In June of 1964, the streets of Adelaide were filled to the brim with 350,000 fans hoping to get a glimpse of the long hair of the world’s most famous band, The Beatles. It would go down in history as the largest open gathering of Beatle fans, with their visit to the Adelaide Town Hall attracting half the city.
My dad was only four years old when Beatlemania swept the city, and my mother barely a glint in my grandmother’s eye. Yet, 60 years later, I got to become a part of that history myself as Sir Paul McCartney returned to Adelaide this week.
Australia has welcomed back McCartney a number of times since that 1964 world tour, with the singer making his last visit to Adelaide in 1993 (four years before this writer was born).
Although he’s 81 now and it’s many decades since The Beatles’ heyday, the lure of seeing him perform life and becoming a part of music history has not lost its shine, even for young audiences. The proof is in the mere minutes it took for his Adelaide show – the first in the Australian leg of his Got Back tour – to sell-out, despite ticket prices topping out at $2350.
Fans who were lucky enough to secure a ticket were treated to a somewhat intimate performance in the Adelaide Entertainment Centre Arena.
This show is packed with technological fancy, miles away from the four-track machines The Beatles used to create their first nine albums. QR codes enable the audience to peruse the merchandise and other bonus extras, the set is an almost constantly moving machine, and John Lennon’s digital presence joins McCartney for “I’ve Got a Feeling”, a feat thanks to Peter Jackson, director of The Beatles’ series Get Back.
McCartney’s band is phenomenal. Abe Laboriel Jr on drums is mesmerising, giving everything he has with each hit of his drumsticks all night long. He sits upon a wall of speakers behind guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, also on bass. Song after song they serve up soaring guitar solos. It is clear you are at a rock concert by simply looking at the stage set-up.
Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards, and in a stint on harmonica, lays down everything with precision.
New York-based group Hot City Horns provide extra power. They start the show by appearing on a balcony among the audience before moving to the stage. This horn section is tight as anything, with a powerful zing.
McCartney own performance, during which he plays four different guitars, a ukulele, mandolin and piano, is the culmination of 60 years of practice and experience.
The wild orchestral run up of “A Day in the Life” builds to its distinctive final chord to indicate the beginning of the show, and the audience is delighted when the band launches into “Can’t Buy Me Love”. Each Beatles tune is received with open arms.
McCartney shares the tale of the first recording session of The Quarrymen in a Liverpool studio, and the band reorganises to emulate the five-piece skiffle band and play “In Spite of All the Danger”.
Among the Beatles classics – including “Love Me Do”, “Lady Madonna”, “Something”, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Get Back” – are plenty of McCartney and Wings songs to fill the almost three-hour set. “Letting Go”, “Let ’Em In”, “Band on the Run” and “Jet” make rock stars out of the band with their high energy.
It is monumentally special to share these culture-defining songs
The air around the arena changes as McCartney goes solo for “Blackbird”. He slowly rises from the ground on a platform surrounded by video screens, holding the audience captive for what feels like a very special moment. He follows it by jokingly teasing the many people who have attempted to learn the song on guitar and struggled.
The history of McCartney and The Beatles legacy seems to be alive in the air – from McCartney playing a ukulele that George Harrison gifted him, to offering thank-yous to Beatles producer George Martin and his other bandmates. For the younger audience members, it feels like the closest they will ever get to being a part of the sensation of the world’s biggest band.
The lighting design throughout the show is sensational, with moving screens, moving lights and lit-up floating platforms. “Live and Let Die” is a spectacle in itself as pyrotechnics shoot out from the front and back of the stage.
Looking around the arena, it is hard not to be struck by the range of generations singing along to decades worth of McCartney’s music. It is even more awe-inspiring when you sit back and take in that they are actually singing along with McCartney.
These moments are intensified when the familiar piano lines of “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” begin. It is monumentally special to share these culture-defining songs with all who are in the arena and with Sir Paul himself.
The encore offers treats such as “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Birthday”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”, “Helter Skelter” and, finally, a medley of “Golden Slumber”, “Carry That Weight” and “The End”.
Although McCartney may be in his 80s, he still maintains the same cheeky wit that first captivated Beatles’ fans across an almost 40-song set. For this young writer, it is a nice reminder that no matter your age, you are who you are, and you can be exactly that.
From being sung “All My Loving” as a lullaby when I was a child, to living in a world that walks the musical paths The Beatles carved, and now sitting in a room with one of the most influential musicians in history. Seeing Paul McCartney live is something I never expected to get the chance to experience and a memory that will last a lifetime.
Paul McCartney’s Got Back tour now heads to Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
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