Hollywood music emporium Amoeba Records has long been considered one of America’s coolest record stores, but it got even cooler when it was paid a visit on Wednesday, June 27 by none other than Sir Paul McCartney. The legendary former Beatle made a rare appearance at the shop to play an intimate live gig that was by far Amoeba’s biggest event yet. Diehard Macca-maniacs camped out on Sunset Boulevard for three days and flew in from as far away as Japan to attend the free “secret” show, and the legendary former Beatle rewarded their devotion with 90 minutes of Fab Four classics, songs off his hot-selling new Memory Almost Full album, and plenty of amusing stage banter and audience interaction to make this a truly special treat for his fans.
After Amoeba shut its doors to the public at 4pm and McCartney warmed up his band with a little freeform piano jamming, the fans who’d been patiently waiting for days were finally allowed inside, and they filed in whooping, cheering, brandishing cardboard signs, and in some cases wearing Beatle-branded clothing from head to toe. “Yes, we’re all very excited,” announced one Amoeba employee as he tried to keep the audience under control. “If you cut us, we’d shoot rainbows out!”
The excitement grew even more when McCartney’s former bandmate Ringo Starr entered the building and walked through the crowd, prompting many shrieking lookie-loos to climb up on the record bins to get a closer look and snap photos. And then, at 8:15pm, McCartney and his band appeared on Amoeba’s tiny stage and tore into “Drive My Car,” and the store exploded like it was the scene of the Beatles’ JFK airport landing four decades ago.
McCartney seemed equally elated to be there, cracking jokes throughout the show and frequently making comments about how bizarre it felt to be playing such a small venue. At one point he asked for a moment of silence, saying, “I’d just like to take a moment to take this all in!” Later, he likened the surreal scene to “something from a film. It looks like Village Of The Damned”; he then requested the audience to pose like extras in the horror film to complete the effect.
McCartney interacted with the audience in other hilarious ways, whether it was mimicking the fans’ unintelligible shouting, serenading one celebrating concertgoer with “Happy Birthday,” demanding that the crowd make wacky noises on cue, jokingly telling one babbling fan to “shut up” when she interrupted one of his between-song anecdotes, or asking the fans to nod their head in time to the Memory Almost Full song fittingly titled “Nod Your Head.” At one point he sheepishly admitted, “I keep getting sillier and sillier!” (example: when he inexplicably and comically played the ragtime piano ditty “You’ve Got The Cutest Little Babyface”), but no one at Amoeba seemed to mind. Throughout the show, McCartney simply appeared to be having a total blast, really cutting loose, and the sense of joy in the room was as huge as it was mutual.
However, there were a few serious moments too, like when McCartney played “Hey Jude” or “Let It Be.” But the most touching part of the show came when he performed, solo and acoustic, “Here Today,” off 1982’s Tug Of War. Written originally for his late bandmate John Lennon, McCartney dedicated the song to “people that we miss tonight,” and cried out, “Let’s hear it for John! Let’s hear it for George and Ringo!” He appeared to become genuinely choked up during the song, but he made it through, and afterwards quipped, “We’re grownups, we can cry if we want!”
Other songs played this evening included Memory Almost Full’s “Only Mama Knows,” “That Was Me,” “House Of Wax,” and new single “Dance Tonight,” as well as Beatles hits like “I’ll Follow The Sun,” “The Long And Winding Road,” “Blackbird,” “Get Back,” “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Lady Madonna,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”
As McCartney and his band took their final bow, one clever fan tossed a stuffed ram onstage (a reference to his 1971 solo album, Ram), and dozens more held up bright yellow signs that read, “Gratitude 4 Paul” (a reference to the Memory Almost Full track “Gratitude”). But tonight, it seemed McCartney was just as grateful to be there. This was an evening full of memories indeed.