantastic and hysterical. When it was over, he said, “That was one of my more sophisticated songs.”
After Blackbird, he asked how many people had tried to learn that on guitar. Most people cheered (myself and dad, included). And then: “No one did it right. Only I can.” The cheeky bastard.
He told some funny stories.
I guess Jimi Hendrix opened a show with some Sgt Peppers songs, but in using his whammy bar, he threw his guitar out of tune right away. He stopped and asked if Eric Clapton was in the audience to help tune his guitar. Eric WAS in the audience and said, ‘tune your own guitar, man!’
He talked to Warren Buffett about playing ukulele, because I guess Warren plays. He said he’s pretty good!
When he met with the Russian dignitaries back in the day, one of them told Paul, “First album I ever buy was Beatles album.” Then, “I learn English from Beatles album. Hello, goodbye.” Paul: “It’s true!”
He was a total hamball. Always goofing off and posing and definitely not acting his age. He never took a break, he never took a drink of water; he hit every single high note; he just never faltered.
I think I sat down once – when everyone else sat – otherwise, I could not keep still.
There were about 19,000 people in the arena, I think? People were so. well-behaved. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the people of the Midwest, but damn, no one was a drunken jackass, people stayed in their seats for the most part, we sang along, we brought out our lighters/cell phones for Let it Be, we really gave him our full attention. Then again, he commands it, doesn’t he?
When he played a couple songs from his newest album, he said, “You know, I can tell when people like the song because I see the cell phones come up. [everyone laughed] We can tell, we can tell.”
The crazy thing was when he played ‘New’ from his New album. I have a clear memory of walking Embankment in London last year, I was actually just outside Embankment station and making my way toward a tourist trap to see if I could find something for a friend. My iPod had died and for the sake of space, I had maybe four songs on my iPhone: New was one of them. It was the first time I’d heard it and it just fit my mood, the weather, where I was, everything, so well.
And here I was, back home, hearing it live from the man himself. Funny how things work.
I’m just glad the people in front of me didn’t turn around too often. I didn’t wear mascara on my lower lashes because I knew I’d be sobbing most of the time. I probably looked a sight anyway.
Oh man, his encores, though. He came back for three encores. I can’t remember exactly what he played for each one, but at this point, it had been like two and a half hours. Most bands come back for one encore and do like, one hard song and one acoustic song because they’re tired AF.
Not Paul. He played a few songs each time, and I’m not talking Blackbird (although he did play that as part of one encore, technically), this dude came back out and played high bpm songs like Saw Her Standing There, songs with a high degree of technical or vocal difficulty like Helter Skelter; I mean, the man did not phone it in.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
At The End, he said, “we’ll see you next time!”
I’m gonna hold you to that, Paul.