TEXT ME! is printed on the large screen right in front of us, just below a portrait of the man we’re here to see. These two words along with a phone number, his number.
“What do you think?” Mary asks. “He’s still cute.”
“Yes, absolutely,” my response. And so she does. Text him. The man on the screen wearing the shirt with painted clouds made to look a bit like a Magritte painting.
“Do you think it’s a person on the other end?” she adds.
“It’s him, for sure.” I say with a smile. “He’s backstage texting because you’re the only one who took him up on it.”
We’re sitting in close to the stage, with quite a bit of time to kill before the start of the show. Tickets say six thirty, but who pays attention, and the park’s only half full.
I’ve been waiting over fifty years for this, since the evening my father returned from work, opened his briefcase to a forty-five record with Honey Don’t on it and our lives changed forever and for the better. That day, John and I danced in the living room, clad in matching PJ’s, a scrapbook picture to mark the moment when we became part of the craze. Not sure if side B was Can’t Buy Me Love or Drive My Car… or neither. I was six or seven, John five, and this 1964. Dad a foreign correspondent at The New York Times in Paris with little interest in anything but hard news. For him to bring home this record the only proof needed to measure the expanse of mania and infection.
“He wrote back,” Mary all but shrieks. “Look, I now have Paul McCartney’s contact info.”
“I told you it was him,” my playful response.
“You have salad in your teeth”, Mary says, pointing to something off to the side of tonight’s perma-smile. “You can’t have salad in your teeth at a Paul McCartney concert.”
Mary and I are somewhere in center field at Fenway Park for the second of two nights with my favorite Beatle. At one point early on in the pre-show, I turn to the two women sitting right behind us and say, “don’t worry, if a fly ball comes our way I’ll catch it.”
“If a fly ball comes this way, I’ll climb over you to catch it myself,” her answer, arms play-acting the art of catching home runs in the bleachers. With this, I stop being concerned about these two, thinking that if they can’t see over me, they’ll just punch me in the nose and tell me to sit down. Boston sports fans at a rock concert.
Though the concert doesn’t start at 6:30, and we certainly didn’t need to rush through take-out pizza with our friends Tom and Nancy to be here by then, we are greeted by a DJ spinning covers, versions we’ve never heard before, but think we have. An hour or so of classics. It doesn’t occur to me to Shazam any of these, and instead I sit back take it all in. The day, the park, the people and the music I grew up listening to.
During the course of the evening, the band rolls back and forth between songs I know by heart, and new songs none of us have ever heard before.
“We know which songs you like,” our new best friend Paul says. “Because when we play them all your phones light up.” I turn my head back to a sea of phones looking like stars. “But when we play a new song, it’s like a black hole out there. But you know what. We don’t care. We’re going to play the new ones anyway.” We all laugh along with the man who’s been here before.
For a couple of hours on a warm night in June, in the place they call Boston’s little music box, Paul McCartney brings us along through the story of his life of music. He sings Lady Madonna, and then says that the next song’s never been played at a concert before, a line to fool us into thinking we’re in for another new unknown song. Instead, Polythene Pam explodes out of the Marshall amps, followed by She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. We all think about how few songs have ever been played in concert given how early in their careers these four stopped touring.
Paul adds, “it all changed when we came to America, because that’s when the girls went absolutely bananas.” At which point he turns to the audience and says, “Girls, give us a Beatles scream.”
Fenway Park comes alive in a way you won’t hear at a Sox game, or ever — a glorious shriek. In one moment, Mary is whisked back to her teens, something that happens again at the beginning of the encore when the band sings I’ve Got a Feeling accompanied by a film clip from the Beatles famous rooftop concert.
“Peter Jackson came to us with an idea,” Paul tells us.
“I can separate John out from the band,” Jackson explained to Paul at some point after working through hours and hours footage for the movie Get Back. “Do you want me to do that?”
“Hell yeah!” Paul recounts telling Jackson of the idea. “Who wouldn’t want to sign along with John again?”
I look over at Mary and she’s a well of tears. Paul has texted, and now John’s serenading us all. Four or five times during the night, I sit back to listen to forty thousand people sing along with the music of the first half of our lives.
“Dad, did you sing Hey Jude?” Nicole asks the next morning.
“I saw you.”
“On Tik Tok.”
With this, I take a look for myself, to relive the highlights of the night through the app of a new generation. Sure enough, there we are signing along with Let it Be, Band on the Run, Black Bird and Birthday. The Tik Tok clips not exactly close-ups of the two of us, but rather videos from around the park to make up a mosaic of sight and sound, including a shaky cam video of the fireworks during Live and Let Die, noise loud enough to drive any neighborhood dog under nearest kitchen table.
“Too loud,” Paul mimics after the fanfare. “I’m sorry. Not my idea.” He seems to be intimating while carefully descending down off the piano, half serious, the man turning for-score in eleven days.
“I don’t know as many of the words as I thought,” Mary says after The End when the lights come up. No second encore tonight.
I spend the night looking directly at the man who’s music shepherded me through adolescence, never looking up at the big screen, nor at the band much either, instead choosing to be one with the man, one with the spirit of the band of a generation, alive tonight here in Boston on this beautiful summer night.
“So glad you could make it,” Paul’s text on Mary’s phone.