Paul McCartney - The Green Concert


This was my third McCartney Concert.  The first was in 1990, seated in the back rafters of The Omni, which happened to be the very spot that all good acoustics did their best to avoid.  Sadly, what I remember most from the show is the guy seated next to me yelling his obvious affection, "We Love You, Paul!", again and again and again.  McCartney was at the end of the tour, and his voice was shot.

Several years later, he played at the Georgia Dome.  This had much better acoustics, surprisingly, and it was a very good show but tempered with too many lackluster songs from his most recent lackluster CD.  I'm not sure if my son loved the concert or hated it, but he kicked a lot, and had he not been in the womb, he may have been screaming too.

Which brings us to 2009.  My wife has "been there and done that," and my now 15 year old son has no interest in seeing Sir Paul.  That's why you should have two kids.  My daughter, Jackie, was very excitedMcCartney Atlanta Poster from the first hint of going, and a father-daughter outing was set.

McCartney was playing to benefit the Piedmont Park Conservancy, which funds the major green space near downtown Atlanta.  As opposed to the known seating arrangements found in arenas, this was a lawn concert, with all the good and bad that comes with it.  All concert goers were encouraged to take Atlanta's version of mass transit (MARTA), as the surrounding area is residential and without significant public parking.

We arrived around 5:30, after a 15 minute walk from the train station.  There is a sense of scale that becomes lost in outdoor venues.  The people arriving before us had claimed all land area in proximity to the stage, as well as the higher vantages of the rim around the park area.  We walked as closely we could to spread a blanket, but found that it was blocked by the sound mixing booth or beer tents.  So, we moved back about halfway in the lawn area.  At least we could see the stage unobstructed... 

Yes, the stage is not so close And these people are even farther away

To the front...                 and to the back

Blistering heat finally gave way to shadows, and... it was mealtime!  Not surprisingly, everyone else had similar ideas.  There were food vendors from a number of recognizable Atlanta vendors, and all had terrifically long lines except for Sonny's BBQ.  Sold. Their chain serves "okay" BBQ.  Here, $6 bought a few ounces of ambient temperature chicken on a bun.  I'm sure it would have been very tasty a week or two earlier when it was cooked.  Add $2 for a bag of 15 chips and $3 for a bottle of water, multiply by 2, and were properly, well, adequately fortified for the evening.  All of this, as usual, pales to the expense of a souvenir concert T-shirt at $40.  We passed on that.

A word about the (plentiful) beer outlets - It was far easier to buy beer than it was food.  Budweiser apparently paid handsomely for the concert rights, and the only options available were Bud and Bud Light ($7).  Granted, it's probably shrewd marketing for them to capitalize on sales as Obama's preferred brand, and they included a video about the recycling of aluminum cans.

The opening act, The Script, was decent.  They have two singers with strong voices and straightforward melodic appeal, but I think most people only listened to their banter to hear their distinctly Irish accents.  No one says "Dublin" like an Irishman.

Between sets and after a fair dose of people watching, my daughter and I laid back and stared at the clouds in the sky.  Now, this is not something I've done in a long time, and it's not something you plan on when going to a concert.  But, it was interesting, possibly for the wolf and horse heads found, but moreso for the sheer uniqueness of watching the clouds amidst the murmur of 40,000 other people (some of whom step dangerously close to your head).  "Hey, there's a dark cloud.  Looks like a little one that will blow right by."

Finally, McCartney took the stage.  He was in surprisingly strong voice, belting out the first two opening numbers.  Two - three songs later, this guy in front of us, wimpMcCartney Atlanta 2 that he was, broke out his Mickey Mouse costume because of a few stray drops of rain.  It's an outdoor concert - what do you  expect?

A couple of songs later, Jackie and I grabbed our blanket (actually, a cheap bedspread), and draped it over our heads as the heavens lavished us with sheets of rain, nicely highlighted by the stage and spot lights...

Note to self:  Bedspreads are not waterproof, and not only do they become soaked with water, but they become very heavy.  Be sure to pack rain gear when going to outdoor concerts, even when the sky is sunny and it's over 90 degrees.

I didn't take it personally, but it sure seemed that McCartney's band was laughing at us, covered as they were by the stage with the water flowing off the roof.  The rain came and went after about six songs, and, of course, we and the vast majority of the crowd remained. 

The band was excellent.  McCartney is generally considered more of a pop singer than a rock artist, but he's always held favor with strong McCartney Atlanta - photo by HYOSUB SHIN, HSHIN@AJC.COMlead guitar lines, and other than a few "slow" songs,  this was a rock show through and through - and one that he clearly enjoyed.

He played his original Hofner bass or piano for many of the songs, but whenever he played electric guitar, he also played lead elements, some of them very surprising, such as a toss-in rave of Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," remarking on the Woodstock anniversary 40 years ago.

Throughout the concert, McCartney kept great rapport with the audience.  It's obvious that he doesn't need to tour for the money; ergo, he wants to do it.  Part of this is that he's a ham.  He enjoys the attention and applause that comes from being not just a veteran pop icon, but probably the largest and most influential still with us.

At 67, however, the crowd's enthusiasm was not based solely on the merit of songs 30 years old and older.  McCartney is a skilled performer and entertainer, and gave everything he had in a 2.5 hour set.  To hear his enduring tunefulness in the closing of "My Love," the unexpected inclusion of the deep track gem "Mrs. Vanderbilt," the fiery vocals (and fireworks) of "Live and Let Die," the odes to both John Lennon and George Harrison, and the sheer energy and enthusiasm he brought to it was a great thing.

McCartney Atlanta

I did take care to ask my daughter if she "actually saw" Paul McCartney, and verified that she did make out the little blip of a person on the stage.  The camera operators did a great job of capturing the concert so that the masses could see what was going on via the 50' video boards to either side of the stage.

The organizers expected a crowd of 50,000 or more, and it was thought that the emphasis on using public transportation negatively affected sales - reasonably so as MARTA has a reputation of not visibly adjusting their schedules or capacity to handle downtown events.  I don't know if they did this time, but amongst a horde of fans walking down 10th street to the train station, we were only standing still for about 4 minutes before boarding our train, even if in the fashion of sardines.  Well done.

All in all, it was the stuff memories are made of.  Thanks, Jackie.

Rating: 5 Stars

The Set List:

Drive My Car
Mother Only Knows
Flaming Pie
Got to Get You Into My Life
Let Me Roll It
Foxy Lady (instrumental jam)
Long and Winding Road
My Love
Here Today
Dance Tonight
Calico Skies
Mrs. Vanderbilit
Eleanor Rigby
Sing the Changes
Band on the Run
Back in the USSR
I'm Down
I've Got a Feeling
Paperback Writer
A Day in the Life
Give Peach a Chance (chorus)
Let it Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

1st Encore
Day Tripper
Lady Madonna
I Saw Her Standing There

2nd Encore
Helter Skelter
Get Back
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)
The End


  1. i love how you critique the show, i felt as if i was there. glad you enjoyed it


  2. I enjoyed every bit of this! I cannot wait to see him when he gets here to Dallas!

    Sheila aka Ultimamom

  3. I forgot to add but I was laughing so hard at the part you got annoyed with a guy yelling, "We Love You Paul". Hubby and I were watching Paul's concert on vh1 Classics the other night and after each song I would yell, "we love you Paul"! Hubby turns to me and says, "you're not going to say that through the whole concert, are you"?!? I said, "sure I am"! Not really tho, I was just picking on my hubby! I will be yelling tho! I told my hubby what you wrote here and he laughed!

    Sheila aka Ultimamom

  4. My initial reaction was to be green with envy. "If I could have I would have but alas I cannot."
    But reading on I, like Sheila, felt THERE.
    Thanks for a well written, take you there blog.

    Oh and by the by I have one of those Mickey Mouse costumes and they sure do come in handy.
    The local discount stores sell clear, thin plastic material ones that are disposable but being it was a green concert I am sure that would have been frowned upon.


  5. Glad you enjoyed it. Cool way to start of Jackie's senior year.

  6. LOL gotta love a good concert! I'm so jelly though! I wanna go now :P Sounds well good, glad you and your daughter had a such a good time :)

    Oh and The Script album is pretty good, not the best but I've heard worse ;)And its the Scottish accent that wins too :P x