My Private Concert...from Paul McCartney

Talk about your Mr. Sunday moment. I spent Saturday afternoon being personally serenaded by Paul McCartney. More than a dozen songs over an hour and a half. Michelle, Yesterday, and a bunch of his other hits. And it was all for me.

Well, not quite. But it certainly felt that way. My wife and I got to watch his sound checkbefore a big concert here in Washington. And what a treat it wasas he and his band ran through a number of songs in a huge stadium--for a crowd of about 20 people.

The reason I got to sit in on the sound check is kind of interesting. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were staying at a hotel in Jamaicaand we saw Sir Paul on the beach with his young daughter Beatrice. Like a lot of you, I grew up loving the Beatles. And when I met my favorite of the Fab 4, my wife says she thought I was going to have a heart attack.

Anyway, Paul was going through a messy divorce at that time. And he was down there with his nephewand top New York City lawyerLee Eastman. But although Paul was clearly hurting, he couldnt have been nicertelling us stories about his music and his extraordinary career. At one point, he noted the line in Yesterdayabout Im not half the man I used to be. He said he wrote it when he was 22which meant that not half the man put him around 11.

Which brings us to this week. When I heard Paul was giving a concert in Washington, I called Lee Eastman. The show didnt start till 9 pmand I have to be up at 5 on Sunday mornings. So I knew that was out. But I had heard performers do what amounts to a mini-concert the afternoon of the showto check out all the systems. So I asked if we could attend the sound check.

Pauls publicistSteve Martinwho runs a company called nastylittlemanmet us behind the scenes at Fedex Fieldand took us in. By the way, Steve represents bands like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Beck, in addition to McCartney. I asked him why he gave his company its unusual name. He said he got into a fight with someone in the music business one timeafter saying a band stunk. She told him he was a nasty little man. And the name stuck--although he is anything but.

So, we ended up in an almost empty stadium while Paul and his very tight band played. It was fascinating to watch Paul at work. He was thoroughly professionalplaying at least one song with the band in every different configurationPaul on various guitars, a mandolin, and piano. His keyboardist playing various instrumentsand the same with his 2 sideman guitarists.

mccartneyperformance

It was a typically hot, humid DC afternoon. But Paul approached each song as if he were playing for thousands, not 20. After he finished, we would applaud. At one point, a father and his young daughter started dancing. And everytime, Paul would thank us and seemed genuinely delighted by our response.

The other thing that struck me was how serene he was. Whenever there was a technical glitch, he would stand quietlymake agentle commentand wait for it to be fixed. The other thing that just shined through was how musical he is. In between every songhe would whistleor tap his guitaror just make soundsas if the music, the beat were just pouring out. If you ever questioned why this multi-millionaire icon is still touring at age 67the answer was right in front of you. He loves to sing and play music.

On the gossip frontat one point his girlfriendNancy Shevellwalked onto the wing of the stage. And he stopped the sound check to give her a long kiss. Up close, she is an exotic-looking beauty.

Paul played some of his newer songslike Dance Tonight and Calico Skies. And his voice is still warm and rich. But it was the Beatles songs that made my day. He sang Ringos Honey, Dontand Georges Something. And my favorite single moment was when he launched into All My Lovingsetting his feet wide apart and rockingjust like back in the 60swhile scenes from the movie A Hard Days Night played on the screen behind him.

For a few minutesPaul was young again. And so were the rest of us.

Chris Wallace