20 December 2009 was the best day of my life: it was the day I saw Paul McCartney live for the first time. I was 17 years old and it had been a lifelong dream of mine to see my hero up close. When I heard on the radio one day in October that there was a “very strong rumour” he would be coming to Dublin, my heart almost stopped. The next day it was officially confirmed that he would be playing the O2 (now called the 3Arena) on 20 December as part of his ‘Good Evening Europe’ tour. Oh my god!
I couldn’t believe this was happening. The last time Paul had played in Dublin was 2003, but I wasn’t there. Now he was finally coming back, and this was my chance. Priority tickets went on sale on a Monday morning at 9am, but of course I was so nervous about the possibility of missing out that I was up at about 6am, pacing the floor. Luckily, we managed to get two tickets as soon as they went on sale. A few minutes later they were gone. Now all I had to do was wait patiently for two more months…
Patience was not on the agenda, and I counted down the days. I had never been so excited for anything in my life. I could barely concentrate on anything else. The week before the concert, I was busy doing Christmas exams at school, and I have no idea how I managed to get through them. The moment when I handed up my final exam paper at the end of the week was glorious. Now I could attend to more important matters!
At last the day arrived. I can’t remember how much sleep I got the night before, but I do remember that I woke up extremely early and lay there listening to The Beatles and Paul on my iPod, which made me a hundred times more excited. I was actually going to see a real Beatle!
I wanted to get there as early as possible to start queueing, to give myself the best chance of getting to the front. Standing at the bus stop waiting for a bus to arrive seemed to take ages, but finally one came along and we arrived at the O2 at about 3pm. I was panicking that we were already too late, but to my surprise, we were among the first few people there. Success! We joined the queue and began the wait.
As luck would have it, 20 December turned out to be the coldest day of the year. It was icy, and as the afternoon went on and the queue got longer, everyone was shivering to death. By the time the sun went down I had lost all feeling in my feet, and I spent the last hour or so of queueing jumping around in an effort to get some warmth into them, but it didn’t do much good.
Finally, at about 6.30pm, the doors opened and everyone rushed inside. I still couldn’t feel my feet, yet I somehow managed to run as fast as I could towards the stage. I managed to get a spot at the front, and I could have cried with happiness right then and there — this was almost too good to be true! But it was true, and it was only going to get better.
There was no support act, which was just as well because I don’t think anyone would have been able to concentrate from excitement. At 8.30pm, the lights went down and my stomach went into knots as everyone cheered in anticipation of what was about to happen. Suddenly, the man — the LEGEND — that is Paul McCartney walked out on stage with his band, carrying his iconic Hofner bass, and the reception he got was incredible. I screamed, I cheered, I clapped… I stared at this legendary figure, who I never thought I would get to see up close, but who was now just metres away from me. I will never forget that moment. Paul waved and took it all in. He shouted, “Good evening Dublin!” to huge cheers, then launched straight into ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. The crowd went crazy.
For close on three hours, as Paul powered through an unbelievable setlist that included all his Beatles, Wings and solo classics, I was in heaven. This must have been what Beatlemania felt like all those years ago, as I was now screaming my lungs out and crying tears of joy like all those girls had in the 60s. But so was everyone else around me: grown men and women, and children too. It was magical. I probably cried most of all during ‘Here Today’ and ‘Something’, two songs which give Paul an opportunity to pay tribute to John Lennon and George Harrison. But ‘My Love’ was also pretty emotional, as his beloved Linda got a mention. The wonderful guitar solo on that song was played by Wings’ Northern Irish guitarist Henry McCullough, who was in the crowd, and Paul gave him a shout-out which was brilliant.
One of the most amusing moments of the night was Paul’s attempt at speaking Irish. He actually did pretty well with pronunciation for the most part, though his imitation of the accent was hilarious it must be said! But when he tried out the phrase for “Merry Christmas” there was a surprise in store… we’d been wondering if it was going to happen, and it did. For the first time in years, Paul treated us to a performance of his 1979 festive hit, ‘Wonderful Christmastime’. Once again, the crowd went crazy! It was such a special moment with everyone singing along, band and fans wearing Santa hats and snowflake graphics on the big screens. Amazing!
Other highlights included ‘Live and Let Die’, with the fireworks and flames which we could feel the heat from on our faces in the front row, and of course ‘Hey Jude’. There is nothing on earth like being in a crowd of thousands of people all singing along to that one. It was unbelievable. When the band left the stage afterwards, everyone kept singing it until they came back on for the encore. I think even Paul was overwhelmed by the response.
At one point towards the end of the show, while taking in the reaction from the crowd, Paul made eye contact with me. I used that moment to give him the thumbs up, and he responded by giving me his own trademark thumbs up and a wink! It happened in a matter of seconds, but I was so blown away by it and I spent days afterwards telling as many people as I could about my moment of interaction with Paul!
Paul and the band closed a fantastic encore with ‘The End’. That made me feel really emotional. I can’t even listen to it on Abbey Road without feeling like that, because it really does feel like the end of something special, and that’s what tonight was. As Paul said his goodbyes, confetti rained down on the crowd, and then it was all over. After buying a tour t-shirt and a poster from the merchandise stand, we headed outside into the freezing cold and made our way to the nearest hotel bar to recuperate. It was full of fans and they were showing one of Paul’s live shows from 2003 on the TV. I could barely believe what had just happened. As a girl standing beside me in the crowd had remarked to me afterwards, “We just breathed the same air as Paul McCartney!”
Without doubt, it was the greatest Christmas present I have ever received in my life. The next day I had the worst case of post-concert blues imaginable, and I thought, “That’s my once in a lifetime experience done.” But I was wrong, because just six months later, Paul was back in town… and I got to do it all over again! To be continued…