When the Memorial Coliseum announced Paul McCartney’s Fort Wayne concert date last September, the announcement was teased as a “historic” event for the city.
Ordinarily, you might suspect that the language was a bit of marketing exaggeration, but a concert by the former Beatle in northern Indiana fits just about every definition of the word “historic” that you could come up with.
Think about it this way: McCartney, whose music career is now in its seventh decade, has never before played in Fort Wayne. Only one other former Beatle — Ringo Starr — has put Fort Wayne on his touring schedule.
When the Fort Wayne date was added to McCartney’s Freshen Up Tour via a magical serendipity of scheduling goals and professional connections, it could legitimately be considered historic, for the city and for the state. And McCartney isn’t some aging rocker who’s playing small cities because he’s no longer able to fill the kinds of venues he played at the peak of his career. Only five days after he plays the Coliseum in Fort Wayne, he’ll do a show at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, proving that he can still command giant stadium crowds just like he and the Beatles did at Shea Stadium in 1965.
All of this matters, of course, because it finally gives the people of Fort Wayne the chance to see a performance by arguably the most accomplished, most revered living pop music star. At the age of 76, McCartney can look back on a career that is unparalleled.
Don’t forget that not only did he write and record dozens of the most enduring pop songs of all time with the Beatles, he also ruled the ’70s radio airwaves with his follow-up band, Wings.
In the ’80s and ’90s, all he did was crank out a few more chart hits, solo and with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and dabble in orchestral music and musical films.
Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, Sir Paul was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
Three Hours of Songs
So what can those lucky enough to have a ticket to the Fort Wayne show expect? What they shouldn’t expect is a short set full of songs they’ve never heard of. Although the Freshen Up Tour is ostensibly an opportunity to support the album Egypt Station, which McCartney released last year, the tour’s shows are not dominated by new material. A handful of songs from the new album are scattered through the setlist, but they are far outnumbered by the classic hits.
Saying that Paul McCartney plays his hits, though, is not precise enough information to let you know what you’re in for.
Unless he’s planning to play all night (instead of just three hours, which is how long the Freshen Up shows have been running) he’s going to have to leave some things out. Fortunately, he’s found a way to represent every era of his career and play virtually every audience member’s favorite songs in the space of a few hours.
The Beatles are represented, from “Hard Day’s Night” to “Eleanor Rigby,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” to “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Blackbird” to “Let It Be.”
Wings classics “Live and Let Die,” “Junior’s Farm,” and “Band on the Run” make the cut, and there’s even usually a Quarrymen song thrown in, as well.
In all, McCartney stays on stage through more than three dozen songs on a typical night, a feat that’s beyond impressive for a guy who’s not far shy of 80 years old.
Band on the run
He gets a lot of help from his band, keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, bassist Brian Ray, guitarist Rusty Anderson, and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. This collection of musicians have been backing up McCartney for more than 15 years. They’ve been with him long enough to be intimately familiar not just with the new music, but with McCartney’s unique take on all the classics.
When Paul McCartney takes the stage at the Memorial Coliseum, he’ll be bringing a half century of the world’s most beloved pop music with him, but he’ll also be creating new history at the same time.
There’s no doubt that, 50 years from now, some of the show’s audience will tell their great-grandchildren about the night they saw the former Beatle play in Fort Wayne. And that’s the kind of history that doesn’t happen every day.
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