Photo by BEN PELTA-HELLER
Rick Warren can suck it. If you want a congregation of people waiting to experience love and grace, Paul McCartney brings it like no other. When I was a kid, before I knew about drugs, I would listen to Best Of The Beatles on my Walkman CD player, and “Hello Goodbye” used to do it for me, let me tell you. At any rate, at a certain point, in college or whatever, it becomes clear that The Beatles are not cool, and Paul McCartney is the least cool Beatle. He’s the one who you would want to take home for tea and a chat with mum. He’s warm and sweet, easy to write off as banal and trite. George Harrison, I believe, is the current en vogue Beatle, mostly just because he’s the least cliche choice but people will try to give you better reasons.
At any rate, it was with this packet of prejudices I went to the Citizens Bank Park Tuesday afternoon — having found out just four hours before that I was going — to administer journalism at the event. I parked in some far-away lot, it was bright as hell outside. Paul was going on in half an hour, about, but some kids in Wilco hats with frisbees were only just getting there “jamkans” set up, which from what I could tell is a kind of collapsible tube you can drum on. Got my ticket at WILL CALL, noticed the line was about a mile long, decided I was a journalist and cut the the front. Someone was playing a cover of “Piano Man” in the bar patio nearby. 102.9 MGK was there. (I SAW RAY KOOB WITH MY OWN EYES!) It was a party scene, brother.
I couldn’t figure out how my ticket worked, I found a lady wearing a uniform and told her to tell me what to do, like the lost lamb I was. She smiled and told me to get a wristband and head out onto the field. Exciting news. I made my way down through the stands. I was in DD. Where? I got closer and closer to the stage, the feeling of unreality becoming increasingly pronounced. This was close. DD, as it turned out, is the center section closest to the stage. I found my seat. It was row eleven. Close enough to read the classic VOX logo on all the amps. Everyone around me seemed very well dressed. I thought of John Lennon’s infamous quip: “Will the people in the back clap please, everyone in the front you can just… rattle your jewelry.” I was in cutoff jean shorts and a t-shirt. The jean shorts had ice-cream stains on the crotch. A man came and sat next to me. It was senior-editor of Rolling Stone, David Fricke.
The next three hours were kind of a blur. I asked David Fricke if he was making any good observations. I was standing maybe 50 feet from a Beatle, at the center of the focus of 40,000 people. He played “Blackbird” as the stage beneath him rose up into the air. The thing about goodness is that it is fragile. Goodness is not cool, and viewed from the any perspective without vulnerability it is another word for ‘tepid.’ Paul McCartney’s music is good. It is goodness. Listening to it can allow you to feel like you are at home in places you have never been. There is nothing else really like that simple feeling of goodness. That’s the thing about cliches. They resonate with us because we’re human, the fact that they resonate means that we are human. David Fricke and Paul McCartney know just as well as the people up in the nosebleeds: Love, love, love. Love is all you need. — JAMES M. DAVIS