Paul McCartney lives up to his legacy in Chicago-area lovefest

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By Tom Siebert

A Paul McCartney concert cannot be reviewed without first considering the magnitude of the man. He is the most commercially successful singer/songwriter of all time, whose songs helped change the course of culture and music itself.

That stated, Sir Paul gave his all in measuring up to his mythical musical status before more than 25,000 fans spanning three generations Tuesday night at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in suburban Tinley Park, southwest of Chicago.

From the iconic opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” to the seven-song encore, the former Beatle sang, played, joked, mugged, and regaled the jubilant crowd with behind-the-music stories for three hours, during the first of two local concerts on his yearlong, One On One world tour.

Those backstories included references to Paul’s friends and fellow music luminaries Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. He even mused topically that the reported rivalry between The Beatles and Rolling Stones was “fake news.”

We learned further from Paul’s personal discography that legendary record producer George Martin asked him at the last minute to sing the opening verses of “Love Me Do,” which became The Beatles’ first hit single. And that the song “Blackbird” was designed to give the hope of freedom to African Americans who were still suffering under Southern segregation in the 1960s.

But for those of us who grew up with McCartney’s music, it was the personal songs of love and loss that moved us most back then and even more now. Introducing his solo mega-hit “Maybe I’m Amazed,” he said simply, “This is a song I wrote for Linda,” a reference to his late wife with whom he founded the band Wings a few years after The Beatles broke up.

And he dedicated “My Valentine” to his current spouse Nancy Shevell, who was among the 11,000 fans in the reserved section of the amphitheater. Another 17,000 or so sat on blankets or beach chairs in the sprawling lawn area, aided visually by giant screens on each side of the stage that featured graphics and photos from every phase of the performer’s incandescent career.

Some songs needed no introduction, like “Yesterday,” the Beatles classic that has been covered by more than 2,200 artists, the most ever. When he got to the line “Yesterday came suddenly,” I could not help but think back to Dec. 8, 1980, when Paul’s band mate and songwriting partner John Lennon was senselessly shot to death by a deranged fan outside of his New York City apartment high-rise.

Lennon, for those who may not know, was a visionary musician, feminist, and peace activist. The world has yet to catch up with him. At the Tinley Park concert, Paul paid tribute to his friend from boyhood with the haunting “Here Today,” afterwards reminding the audience to tell their loved ones how much they mean to them while they are still alive––a sentiment that he never got to share with John.

There was also a poignant homage to the late Beatles guitar genius George Harrison, who died of lung cancer in 2001. McCartney played a ukulele given to him by George at the start of Harrison’s “Something,” which no less than Frank Sinatra once called the greatest love song ever written.

Paul’s savvy acoustic guitar set included the brilliant “Eleanor Rigby,” whose compelling lyrics were deemed worthy of study by my college poetry professor.

The official sing-a-along of the night was “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from the so-called White Album. But many of the teary-eyed fans also sang the words to such standards as “And I Love Her,” “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.”

Paul wrote “Live And Let Die” on spec for a James Bond movie, but the song became one of his biggest solo hits and was the concert’s show stopper, replete with dazzling strobe lights and bombastic fireworks that caused McCartney to plug his ears during one particularly loud blast.

In addition, Paul showed that he still has the gift of delivering catchy hooks and clever lyrics when he performed three more-recent songs: “New,” “Queenie Eye,” and, “FourFiveSeconds,” which he wrote with Kanye West and Rihanna.

McCartney’s backup band does an astonishing job of recreating his Beatles, Wings, and solo songs with note-for-note accuracy. You should know their names: guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr, and keyboardist Paul Wicken.

The other Paul played the keyboards, too, as well as the grand piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and his trademark Hofner bass. And for the record, McCartney is a 21-time Grammy winner, has written or co-written 32 No. 1 songs, and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as both a Beatle and solo artist.

But despite those stratospheric accomplishments, he appeared to be a pretty down-to-earth guy. He asked the audience members to raise their hands if they were from Chicago, from somewhere near the city, or from out of town. He surveyed the Beatles shirts and signs in the crowd, but chose to single out one sign that read “Chicago nurses are the best.” The man knows what’s important.

He also took note of the fact that The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, widely acclaimed as the most innovative and influential album of all time, was released 50 years ago. Moreover, two lines from the album’s title-track reprise were the perfect touch as the concert neared its epic climax: “We hope you have enjoyed the show…we’re sorry but it’s time to go.”

Then came the thrilling trilogy––”Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “The End”––from The Beatles’ last album Abbey Road, concluding with the immortal lyric: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Paul McCartney gave a lot of love to his fans Tuesday night. And the adoring audience gave it back in kind.

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hit home with Wrigley Field faithful during Chicago stop of 40th anniversary tour

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Social work students helping homeless in hands-on way

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois

Brittani Dahlman recently received a bachelor’s degree in social work from Aurora University. She also earned an eclectic education in humanity. That’s because Ms. Dahlman, 22, served as an intern during this past school year for Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, west of Chicago.

“I got to work with a wide variety of the human population–people with addictions, mental illness, a veteran, the younger, the older,” she said. “It was very exciting.”

Ms. Dahlman and fellow intern Andrea Spanier teamed up to develop PADS’ new Guest Assistance Program. The GAP enabled the nonprofit, homeless assistance organization to move beyond its basic mission of providing food and shelter to also assisting with employment, permanent housing, and social services.

“Andrea and Brittani pioneered this essential program this year,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “They applied their learning, experience, and skills to building relationships with the guests and were able to offer direction and critical support.”

For the past seven years, Kendall County PADS has been providing nourishing meals, overnight stays, and kind hospitality to the local homeless from mid-October through mid-April at seven area churches. This was the first shelter season during which PADS partnered with Aurora University’s prestigious School of Social Work.

The two interns augmented the assistance provided by a social worker from the Kendall County Health Department, who has been helping PADS guests for several years, going to the Thursday evening shelter site and connecting them to the department’s social services.

Ms. Dahlman focused primarily on the employment needs of her clients, helping them write résumés and cover letters. She is particularly proud of one guest whom she helped land a job at the Caterpillar plant in Montgomery, where he was able to save enough money to secure stable housing.

“He just said, ‘I’m going to pull myself up by the bootstraps,'” she recounted. “And once he got the job, he started asking to work extra hours and shifts.”

Ms. Spanier, 40, had a successful career in marketing and advertising until she developed health problems that stemmed from giving birth to her daughter, now eight years’ old. “When I was sick, I relied a lot on my mom, my step-mom, and my husband,” she recalled.

Her recovery experience inspired her to go back to college and major in social work at Aurora University, where she plans to earn her master’s degree next year. Her PADS internship entailed volunteering during the school year on Tuesday nights at Harvest New Beginnings church in Oswego and on Saturday evenings at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Montgomery.

She assisted PADS guests mostly with medical issues such as eye, dental, and mental healthcare. And she successfully steered a female guest with an alcohol problem into a 12-step program.

Kendall County PADS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization funded by donations received through grants, gifts, private donors, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website kendallcountypads.org.

Ms. Dahlman volunteered on Monday nights at Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ and on Wednesday evenings at the United Methodist Church of Plano.

She begins working on her master’s degree at Aurora University next month and plans to continue volunteering at PADS in the fall. The soon-to-be graduate student hopes she won’t encounter any of her previous clients because that would mean that they had not obtained permanent housing. “But if I do see any of them, I will be happy to further help them in any way that I can.”

Ms. Spanier intends to specialize in gerontology because she wants to help the elderly, the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population. She also plans to volunteer her services again at PADS this fall, describing the work as its own reward. “The payment of social work is when that one person succeeds and you know that you’ve been a part of it.”

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Hard Rock Café features iconic guitars but also shows human side of stars

By Tom Siebert

I recently visited the Hard Rock Café in downtown Chicago and viewed guitars used by Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Bo Didley, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, and Pete Townshend (a smashed acoustic). But the most poignant piece of memorabilia was a shoulder bag worn by John Lennon, which showed that he was just a regular guy with stuff to carry around.

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‘The Shack’ tackles tough questions about evil, good, and God

By Tom Siebert

Don’t let the controversy over “The Shack” deter you from seeing this important film. Granted, it is not biblically correct. But neither was “The Chronicles of Narnia” nor “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” in which Pharaoh was portrayed as an Elvis lookalike. “The Shack” answers the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people better than any sermon that I have ever heard. God, or “Papa,” is played brilliantly by Octavia Spencer, who evokes more feelings with her eyes than any actor since Steve McQueen.

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‘Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1’ is what it is: ‘Whistler’s Mother’––and motherhood writ large

By Tom Siebert

“Whistler’s Mother” is a colloquialism for Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, a painting in oils on canvas created by American-born artist James McNeil Whistler in 1871. The work was lukewarmly received, forcing the artist to pawn the painting. But it was eventually acquired by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and later acclaimed worldwide as a masterpiece. However, the artist always insisted that the painting should be viewed not as an affectionate portrait but as a groundbreaking configuration of earth-tone colors. “To me it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public do to care about the identity of the portrait?” he asked. My answer across the ages came after seeing the painting in person at The Art Institute of Chicago, the first time the American icon had been displayed in the U.S. since 1954. Whistler’s magnum opus is more about motherhood than Mother Earth.

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‘Hidden Figures’ is a must-see movie that reveals the heroic women who helped overcome race and space

By Tom Siebert

Mary Jackson, Katherine G. Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan were three African American women who rose above racism and sexism to help launch white male astronauts into space in the segregated 1960s and bring them safely back to Earth. In the astonishingly great movie Hidden Figures, this trio of NASA mathematicians is played with humanity and humor by Janelle Monåe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer, all of whom deserve Oscars. I shed tears of anguish at the cruel indignities that these women endured but quietly wept with joy as they overcame with brains and bravery. I give Hidden Figures four E’s for edification, education, entertainment, and excellence.

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