Paul McCartney wanted to savor the moment.
“This is such a cool event,” he said to the 50,000 fans assembled before him at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on Thursday. “I’m just going to take a minute for myself just to drink it all in.”
There was certainly much to absorb, most notably the undeniable sense that we were witnessing history. For this was not just another concert, but rather thefinal one to ever be performed at the equally storied and maligned venue.
McCartney’s “Farewell to Candlestick” concert was a beautiful way to say goodbye to an old friend, one that had provided so many chills (literally speaking) and thrills during its 54-year history. The Rock and Roll Hall ofFamer delivered some 40 songs during thefinal public event at the famously cold and windy stadium, taking fans on a magical musical tour of his Beatles, Wings and solo catalogs.
Of course, McCartney was the perfect candidate to turn out the lights, returning to the scene of the Beatlesfinal concert, which happened 48 years ago to the month — on Aug. 29, 1966. No wonder he said he felt a bit of “déjà vu” as he stood onstage at the soon-to-be-demolished former home of San Francisco’s 49ers and Giants.
“It’s sad to see the old place close down,” he said. “But we are going to close it down in style.
Mission accomplished — and then some. McCartney and his band sounded fantastic as they performed anapproximately 2½-hour set built from dozens of the greatest songs in rock ‘n’ roll history. The troupe opened with a stellar version of “Eight Days a Week,” from 1964’s “Beatles for Sale,” and was still going strong come encore time.
The evening was thick with nostalgia, but only part of it had to do with the music.The wind whispered ghostlike throughout the night, reviving memories from the stadium’s mighty sports history. Fans, clad in Giants hats and 49ers sweatshirts, seemed well aware that they were standing in this house of past champions for the final time. Thus, for some, this “Farewell to Candlestick” was as much about reconnecting with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Willie Mays, Steve Young and Willie McCovey as it was about reliving the tunes of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
The mood was a mix of joy and sadness. For decades, people have complained about this venue’s shortcomings, which include the bad traffic, the cold weather, the crowded concourses and the outdated facilities, all of which were on full display on Thursday. In the end, however, many also seemed sorry to see it go. (They might get over that feeling the minute they get a look at the 49ers fancy new digs at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.)
Yet, the joy clearly triumphed on this night. McCartney made sure of that.
The 72-year-old Liverpool native hasn’t changed his show all that much in recent years. He’s still telling many of the same stories and offering up similar set lists to what fans witnessed on his prior trips through the Bay Area, such as at last year’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
But why monkey with something that works? He simply plays the hits — and plays them well — while exhibiting an amazing amount of energy and charisma. He does more to give the fans their money’s worth than just about any other entertainer in the game. He’s the rare performer with really nothing left to prove, who still handles each and every song as if his legacy depends on it.
McCartney thrilled at basically every turn, whether he was crooning such touching ballads as “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “The Long and Winding Road” or rocking through up-tempo offerings like “Lovely Rita” and “Paperback Writer.” The main set climaxed with a fabulous “Live and Let Die,” which came complete with a fireworks show, and the ultimate singalong favorite, “Hey Jude.” He’d then return for two lengthy encores.
It was a potent swan song for Candlestick, sending this historic venue out in style.
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic.