File the above sentence under “words I never thought I’d write today.”
Around noon, I was doing my usual Twitter troll and noticed this tweet from Paul McCartney’s account:
Wow! Really excited to be playing New York Times Square at 1pm this afternoon!
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) October 10, 2013
After investigating, I decided this was legit: Not just Paul recording at some studio near Times Square. Not just a video of Paul airing in Times Square. Actual, living, breathing Paul McCartney was going to play real, live music. I looked at the clock and gauged my workload. This was doable. My co-workers, who know more than they’d like to about my Beatles fandom, encouraged me to go. As did my boss. So, my cubemate Emily and I hopped on the 1 train to Times Square (two stops from our office) and were watching Sir Beatle and Music Revolutionary Paul McCartney half an hour later.
*Disclaimer: This was not my first time seeing Paul McCartney live, but I had known about the first concert in advance. My dad took me to see him at the Rose Garden in Portland in November 2005. He opened with Magical Mystery Tour. My dad bought me an exorbitantly expensive commemorative t-shirt that I will keep forever. We left early so I could get to sleep at a reasonable hour before the state cross-country meet the next day. The concert was still awesome.
It’s a weird feeling, seeing celebrities in person – and in this case, a celebrity I spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over. Like, that’s him. The nature of the concert – impromptu, brief, in the middle of a busy public space – had me thinking about the Beatles’ rooftop concert in 1969. The rooftop concert is one of my primary obsessions within my Beatles obsession (Sub-obsession? That sounds kind of pathetic.), for everything from the songs they played to the way George wore green pants and the way it turned London on its head, even if only for a few minutes. A couple songs in to today’s show, it hit me: The same person who performed in the rooftop concert is performing in front of my eyes, this very minute. He wrote “Yesterday.” He gave an interview for the definitive documentary about his band while piloting a boat. He witnessed everything from the clubs in Hamburg to the Cavern Club to the Abbey Road studios. And for this awesome, unexpected moment, he wasn’t in Hamburg or London or any number of other places: He was here!
Paul and his band played out of the back of a flatbed truck stretched across 46th St. in Times Square. When we got off the subway at 42nd, we couldn’t see a huge crowd forming or hear any noise, but as we walked toward the open public spaces nearby, we saw what was obviously the concert crowd. We were in place around 12:50, and pleasantly surprised at how close we got to be.
Here are a few snippets of the show, taken on my iPhone and clumsily uploaded to YouTube:
“Well this is something else, isn’t it? Let’s stay here all day!”
“We’re only allowed 15 minutes up here! Mr. Andy Warhol predicted I would get 15 minutes of fame. This is it.”
“Welcome to Times Square…thank you to the NYPD for looking after us…”
The set consisted of a handful of songs from his forthcoming album “New,” which will be released Tuesday. I knew the title track, but wasn’t familiar with any of the other songs. While part of me wishes he broke into a rousing “Hey Jude” chorus, I kind of love that he played exclusively new stuff. One thing I love about Paul is how he hasn’t retired to some remote island and closed off his talent. He would be totally entitled to do so, of course, but he still wants to be out there – creating new music that fans will grow to love, and indulging them in the hits he knows they already adore. Today, it felt like he was saying, “I’m Paul McCartney. I changed music forever so I can basically do whatever I want. And I have a new album that I want to promote the heck out of.”
As everyone filed out, a guy nearby us perfectly summed up how we all felt: “I’ve never been so happy to be at a concert and not know any of the words.”