Before the Beatles were The Beatles (cue high-pitched screams here), they honed their craft on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, West Germany. There, they were employed by a man named Bruno Kosch-mider, who hounded them constantly to “mach schau.” The command to make a show is one which apparently never left Paul McCartney.
McCartney made his first-ever appearance in Fort Wayne Monday, playing to a capacity crowd of more than 10,000. The 76-year-old kept the audience entranced and enchanted from the distinctive opening chord of “A Hard Day's Night.”
The nearly three-hour show spanned the entirety of a six-decade career – from the first demo recorded by the pre-Beatles Quarrymen (“In Spite of All the Danger”) to three cuts from McCartney's most recent album, “Egypt Station.” Sprinkled throughout the 39-song set list were classics that provided opportunity for sing-alongs (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Hey Jude”) and asides on McCartney's experience with Jimi Hendrix and playing the first-ever rock show in Red Square.
There were the expected tributes to his late fellow Beatles John Lennon (“Here Today,” performed acoustically on a front-stage riser) and George Harrison (an exquisite “Something” that began with McCartney on ukulele and transformed into a full-band showcase). And there were the breathtaking pyrotechnics that accompanied “Live and Let Die” – the haze never completely dissipated after that number, as we who sat about 10 rows from the top can attest.
And there was an impressive display of musicality from a man who never formally learned to read music. Throughout the show McCartney moved seamlessly from his signature Hofner bass to the Yamaha grand piano to a smaller upright keyboard to an acoustic guitar to a mandolin to that aforementioned ukulele.
The Beatle-heavy encores (including a blistering “Helter Skelter”) were preceded by the rousing sight of McCartney and his band returning to the stage bearing four flags – those of the United States, Great Britain, Indiana and the pride rainbow.
And how did the show end? Perhaps the only way a McCartney show can, with the final words sung coming from an “Abbey Road” classic: “And in the end, the love you take/is equal to the love you make.”
We happened to walk past Coliseum general manager Randy Brown on our way out; his smile was easily as wide as that of any fan leaving. It was a schau that will be long remembered by anyone who was there.
Keith Elchert is copy editor for The Journal Gazette's editorial pages.