Paul McCartney wows music lovers of all ages during Dome return

Paul McCartney wows music lovers of all ages

Review: The Beatle and iconic solo artist delivers a set of classics to 35,000 Syracuse fans who soaked up his high-energy performance.
Published: June 5, 2022
Paul McCartney, flanked by guitarists Rusty Anderson, left, and Brian Ray, performs at the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse, NY on June 4, 2022. McCartney played in Syracuse as part of a 13-city North American tour.
Paul McCartney (center) and his bandmates perform The Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" to open Saturday's concert in the JMA Wireless Dome.

Lori Guidone brought her 10-year-old daughter to Paul McCartney’s concert Saturday night in hopes of creating a special little bond. A Wings fan herself, Guidone was seeing McCartney for the first time live while the near-capacity show in the newly named JMA Wireless Dome would serve as her daughter’s first concert ever.

While waiting for the show to begin, I asked Guidone’s daughter if she was excited, to which she offered an audible “meh” accompanied by a hand gesture that further emphasized her neutrality. In an attempt to get at least a little excitement out of her, I explained that she was about to witness music history in all its glory: a member of The Beatles, a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer, a living legend who would be performing six decades of songs that changed not only the world of music but the world itself. Even after her mom emphasized my point, the young girl shrugged, seemingly unconvinced.

Two and a half hours later, she was singing a different tune, joining me and 35,000 others in amazement at what we had just seen.

From the moment they strutted on stage, McCartney and his longtime touring band (guitarist Rusty Anderson, bassist Brian Ray, keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., and brass trio Hot City Horns) were on fire — at first figuratively, but later on literally when fireworks and gusts of bright orange flames and shot out of the stage during “Live and Let Die.”

McCartney opened the show with the lively “Can’t Buy Me Love” and went on to perform a fairly equal mix of songs — some newer and many classic — from The Beatles, Wings, and his solo career, captivating a mostly older audience packed in for McCartney’s second visit to the Dome in the past five years.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you may be wondering how exactly 79-year-old McCartney holds up during a show, a show of this length nonetheless. Well, I can now tell you definitively that McCartney is the most energetic almost-octogenarian that I’ve ever encountered. He was quite literally bouncing around the stage, switching instruments, and dancing with his band members from 8:30 p.m. straight through to his 11 p.m. closer. For someone who’s been performing live music for more than 60 years, you’d think that McCartney was only on his second or third tour ever with the amount of energy, passion, and pure joy he played and sang (very well, I’ll add) with.

Paul McCartney performs with his band at the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse, NY on June 4, 2022. McCartney played in Syracuse as part of a 13-city North American tour.

The stage was illuminated in lights during The Wings' song "Junior’s Farm."

Paul McCartney performs with his band at the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse, NY on June 4, 2022. McCartney played in Syracuse as part of a 13-city North American tour.

Paul McCartney's Syracuse show was one of 13 dates on his "Got Back" tour.

The show was not only sonically exceptional; it was also very appealing to the eye. A large screen behind McCartney and his band displayed a variety of animations, videos, and photographs that paralleled each song and really added to the musical experience. There was an animated, 3-dimensional Yellow Submarine moving underwater while the group played a Fab Four hit; a sign-language translation of “My Valentine” performed by Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp; a video collage of sepia-toned footage and photographs of McCartney on the beach with a couple of his children; and much more to look at apart from the performance itself.

The use of visuals wasn’t the only way in which McCartney creatively revisited several of his classics, and especially homages to fellow Beatles members George Harrison and John Lennon. McCartney performed “Something,” a personal favorite of mine, in honor of Harrison, but he put his own twist on it by using a ukelele to play the first pair of verses and choruses before switching back to electric guitar. Later during his encore. McCartney played his tribute to Lennon, “Here Today,” and was then able to duet with his old friend during the encore performance of “I’ve Got A Feeling,” in which Lennon’s vocals were isolated and played alongside footage — which came from this past year’s Disney+ show The Beatles: Get Back — of the band’s iconic rooftop performance.

Between songs, McCartney shared stories and told jokes that charmed longtime music lovers and newer fans alike. He spoke fondly of Jimi Hendrix, who he honored by adding a bit of “Foxy Lady” onto the end of “Let Me Roll It,” and recalled the famous guitarist asking Eric Clapton to tune his guitar after a typical whammy bar-heavy performance of his in the late 1960s. He also casually engaged with fans throughout the duration of the show. He read and reacted to a number of fans’ posters (during which he was asked to sign someone’s butt) and jokingly asked how many people in the crowd had attempted, and failed, to teach themselves “Blackbird” at some point throughout their lives.

McCartney’s gratitude for his supporters in the crowd, whose bountiful energy matched his own, was continuously emphasized throughout the show — something you can’t always count on from artists who have been around as long as he has. Audience members ranged from full-fledged Beatlemaniacs dressed in homemade Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band costumes, to modern-day Beatles girls who sported old-school Wings merch and danced and sang along to every single lyric with McCartney, to children who were more or less dragged to the show by their Macca-loving parent(s) — and McCartney was appreciative of each and every one of them, whether it was their first concert of his or their 127th (yes, really).

I had never in my life heard fully-grown adults scream at the top of their lungs and “fangirl” so hard for someone until this concert, and it was truly magical to witness. McCartney’s superpower seems to be bringing fans back to their roots, many of which revolve around his music. Seeing people as old as or even older than McCartney himself physically jump up and down and shake posters that read “I was at the (given location) show in (given year)! Do you remember me?” was a reminder of music’s special ability to connect people — an ability that I believe The Beatles, Wings, and McCartney’s solo works all hoped (or, in McCartney’s case, still hope) for in the music they put out into the world.

A sign promoting Paul McCartney's concert in Syracuse hangs on the west end of the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse, NY on June 4, 2022. McCartney played in Syracuse as part of a 13-city North American tour.
A banner promoting Paul McCartney's concert hangs on the west end of the newly renamed JMA Wireless Dome.

After McCartney’s set ended, the pre-show excitement that once vibrated through the audience was gone, but something was left in its place. No, I’m not referring to the red, white, and blue pieces of confetti that covered the floor — I’m talking about a sense of wholeness that connected the crowd. We had all experienced something together, something unique and vulnerable and beautiful, and we had all been individually changed by it in some way.

Before exiting the stadium, I turned around and gave Guidone’s daughter a curious thumbs-up, wondering whether or not she’d had a good time and hoping she felt the same sense of togetherness that I felt — the sense of togetherness that I’d discovered in music at a young age, the sense of togetherness that makes artists like Paul McCartney so extraordinary.

She gave me an enthusiastic nod and even though she was wearing a mask, I could tell from the crinkles at the ends of her eyelids that she was beaming.