Paul McCartney – Suncorp Stadium
Paul McCartney – Suncorp Stadium
Written and photographed by Vincent Shaw
Paul McCartney – 01.11.2023 / Suncorp Stadium: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
9 days short of 50 years to the day that my mother saw Wings at the old Festival Hall in Brisbane, just 9 years after my father saw The Beatles at the same Festival Hall in 1964 and now, in 2023, it was my turn. I’m still in disbelief that someone who’s 81 years old (and has played over 1,000 concerts with the pressure involved in being part of arguably, the most influential, prestigious and decorated band of all time) can play 39 songs over 3 hours across the world and still put on a performance that someone of any age, background and influence could leave genuinely saying “That was the best concert I’ve ever seen”.
Paul comes on stage after a half-hour long nostalgic montage of photos, music, videos and memories from the 66-year long career of Sir Paul McCartney. Before you knew it, the man of the hour was on stage wielding the iconic Hofner bass that he himself immortalised in the late 50’s. Before you could even process the surrealness of being in the same building as an actual Beatle, he jumps into “Can’t Buy Me Love” from 1964’s ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – the perfect start to what would be a mesmerizing night. While I missed the first 6 songs due to photographing the beginning of the show, I made my way back into the show at what felt like the perfect moment for one of my favourite songs “Let ‘Em In” to hypnotise us with its infectious melody to jazzy horns by the brass trio on stage, it was exactly what I imagined and hoped for. Slowing it down a little, Sir Paul dedicates the following intimate “My Valentine” to his wife that we had the pleasure of sharing the audience with while the lights dimmed down low; it felt like an up-close and personal jazz club.
Between each song, Sir Paul would jump up, do a little dance, respond to audience call outs, spill a few jokes and even share some stories from the making of songs or encounters with other friends or family and jog to his next instrument but without a chance of forgetting, he would always thank us and bow after every single song. It’s as if this was the first show he’s ever played and was genuinely grateful for every person attending and listening to him, a small gesture that some local artists don’t even do. As I mentioned earlier, he started the show on his iconic Hofner bass guitar, and before you knew it, he was slinging out guitar solos on a classic Gibson Les Paul and strumming choruses on a Martin acoustic guitar. It turns out that this was just the beginning because suddenly he’s all alone on stage with a mandolin belting out the chords of “Dance Tonight” as the band were gradually and individually being introduced to the song with horns, accordions, and kick drums and what I felt to be the best chemistry l’ve ever seen a band share.
No stranger to being a solo artist, Sir Paul was about to prove how comfortable and at home he felt as the lights dimmed and the opening strings of “Blackbird” fought over the audience’s cheers of relief as a solo stage, rose above the crowd holding Sir Paul as if he was a blackbird flying into the night sky himself. Personally, this was one of those songs that has always been on my bucket-list to see live and that alone made my night, the fact that it was performed perfectly – not only audibly, but visually as well – was a heart-filling moment for me; it was as good and cathartic as anyone could’ve hoped for. Sir Paul remained on his own for the next song, a solo acoustic performance introduced with a short story about the late John Lennon before performing the sombre “Here Today”; a performance you’d be embarrassed to say you didn’t shed a tear from. Sir Paul closed the song with a message that resonated with the masses, especially him – “If you want to tell someone you love them, get it done”. Continuing with an array of instruments, a rainbow upright piano was wheeled out, ready for an uplifting display of “New”. The Paul McCartney song guaranteed to get you on your feet (it did!).
The iconic guitar riff of “Lady Madonna” ignited the most energy of the show so far with everyone on their feet, hands together and voices soaring in unison. “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” kept the party going and really tested everyone’s lung capacity. We were singing, the keyboardist was playing guitar, even the light rig was moving like a rainbow wave in the sky. The band were on a roll and there was no stopping us at this point with a quick transition into “Jet” instigating faster drums, louder guitars, a louder crowd, and the chorus we all know and love. Dancing lights were just the beginning of the visuals as rainbow lasers rose from the stage amongst every other light gleaming a different colour while “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” transported us through time and space, taking us on a journey scored by the psychedelic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with the stadium reflecting exactly how the song sounded… magical.
As we wound down again for a minute, the spotlight lit up a ukulele (the same ukulele George Harrison gifted Sir Paul) and after a quick story, thank you and shout out to George, nothing else was more appropriate than “Something”, placing us back in that subdued mood and tugging at our heartstrings once more. A pick-me-up was needed and what else could have been done but start the bouncy beat and catchy chorus of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ” which I can confidently say made for the loudest sing-along I’ve ever experienced at a concert, cementing a moment in time I won’t forget any time soon. Peter Jackson’s visuals graced the screens as the tour namesake “Get Back” pumped up and took (most of) us back to better times as we fought the huge and catchy chorus with the intrigue of watching the making of the song with all the boys back in the studio.
No one knew what to expect with the next song, but what we experienced was nothing like we could’ve imagined. Sir Paul was back on the grand piano for “Live And Let Die”, as quiet and sincere as the lyrics, we were enthralled before a loud bang interrupting as the chorus hit summoning fireworks, flames, flashbangs, sparklers and lasers that left everyone’s jaw on the floor and ears ringing as the final chorus blared. Gobsmacked would be the best way to put it. Nothing could top that after 2 and a half hours, I mean, where else could the show go? “Hey Jude” starts and I think we all know what we’re in for. It’s pretty hard preparing to experience an actual Beatle perform “Hey Jude” live in front of 50,000 people so you just have to go with it, one line at a time. Who would’ve thought the effect of the 2 letter “Na-Na Na Na” chorus could make on someone, but after each section of the stadium took turns screaming it over and over for a 10+ minute version of the outro, in what felt like a world-record acapella attempt, you couldn’t help but feel like you had just undergone a religious experience.
Close to 3 hours in, Sir Paul hadn’t stopped for a minute and the band were back out for the encore, huge flags in hand, waving the flags of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Pride. I wish I could articulate the details of the encore, but it truly felt like a 7-song medley with each song transitioning flawlessly into the next as if they were written for each other. Starting off with “I’ve Got A Feeling” featuring an emotional but beautiful digital duet with John Lennon before finishing with an all Beatles set of the classics ranging from “Birthday” to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” to “Helter Skelter” barraging us with a wall of noise and strobe lights while each member of the band graced us with a solo of their own leaving the ultimate lasting impression before kicking off no other than “The End” while I wished for anything but the end of the show.
If there was one thing I could sum up the night with, it would be this… yeah, Sir Paul doesn’t quite have the same voice as he used to. He sounds so unique and earnest that in no way could you be disappointed, especially with how he sounds and presents himself, no matter whose songs he’s singing. Age isn’t much of a factor for Sir Paul, if anything, I’ll admit he’s aged – but he’s aged like fine wine.
After treating us to hits from The Beatles, The Quarrymen, Wings and Sir Paul’s solo material, to showing off the guitar, ukulele, mandolin, bass, harmonica, accordions, trumpets, saxophones, trombones, synthesizers, keyboards, grand and upright pianos – this show covered it all, masterfully. Nothing can slow this man and his band down and I highly recommend you and your band get on the run to the last show of this tour on the Gold Coast on the 4th of November. Whether you’re a fan or not, this is an experience you will never forget and will always carry the weight of missing out if you do so. I just know you’ll leave the show reluctantly to go home and do nothing but wait for Sir Paul McCartney to Get. Back.
Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles song)
Junior’s Farm (Wings song)
Letting Go (Wings song)
She’s a Woman (The Beatles song)
Got to Get You Into My Life (The Beatles song)
Come On to Me (Paul McCartney song)
Let Me Roll It (Wings song) – (with a snippet of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Foxy Lady”)
Getting Better (The Beatles song)
Let ‘Em In (Wings song)
My Valentine (Paul McCartney song)
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings song)
Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney song)
I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles song)
In Spite of All the Danger (The Quarrymen song)
Love Me Do (The Beatles song)
Dance Tonight (Paul McCartney song)
Blackbird (The Beatles song) – (Paul McCartney solo performance)
Here Today – (Paul McCartney solo performance)
New (Paul McCartney song)
Lady Madonna (The Beatles song)
You Never Give Me Your Money (The Beatles song)
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window (The Beatles song)
Jet (Wings song)
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles song)
Something (The Beatles song)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles song)
Band on the Run (Wings song)
Get Back (The Beatles song) – (Visuals by Peter Jackson)
Let It Be (The Beatles song)
Live and Let Die (Wings song)
Hey Jude (The Beatles song)
I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles song) – (“virtual duet” w/ video by Peter Jackson & vocals by John Lennon during The Beatles iconic rooftop concert)
Birthday (The Beatles song)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (The Beatles song)
Helter Skelter (The Beatles song)
Golden Slumbers (The Beatles song)
Carry That Weight (The Beatles song)
The End (The Beatles song)