Music has always been a huge part of my life. I was never good at playing an instrument or singing, but for some reason a passion for music has always been inside of me. I grew up in the small town of Rockton, IL, and it didn’t really let me flourish my passion for music at all. If I wanted to get a music fix, I drove the hour and fifteen minutes to Milwaukee to enjoy concerts, ultimately making it my music haven. I was ecstatic when I came to Marquette and would be able to officially embrace Milwaukee’s musicians, venues and festivals.
I was most excited to be only blocks away from Summerfest. Once I lived in Milwaukee, I took advantage of going. This past summer, I went every day and witnessed the best concert of my life. I was lucky enough to attend Sir Paul McCartney’s show and see him sing over 30 songs, filling my heart with joy and happiness.
I blame my love for this Beatle on my dad. He started crafting my music taste right when I was born through his lullabies and from riding in the car. On every road trip, my family brings along our huge black binder of CDs. You could really find anything in there from Lady Gaga to the Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat soundtrack to, of course, The Beatles. Before I had music tastes of my own, I would just listen to whatever my dad would throw on in the car.
Thanks to my dad, my music tastes center around my deep love for the oldies. I have lost the opportunity to see many musicians like Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince due to their deaths, so I couldn’t let the moment pass me by to see this living legend in my new stomping grounds.
The day of his show at the Marcus Amphitheater came up fast that summer. It all felt surreal. I arrived on the Summerfest grounds and quickly walked over to the amphitheater to try to get the best spot in the lawn, but when I got there, I couldn’t believe how packed it was. Almost every seat was filled in the amphitheater and every inch of the grass was covered with fans packed side by side, making it almost at max capacity.
I looked around at the fans in awe. I saw people with signs saying they saw him back when he was a Beatle back in the ‘60s. There were fans dressed like the Sgt. Pepper’s Band. There were families all dressed in Beatles shirts, making me hope that would be me and my future family one day. It is crazy to think that one man could bring such a diverse group together and bring joy to this many people.
The stage eventually lit up and the main man of the night took the stage. He started to play that first iconic chord of “A Hard Day’s Night,” and everyone, including myself, went crazy. A song I had only heard in a recording all my life was actually being played live in front of me. I was in such amazement that this 74-year-old man was still rocking as hard as he did in the ‘60s.
Seeing him live makes you see firsthand all his talent and passion. Not only did he sing, he also played guitar, ukulele and piano. The decades of him playing music really showed as his talent oozed from him song after song. He treated us to songs from his solo career, his time with Wings and, of course, his time with the Beatles.
After being in amazement for the first half of the show, I got emotional when he started telling stories of his fellow Beatles. His status as a celebrity started to fade away when the audience got to hear the stories of him and George sitting on the porch singing songs and playing their ukuleles, as well as the time when McCartney found out about John Lennon’s death and how he only knew how to express his feelings about it with a song.
However, the highlight of the show is when he sang my favorite song, “Blackbird.” He talked about how they wrote it during the Civil Rights movement to give people hope during that time, and then said we could probably still use this hope today.
That’s when tears started to run down my face, and I started to feel emotional that today was happening. This moment made my love and passion for music feel worth it. It showed me why I have invested so much time in following music. It was for moments like this one that showed me how hearing a song can make you feel something and create a memory that will stick with you for the long haul. This song was and will be the most beautiful song I will ever hear live in my life.
Once I recovered from that, I enjoyed the many songs he sang, like “Live and Let Die,” “Let it Be” and “Yesterday,” and his encore with a huge firework show, making some of the Summerfest crowd outside the amphitheater jealous that they weren’t there to see him perform themselves.
After three hours of performing and not even looking like he broke a sweat, he bowed and had everyone on their feet, applauding for what felt like forever, but still not enough for what we just witnessed.
As I let the concert set in, I couldn’t find words for how I felt. All I could think was my fellow Paul McCartney fans were right: no concert will ever beat this one or this feeling I have. I couldn’t be more thankful for Summerfest and one of the best nights I had. I’m looking forward to more great memories at Summerfest 50.