On October 8th, 2013, arguably my favourite Beatle, Paul McCartney, made a surprise visit to the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts, in Astoria, Queens, New York City. In a packed out auditorium, some 400 students were dumbfounded when McCartney walked onto the stage with his band and played a full set of thirteen emotionally charged songs.
The play list included three new songs from his forthcoming 2013 new album, but it’s fair to say, the excited audience was most thrilled to hear a mix of Beatles and Wings classics.
The 90-minute impromptu performance opened with Eight Days A Week and finished with the beautiful rock ballad Hey Jude, the Beatles most successful single of all time. Musical standouts included Jet, Lady Madonna, Band on the Run and Back in the U.S.S.R.
The extraordinary thing about the day was that McCartney chose to visit the arts school on John Lennon’s birthday. Staging the rock show on Lennon’s birthday could have been entirely a coincidence, but sentimental fools like myself, sincerely hope that part of it was staged as a tribute or homage to McCartney’s songwriting partner. Unfortunately, with most of the songs McCartney inspired tunes, the show in essence was a promotion gig for his new album and not a memorial to Lennon. Though McCartney did include the Lennon inspired “novelty song”, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, to sing towards the end of the show.
To his credit, McCartney also paused periodically several times during the afternoon show to answer questions from his student audience. He was humble and made many witty remarks, including “This beats going to class!” He also talked about John on several occasions, notably how the idea for Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite came from a Victorian poster, John bought in a junk shop. (John’s adaptation of what was on the poster through his lyrics is pure genius.)
At the end of the show, McCartney genuinely seemed reluctant to leave the stage, probably because he was so surprised by the warm reception he received, from a generation of kids that weren’t even born, when McCartney was at the height of his fame.
Photo Credits: The b/w header image of Paul McCartney is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. I am not the uploader of the You Tube clip embedded here.