Paul McCartney was extremely busy in the 1980s creating solo records, film soundtracks, music videos, his own movie and even a couple of duets with Michael Jackson. The one thing he didn’t really do was tour. Wings did quite a few shows in the 1970s, but the band ended in 1980 when McCartney was busted for weed in Tokyo and thrown in jail before they could do a single gig that year. It was an experience that made him a little skittish about getting back on the road, but in 1989 he had a great new record with Flowers in the Dirt and he decided to promote it with a stadium tour, playing for the first time under his own name as opposed to Wings.
He couldn’t have attempted a comeback during a summer where there was more competition for the classic-rock dollar. The Rolling Stones and the Who were also out playing stadiums after staying off the road for most of the decade. If that wasn’t enough, Pink Floyd were hitting stadiums all across Europe, the Grateful Dead were still selling insane amounts of tickets post-“Touch of Grey” and even Ringo Starr was out hitting the sheds on his first All Starr Band tour.
But even with all that competition, Paul McCartney sold out most everywhere he went. No member of the Beatles had toured in the 1980s up until that point. Further sweetening the deal was his decision to pack the show with Beatles classics, many of which he hadn’t sang since the group split. Wings played a handful of Beatles songs on their 1975-76 and 1979 tours, but it was nothing like this. Check out video of McCartney tearing into “The Long and Winding Road,” “Fool on the Hill” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” on that tour. As you can see, he paired the songs with video from the time period, making for a full-on nostalgia fest.
McCartney toured again in 1993, but wouldn’t go back out again after that until 2002. The only member from the 1989 touring band that remained for that run was keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens. The 2002 band, amazingly, remains completely unchanged to this day. They’ve toured most every year and will be back out again in 2019 to promote McCartney’s new album Egypt Station. If their set at Grand Central Station is any indication, it’s going to be an amazing show.
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