Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin, used with permission

Then, suddenly, I’m at a Paul McCartney concert


On Saturday, August 2 2014 at about 3 p.m., I was sitting on the couch with my friend Dana. We were drinking beer, watching Saturday Night Live re-runs from the 2008 presidential election.

I was beyond content. I was with one of my best friends, developing a mid-afternoon beer buzz, and Tina Fey was impersonating Sarah Palin on TV. It was a lazy man’s paradise. On top of that, I had a couple more friends coming, one of whom was coming from an hour away to join in on the festivities. We even had plans to attend a birthday party a few minutes away from my Uptown apartment.

The night was setting itself up perfectly. With the exception of food and bathroom breaks, I had no intention on moving for a substantial amount of time. It was going to take something catastrophic and/or potentially life-changing for me to change my situation.

Suddenly, my phone was buzzing uncontrollably. My friend (and bandmate) Jordan, who works at Mason’s restaurant (right across the street from Target Field/Target Center) texted me during his break.

Guess what
I got two free Paul McCartney tickets from my table
And I get to go
So get down here at 8
I’m serious
Answer me

I didn’t answer him right away. My John Dorian-style inner monologue was giving me fits.

On one hand, the night I had planned was just getting started. I still had friends on the way. I had made plans with several different people, one of whom was making a special trip. I couldn’t ditch them for a last-minute show, right? And besides, it’s not like I loved McCartney’s post-Wings stuff that much, anyway.

On the other hand (as Dana, my friend watching SNL with me, would later say), OF COURSE I should go. It’s Sir Paul. At Target Field. He wrote “Blackbird”, for god’s sake.

I was stalling in my response. The answer seemed so obvious, but that didn’t stop me from making a huge mistake.

I can’t

I was hoping to feel a sense of relief for after declining the offer, but I didn’t. I was hoping to feel good about not ditching my friends, but I just felt like an idiot.

I sat there for a while, trying to enjoy my terrible decision. Instead of seeing a music legend, a co-leader of the Beatles, and a dude who could pack a baseball stadium completely full, I was going to go to a house, listen to an iPod,and have a few drinks.

About 15 minutes later, Jordan texts me back.

Are you serious

It was a fair question. Who responds to an offer of a free McCartney ticket with a response like “sorry, busy”?

The text got my mind jogging again. I couldn’t help it. I texted him back and told him, plans or no plans, I was coming. I had come to my senses.

By the time I had told Dana that I was going to have to ditch our plans with the rest of our friends, my mind had already shifted. My night’s plans had changed completely. I got more and more information over the next couple hours. We had floor seats.

I had said I would only change plans for something potentially life-changing. This came as close to fitting the bill as I was going to get. Pretty soon, I’d be at Target Field.

Eventually, I met up with Jordan at his apartment, and got to hear the wild and crazy sequence that led him to acquiring this pair of tickets, during his shift at Mason’s.

“I filled in for a coworker at this table. They were wearing McCartney t-shirts, so of course I asked them if they were going to the show. They said they were, so we got to talking about how quickly the tickets got sold, and how I couldn’t afford them,” he explained. “They mentioned Ram [his second solo album], and I said, ‘whoa, that’s my favorite McCartney solo album,’ so we got to talking about that. As they were leaving, they told me they had two extra tickets, and could tell I was a huge fan and would appreciate them.”

To recap: Jordan was given someone else’s table temporarily, who happened to be going to the show, who happened to love the same (somewhat obscure) McCartney album, who happened to have two extra floor seats (I won’t say the price of the tickets, but they were expensive) on them, who happened to be willing to give them away if the fan was deemed “worthy”. Apparently Jordan was deemed worthy.

The story floored me. What are the odds of this happening, especially five hours before the show was scheduled to begin?

If anything, it made the walk into the ballpark that much sweeter.

Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin, used with permission

Some light rain trickled down onto the mob that slowly inched towards Target Field’s entrance gate. In most situations, outdoor concert-goers would be worrying at this point. Not today.

Not only was the rain light, it was expected to stop. And not only was it expected to stop, it was one of the four Beatles. People weren’t going to miss this show over some iffy weather.

It took a while to enter the building, and a lot of memories of Twins games past started to sink in: The scoreboard, the MLB All Star Game signage, and the overpriced and limited beer selection.

We got a chance to take in the stadium for all that it is. We were in the middle of a slow-moving, yet rabid mob, trying to make our way down to the floor/field. Eventually, we got through the gate and into the main concourse.

I had been to several Twins games at Target Field, but this was my first time on the actual field. Our seats were in the second row of the second section back, right near second base. Brian Dozier territory.

We sat for at our seats and waited for the show to start. I sipped on a beer I paid $9 for that is probably worth about $8 less. We were antsy. We wanted the show to start. The weather had cleared, but Paul and the band were tak…

Suddenly, the lights dimmed. The stadium erupted. That’s when I first turned around and looked at the mass of people that had come, and how good my seats really were.

Then, there he was. He and his the other four members of his band (Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson on guitars, Paul Wickens on keys, and Abe Laboriel, Jr. on drums) walked onto the stage. It’s difficult to generate an obscene amount of noise at an outdoor venue, but the massive Target Field crowd was making it happen.

Their presence got me thinking. It seemed like I was on the couch watching TV just a moment ago. Then, suddenly, I’m at a Paul McCartney concert.

Then they started playing, and I stopped thinking.

Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin, used with permission

The first song he performed was “Eight Days a Week”. I instantly smiled. It’s my mom’s favorite Beatles song.

I thought I’d be able to regain normal composure after the initial shock of what I was seeing. I didn’t. I had a goofy smile on my face for three consecutive hours. Most artists lose “it” at a certain point, though that point is different for everyone. Paul McCartney, age 72, hasn’t lost “it”.

He told stories that I had never heard before. After playing “Let Me Roll It,” the band broke out into a jam surrounding the guitar riff from Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” (side note: Paul McCartney can shred). He told a story about an homage Hendrix paid to the Beatles after hearing Sgt. Pepper for the first time.

He played “Something” on a ukelele, and told a story about a time he and George Harrison played the song with ukeleles. He spoke of John Lennon, and played “Here Today” in his honor. That was following a perfect rendition of “Blackbird,” my dad’s favorite Beatles song.

In short, he played everything you can think of. In days following the show, I got numerous “Did he sing ________?” questions. My answer was always yes.

On top of that, the band was so cohesive and well-rehearsed that, at times, it almost felt like a studio recording rather than a live show in front of tens of thousands of people, where mistakes are bound to happen.

I was among the thousands of people (and, historically, millions) who loudly and terribly sang along to the ‘nah nah nah nah’s of “Hey Jude,” head bobbed “Helter Skelter” like it was the heaviest and danciest piece of music ever created, and gazed in amazement (goofy, “I can’t believe I’m here”-induced smile still present) at the successful harmonies executed on “Paperback Writer”.

I’ve been to good shows, and I’ve been to great shows. This was something else. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been to such a large venue for a show before. Maybe it’s because I was seeing someone with the star power to fill every single seat in said venue. Maybe it’s because of my lifelong love of The Beatles. Maybe it was a combination. I still haven’t figured that part out yet, but this show wasn’t a typical “great show,” it had another element I couldn’t pinpoint.

Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin, used with permission

They didn’t have an opening act. They did two encores (and closed the show with the three-song suite that closes Abbey Road). They played all his big Beatles hits (that he did vocals on, plus a couple extras). He played all his big Wings hits. He played all his big solo hits, along with some new stuff from his aptly-titled newest album, New.

He played for about three hours that night, but at no point during the show did it feel dragged on. Even the best bands have shows like that, but this one felt fun and engaging from start to finish. It was as if someone had compiled the perfect Paul McCartney iPod playlist. After all, it was likely Sir Paul who came up with it himself.

Three hours of Paul McCartney, for free. All because my buddy was working the right shift, at the right table, at the right time, and was nice enough to think of me first. Things like that just don’t happen.

I don’t expect anything like that to happen again, but if it does, I’m not going to hesitate on my answer. No matter how funny Tina Fey can be.