It’s Beatlemania all over again!

Danee Samonte (The Philippine Star) - May 6, 2017 - 9:05pm

MANILA, Philippines - I was absolutely astounded to see an ocean of over 50,000 concert light sticks swaying left and right to the strains of Hey Jude. I’ve never seen such a spectacle in my life.

After two days of attending conventions and business meetings in Tokyo, it was time to fulfill my lifetime dream to watch the concert of a living legend Paul McCartney who is turning 75 on June 18. I figured I may not have another opportunity to watch him live as he rarely hits the road nowadays. I watched the last of three concerts in Tokyo at the 55,000-seater Tokyo Dome on April 30. I think half the passengers on my flight to Tokyo three days earlier, which included Philippine Airlines (PAL) marketing executive Ting Torres, flew in to watch. With Japan’s relaxed visa requirement, McCartney’s Pinoy fans took advantage and came in droves. 

Sir James Paul McCartney was born on June 18, 1942 in Liverpool UK. He only has one younger sibling Michael McCartney who changed his surname to McGear when he launched his singing career. Paul together with John Lennon started their music career in July of 1957 by joining a band called the Quarrymen. A year later, George Harrison joined and they went through various name changes like the Beatals, Johnny & the Moondogs and the Silver Beetles.

When drummer Pete Best joined the group in 1960, they decided on the name Beatles. The Beatles lasted for a decade recording 13 original albums on Parlophone records. (Some purists will dispute it was only 12 because Magical Mystery Tour was not an album but a double EP.)

When the Beatles split in 1970, each member embarked on a solo career with Paul being the most successful with 24 studio, eight live and five classical albums not including various compilations and collaborations and the most charted songs worldwide, including over a hundred singles, 17 of which reached No. 1. 

I arrived at the venue at 4:30 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. show together with my wife and friends Yoshimi and Leslie. The queue to buy McCartney souvenirs like shirts, CDs, jackets and memorabilia was literally a kilometer long and six people deep. Twenty-six counters manned by at least a hundred girls were briskly tending to the McCartney fans who eagerly wanted to part with their hard cash in exchange for merchandise. It took me 45 minutes to reach counter 18 to buy a jacket and shirt, which unfortunately had sold out. I just bought a sweater and a couple of souvenir programs. Behind me at the queue to purchase a shirt was the son of my boss at RJ100.3 FM, Ramon Jacinto Jr., together with BDO exec Allan Magturo.

I would imagine that in merchandise alone, McCartney already made millions. We entered Tokyo Dome and bumped into more familiar faces like Hotdog’s Rene and Dennis Garcia together with sisters Sarah, Susan, Sandra and Gina at the venue. Only missing sibling was my “pilgrimate” Greg who has to stay behind to attend the ASEAN summit. 

I’ve never been to any concert of this magnitude. Almost all 55,000 seats were filled and there was magical excitement in the air. McCartney entered the stage at 6:45 p.m. sans any intro or fancy fanfare. He was backed by a five-piece band. The svelte and trim McCartney who has been a strict vegan for decades bowed to the crowd and started the set with the Beatles classic A Hard Day’s Night. The crowd reacted overwhelmingly and I felt like it was Beatlemania all over again. He performed a set of 39 songs that lasted over three hours. All throughout the concert he attempted to talk in Nihongo, which the crowd loved. The set was a combination of Beatles and McCartney hits. The Beatles songs included Can’t Buy Me Love, I Got A Feeling, We Can Work It Out, Love Me Do, Fool On The Hill, Lady Madonna, Eleanor Rigby, I Wanna Be Your Man, Obladi Oblada, Back In The USSR, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite, Get Back, You Won’t See Me (acoustic), And I Love Her and Harrison’s Something, which he began with a ukulele with flashes of Harrison pictures on the LED screen. The McCartney/Wings line-up featured Junior’s Farm, Jet, Let Me Roll It, My Valentine, Maybe I’m Amazed, Blackbird, New, 55 Seconds, Band On The Run, Hi Hi Hi and pyrotechnics-laden Live And Let Die.

McCartney got into a nostalgic mood when he sang one of his early compositions In Spite Of All The Danger recorded in 1958 with his first group the Quarrymen. The din fell into a hush when he performed Here Today, which he wrote after co-Beatle Lennon was shot dead. Tears welled up in my eyes as a montage of Lennon photos and videos flashed on the screen. Highlight of the concert was Hey Jude, the Beatles’ biggest and longest song where the 55,000-strong crowd waved their blue concert light sticks left and right. I had goose pimples. McCartney did a five-song encore that started with an acoustic version of Yesterday and ended with the medley Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End from the 1969 Abbey Road album, which was met with thunderous applause as confetti cannons blasted.

From the moment we exited the concert venue up to the time we lay down to sleep, we were still singing Hey Jude. Although McCartney sang with a few flats and sharps, every yen we paid for the ticket was all worth it. How many 75 year olds could perform the way he does.

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