McCartney mania: The former Beatle gives wing to his soaring talent in Moline

Rock music legend Sir Paul McCartney performs at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. McCartney made
Rock music legend Sir Paul McCartney performs at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. McCartney made his first visit to the Quad-Cities as a part of the Freshen Up Tour. (Andy Abeyta/Quad-City Times)

MOLINE, Ill. — Move over, Sir Rod Stewart. It’s a new day for a new knight atop my “best concert ever” pedestal.

No one will ever come close to toppling Sir Paul McCartney from my personal pinnacle.

I’ve never heard anyone play 38 songs in concert, nonstop, for three solid hours. And on Tuesday, the man, the myth, the legend will be 77 years old. You’d never guess it.

With those dreamy eyes and that boyish grin, “the cute Beatle” charmed a screaming, multigenerational throng at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline with three hours of monster music and a few sweet stories sprinkled here and there.

Pardon me while I fangirl, but you see, Sir Paul and I go back 56 years. I fell in love with him as only a 5-year-old can when her parents let her stay up to watch The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Her grown-up self clearly hasn’t outgrown him, as she let down her professional guard to scream and sing and dance as only one can when squished among a wall-to-wall crowd of fans screaming, singing and dancing.

Every song was greeted with the same enthusiasm at the downbeat, whether it was a hit for The Beatles or for Wings. His new music off the recently released “Egypt Station” album is just as captivating. The evening’s most intimate moment swirled through “My Valentine,” from his 2012 album, “Kisses on the Bottom.” He penned this melty, romantic swoon for his wife, Nancy, who was at Moline to savor the serenade.

From the opening strains of “A Hard Day’s Night,” it’s obvious he’s still working like a dog, but I’m confident we made him feel all right. Naturally, he surrounds himself with top-notch talent, bringing in a horn trio to light the torches behind drums, keyboards (electric and accordion), guitars and McCartney’s own musical menagerie of bass, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, and spinet and grand pianos.

The horns set the songs on fire. One minute they were onstage, looking all sharp and polished, moving in sync. And the next, they were out in the audience, jamming in the first-tier aisles on “All My Lovin.’” The combination of blistering trumpet, blazing trombone and rotating saxes added sparks and sparkle throughout the show.

Vintage photographs and trippy videos danced across the screens above, behind and flanking the stage. But always, the focus was on the music and on the fans, reveling in the evening’s reciprocal love-in.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the event — and it was an event — was McCartney’s vocal stamina. A lesser musician would have front-loaded the concert with the songs that showcased his soaring tenor. Not Sir Paul. He saved “Hey Jude” for number 32. He scaled the Mount Everest of his range to wail on top before returning for six — SIX — finale numbers.

It’s impossible to choose favorite moments from the show, but here are some highlights:

  • The hooky new song with the driving beat, “Come On to Me,” which fans heard during McCartney’s epic “Carpool Karaoke” with James Corden.
  • The full-throttle rock of “I’ve Got a Feeling.”
  • McCartney’s whistling on “Let ‘em In,” the Wings hit that also really showcased his fine vocal form early in the evening.
  • The sheer beauty and simplicity of “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
  • The folkie “skiffle” edge of “In Spite of all the Danger,” his first recording with his first band with then-teenagers John Lennon and George Harrison, “The Quarrymen.”
  • Drummer Abe Laboriel Jr.’s goofy moves on “Dance Tonight,” from the Sprinkler and the Twist to a little Vogueing — to lighten things up and further pump up the crowd.
  • The simplicity of McCartney in the solo spot for “Blackbird,” performing atop a section of the stage that rose sky-high, with a globe projected on the front screen, so that it looked like he was on top of the world. I know we were.
  • The sorrow of “Here Today,” which he wrote after Lennon’s death, in the form of one last conversation he wished they could have had. “If you need to say something, get it said,” he told the hushed crowd.
  • McCartney at the piano, worshipping full tilt with horns a-blazing to “Lady Madonna,” flowing right into “Eleanor Rigby.”
  • His tribute to George Harrison, relating how they once jammed to “Something” on two of the late great artist’s ukuleles — including the one McCartney played for us, spinning that gorgeous song into another dimension before guitarist Rusty Anderson kicked it back to an electrifying familiarity.
  • The official audience singalong on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” We were in fine voice, too.
  • “Band on the Run” and “Back in the “U.S.S.R.,” two kickin tunes from two different bands in two different eras — the first from Wings in 1973, the latter from The Beatles in 1968 — complete with hilarious tales of playing “U.S.S.R.” twice in the same concert in Moscow, the first rock concert held in Red Square.
  • The nonstop, heat-throwing, eye-dazzling pyrotechnics of “Live and Let Die,” the James Bond theme that rocks as hard today as in 1972, when it topped the charts for Wings.
  • The many faces of the six encores, from the raucous “Birthday,” groovy “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and wild “Helter Skelter” to the lullaby of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry that Weight” and “The End.”
What an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime event. My 5-year-old self was transported, beginning to end.
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PREVIOUSLY: Social media moments Tuesday, June 12:

The Gazette's Diana Nollen is in the Quad Cities tonight catching a three-hour Paul McCartney show. She will have a review up on some time in the late morning and early afternoon Wednesday. In the meantime, follow along with some social media coverage of the action. You can also find some find live coverage tonight from our friends at the Quad-City Times.

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