Paul McCartney came to Citi Field on Friday night to bring a new ballpark one thing that can't be built in: memories. No one was better qualified.
NEW YORK — Paul McCartney came to Citi Field on Friday night to bring a new ballpark one thing that can’t be built in: memories. No one was better qualified.
As a 23-year-old Beatle, McCartney introduced rock to a stadium audience on Aug. 15, 1965, when the Beatles played a 34-minute set at Shea Stadium, which Citi Field replaced. The Beatles returned to Shea in 1966 on what would be their last tour.
McCartney was also at the final concert at Shea Stadium, joining the headliner, Billy Joel, on stage last year. Joel returned the favor on Friday night, singing, whooping and splashing piano chords in “I Saw Her Standing There.”
In case the Mets weren’t enough, now Citi Field has musical continuity.
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On Friday, in the first of three shows at the stadium, McCartney reminisced about 1965, imitating the muffled and distorted sound the Beatles got through the old stadium’s public-address system, which by all accounts was drowned out by screaming girls. (Nearly 44 years later, somewhat older women seized their cue to scream.)
The Citi Field audience brought its own memories: Beatles T-shirts and talismans, held aloft to soak up the occasion. When McCartney sang Beatles songs, in arrangements that nearly replicated the studio versions, there were loud, fond singalongs.
Of course, McCartney wasn’t about to return to the primitive conditions of a 1965 Beatles show, when the band performed isolated on an empty ballfield with fans far away in the stands. (There was field seating, on covered turf, along with the stands at Citi Field.)
Stadium concerts have evolved mightily, and McCartney had all the paraphernalia to make his music fill the stadium as the sound and image of the Beatles could not (which didn’t make the Beatles concerts any less exciting). Video screens rendered McCartney visible to the upper decks, and they illustrated songs like “Back in the USSR” (with old images of Russia) and “Got to Get You Into My Life” (with the computer-animated Beatles from the video game “The Beatles: Rock Band”). Flash pots and fireworks blazed to underline the explosive transitions of “Live and Let Die.”
When McCartney and the Beatles played Shea Stadium in the 1960s, they were brash young rockers. It was before the orchestral ambition of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or the introspection and style-hopping of “The Beatles” (known as the White Album), with songs the Beatles themselves would only perform in the studio, though McCartney has taken them on tour.
It was before McCartney’s songs became something parents introduced to children and grandchildren.
And it was before McCartney had another four decades of experience, losses and memories to sing about, in a stadium that awaits history of its own.