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July 20, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Times sports editor on ‘surreal’ McCartney event

Editor’s note: Seattle Times Sports Editor Don Shelton, who grew up listening to The Beatles, attended Friday’s Paul McCartney concert, and filed his impressions:

Paul McCartney’s show Friday night in Seattle, part of the “Out There Tour,” was surreal for me in almost every way.

I grew up on The Beatles, from the first “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” on the “Ed Sullivan Show” as I watched on my parent’s black-and-white TV to buying “Let It Be” – vinyl and 8 Track, of course – as a high-school sophomore.

Yet Friday was the first time I’ve seen a Beatle live, I’m embarrassed to admit. To hear all those iconic songs from a 71-year-old ex-Beatle was surreal enough, truly one of those where-did-all-those-years-go moments. Making it even stranger, I’m a sports editor who saw Sir Paul at Safeco Field. This was the first public rock concert at the baseball stadium where I’ve watched so many games over the years. (Insert outdrawing-the-Mariners joke of choice here).

Surreal or not, I loved every minute of it.

Actually, by my count, there were 169 minutes – just short of three hours. Paul and his band played 38 songs, and even a lifelong Beatles and Wings fan like me had a hard time coming up with more than a couple of songs I wish he had played. Virtually every great one he has written, with or without John Lennon, and sang was in the set list, from “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” to “Let it Be” and “Get Back”. My wish list might have included “Penny Lane” but there were some unexpected gifts, like “Long Tall Sally” and a couple of other songs with Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smears, and George Harrison’s “Something” on ukulele.

I left with new respect for McCartney, who I’d viewed in recent years as a shadow of the superstar I grew up idolizing. Not true. He was amazing. His voice was better than I’d imagined – a little ragged here and there, but like most of his aging audience, still going strong despite the high mileage.

I spent a near-perfect Seattle summer night taking it all in, including singing along while watching and listening to fans, young and old. A girl in front of me who couldn’t have been 25 confessed that she’d marry Paul in a heartbeat and that she hoped to hear “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” (she got one of her wishes). The 20-something guy next to me knew an astonishing amount about the Fab Four, and the two teen girls behind me seemed to know every word of every song. That gives me new faith in the next generations.

It was a great night to sit back and let one of rock’s icons take me (and 47,000 others) back. None of us can be sure McCartney, at 71, will be back this way again. But near the end of a night I’ll never forget, he promised to return to Seattle.

And on that surreal night, I believed every word out of his mouth.

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