By John M. Borack
“Sleep, pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby…”
When my daughter Kayla was an infant in the late ‘90s, I would regularly rock her to sleep while singing Beatles songs. Even though my voice is no great shakes—okay, it’s terrible—the sound of me whisper-singing Beatles ballads never failed to lull her to sleep. I seem to recall “And I Love Her” being one tune that particularly soothed her as she would drift off to dreamland.
From that seemingly innocuous beginning all those years ago came a passion that Kayla and I have grown to share: a love of the music of the Beatles, and especially Paul McCartney. We’ve attended Beatles conventions together (where she has met folks such as George Harrison’s sister Louise and former Wings man Denny Laine), listened to countless hours’ worth of Beatles music in the car, attended numerous Beatles tribute band gigs and purchased Beatles-related birthday and holiday gifts for each other nearly every year.
The two of us have watched the Fab Four’s films together, including an ancient VHS copy of Magical Mystery Tour I unearthed in our garage a few years back. (Her reaction to the movie: “Dad, that was weird.” She’s not wrong.) As Kayla hit her teenage years, I watched and listened with immense pride as she sang “Let it Be,” “Here Comes the Sun” and John Lennon’s “Grow Old with Me” at various local concerts and community events.
But for me—and it’s a safe bet that Kayla would agree—the highlight of our dual Beatle fandom has to be the three times we’ve seen Paul McCartney in concert: in Las Vegas in 2011, and at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 2014 and again on July 13 of this year. The first two shows were certainly memorable, but McCartney’s most recent LA appearance is the one I think we’ll look back on as something very special. One for the ages, as they say.
As the show began with the rush of the ever-so-familiar guitar chord that opens “A Hard Day’s Night,” I glanced over at Kayla and saw that she had tears streaming down her cheeks. As she reached for my hand, I sensed these were happy tears. I smiled slightly, squeezed her hand, and wondered what the evening would hold in store for us. Would it be solely a nostalgia trip, with the stories I’d heard of Paul’s failing, “old man” voice proving to be true? Would we be disappointed in the 77-year-old former Beatle if he could no longer cut the mustard onstage?
As it turns out, my fears were allayed before the show even reached the halfway mark. The setlist was strong and varied, with the three new songs from Egypt Station sounding fresh and slotting in quite nicely alongside Beatles and solo Paul chestnuts such as “Band on the Run,” “From Me to You,” the explosive—literally—“Live and Let Die” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” Happily, McCartney’s voice showed very little signs of the wear and tear we’d been warned about, especially given that this was the final night of his tour. As a matter of fact, one chill-inducing moment during the evening—and there were several for me—was a little falsetto vocal bit Paul tossed in toward the close of the iconic “Maybe I’m Amazed.” I teared up a little and it was at that point that I realized this was no ordinary rock show we were witnessing.
Simply put, it was magical.
As the 38-song set ebbed and flowed, songs such as “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “Call Me Back Again” (both powered by the addition of a horn section), “Let it Be,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Let ‘Em In” were rapturously received by the sellout crowd. I stole looks at Kayla every now and again, and saw that she was clapping, singing along happily and getting lost in the music—just like her dad. Because, you see, the bulk of these songs were not simply a part of my life; in many ways, these songs were my life.
After the obligatory “Hey Jude” as the final song and more wild applause, McCartney and his band returned to the stage for a storming encore of “Birthday.” Then the moment many in the crowd had hoped, wished and maybe even prayed for came to pass.
“We’ve got a surprise for us, a surprise for you, a surprise for everyone,” McCartney told the crowd, raising the already high energy level to a fever pitch. “Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Ringo Starr!” As the 50-some-odd-thousand concertgoers collectively lost their minds, Kayla and I both burst into tears. And as Paul welcomed Ringo to the stage with a kiss and an affectionate, “I love you, man,” we realized we were witnessing history.
After Ringo joined Paul and the band behind the drums for spirited run throughs of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Helter Skelter,” it was time to close out the evening with the “Golden Slumbers”/”Carry That Weight”/”The End” medley from Abbey Road. As McCartney positioned himself at the piano and plaintively crooned the opening line, “Once there was a way to get back homeward…,” tears flowed for me yet again. 2019 has been a year of loss and challenges for my family, and those thoughts, intermingled with the emotion of having listened to nearly three hours’ worth of songs that are so damned important to me, made me weep unashamedly. It was both cleansing and emotionally uplifting, and the fact that Kayla was standing alongside me at that moment was the icing on the cake.
After we arrived back home, I went into Kayla’s room to say goodnight and to ask her a question that had been on my mind. “Honey, I know why you were crying when Ringo came onstage,” I began. “But why did you start to cry right at the beginning of the concert?”
My daughter looked up at me and said, “Because I was just so happy I was able to share it with you.”
“Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her…”