Paul McCartney plays Prudential Center in Newark: An intimate night with 18,000 fans


Paul McCartney, one fourth of the legendary rock band The Beatles, filled the 18,000 seat, Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey with his “One on One” tour on September 12, 2017, playing 38 songs in a 2 hour and 45 minute set.

McCartney, 75, an 18 time Grammy award winner known for his genre spanning career, pure voice, catchy melodies, precision bass lines and rock anthem guitar leads, also inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, Twice. The first in 1988 as a Beatle and the second in 1999 as a solo artist. Starting his career in 1957 with The Beatles, then his own band Wings in 1971. After the Beatles broke up, along with a solo career and collaborations with artists like Kanye West, this left a lot of debate and anticipation on what songs he was going to play.

As fans made their way to their seats you could feel the excitement in the air. People discussing McCartney’s career and favorite songs, telling stories of past times they saw him live, rushing to their seat to take a picture and put it on Facebook. People who came alone made new friends, old friends reconnected, the room was filled with smiles, and laughter as the fans trickled in waves to their seats.

Pictures of McCartney’s career flashed on and off the screen behind the band as the lights started to dim. As he walked on stage the arena erupted with applause. Before a note of music was played he had the room in the palm of his hand. Since 2002 McCartney has been backed by the same band, which continues to replicate his iconic songs from his catalog with their own twist on it. Each member being able to sing while playing, helps recreate the  harmonies of McCartney and John Lennon.

The band was comprised of McCartney regulars such as Rusty Anderson (Lead Guitar), Abe Laboriel Jr. (Drums/Percussion) and Wix Wickens(Keyboards/Saxophone). During the song “Jet,” the drums stood out because of Laboriel Jr.’s crashing cymbals and thumping bass drum. His tom fills bridge the gap between changes in the music, putting his own interpretation on the classic songs.

During the 1973 Wings hit, “Let Me Roll it,” the wailing keyboards and sharp guitar leads drove the song. The bluesy piano chords Wickens used provide a new but yet familiar sound to fill the background perfectly, and along with the bright but yet dirty sound from the guitar lead’s Anderson provided made this song a fan favorite of the night. Watching elders jam air guitar and children sing along to these songs showed how timeless, and ageless McCartney’s songs truly are, it was a perfect circle moment that showed connection and a bond for the music. To be able to play McCartney’s music is already a task itself, but to pull it off with the confidence and accuracy they did was impressive to say the least.

As each band member took the stage, McCartney calmly said into the microphone, “Well, hello everyone,” which made the cheers grow louder. After a moment of silence, one of the most recognizable chords was struck, and then in unison the crowd sang along with McCartney on “A Hard Day’s Night.” For moment it was like being transported back into 1964 when the Beatles first played on the Ed Sullivan Show and Beatlemania was sweeping the nation. Men and women of all ages began to scream and cheer, a few were even brought to tears.

Last summer McCartney spoke with Kory Grow, a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, about the “One on One” tour stating he hopes fans have  “A rollicking evening out…That’s all I can try and do. We show up and we try and have a good time and give the people a good time. Because I know what it’s like to be in the audience.”

McCartney incorporated banter and stories in between the songs. True to the tour’s name, he worked to make the giant arena still feel like a personal, intimate space. He always waved to every side of the arena.

He even brought one lucky fan on stage to dance and sing along to a song made up on the spot. The young girl was in shock as she walked up to McCartney, who had open arms for a hug. As the band played McCartney and the fan danced, shaking their hips to the beat. She was shy and McCartney joked with her trying to get her to loosen up in front of the 18,000 people audience.

McCartney even did a sign reading segment in the show, where he explained “It’s hard to come up here, remember the chords and lyrics, while you guys are holding signs that say things like ‘Paul, sign my butt!’” After a chuckle Paul also read a sign stating that a young woman saved her money for a year to bring her husband to the show.

Throughout the whole show it was nothing but love, and happiness from McCartney and his band for the fans and music. With each song being played, McCartney and the band looked like they are having the time of their life’s being together with each other and sharing this experience with the fans.

Yardville resident Jeff Miller said, “Whether it was reminiscing about a chance meeting he and John [Lennon] had with Mick [Jagger] and Keith [Richards], or the incredible rendition of the Sgt. Pepper’s album Jimi Hendrix played just two days after its release, Paul took you out of your seat in an 18,000 seat arena and brought you into his own living room”

Midway through the set McCartney’s band pulled out acoustic guitars and transformed the classic Beatles song, “You won’t see me” into a stripped down, intimate version. McCartney started the song off with the main riff of the song saying “Sometimes you write songs lyrics first, or melody first, but sometimes you have a riff and it writes the whole song. This is one of those songs.”

Belmar resident and The Stone Pony Promotion Assistant in Asbury Park, NJ Jack Morrissey, said “I was impressed and entertained with every aspect of Paul McCartney’s show. There’s a reason for Paul and the rest of the Beatles transcendent and ever-present influence on music. His current show only further cements his legacy as one of the greatest musicians of our time.”

After this, McCartney’s band left the stage giving him time to do a mini solo concert. As he was talking, the stage under him rose up 30 feet, giving the fans in the upper decks a closer view. McCartney polled the audience to see how many people tried to learn Blackbird on the guitar. The lights came on and it appeared unanimous that everyone in the arena had, and with that he plucked his way into the famous intro of the song.

As the band rejoined McCartney on stage, the momentum picked right back up. Playing a few songs from his latest album, “New” which was released in 2013, right into Beatles classic, Lady Madonna. “Tonight we’ve played you the first song I ever recorded,”. McCartney said, referring to the song, “In Spite of All the Danger,” which he recorded in 1958 with his first group, The Quarrymen. He continued, “And now we’re going to the latest thing I’ve recorded. We’ve also put the lyrics on the screen so you can sing along ”, which the younger audience members did. He played his rendition of the song. “FiveFourSeconds”, a song he co-wrote with Kayne West and Rihanna.

Towards the end of his set McCartney played the title track from his Wings album, “Band on the Run.” Hamilton resident and Beatles historian, Rocke Smith said, “My best friend gave me ‘Band on the Run’ as a gift for my 13th birthday and we played the grooves off that record. So when Paul started to play that song it brought tears to my eyes. Flash forward 40 years later, here I am, seeing Paul McCartney playing ‘Band on the Run’ right in front of me.”

The main performance ended with a double whammy. First McCartney played his James Bond theme song “Live and Let Die,” while pyrotechnics and sparklers poured from the stage. Then, without slowing down he went right into “Hey Jude,” ranked in the top 10 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone and Billboard. This lead the crowd into a three minute “na na na na….na na na na….hey hey hey…” chant which brought McCartney back out for his encore.

The band members returned to the stage carrying flags, a United States flag, the New Jersey flag, the English Union Jack, and a LGBT rainbow flag. The seven song encore ended with “Golden Slumbers,” part of the B-side medley on “Abbey Road,” the last album recorded by The Beatles. Each member of the band was given time to shine with a solo in the final song of the night, “The End.”

A message of love united the show and McCartney sang it out to the 18,000 fans as he concluded with: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”