If you’re in Grand Central Station, you’re one of three things: A tourist, someone who works there, or rushing like hell to get through it while silently cursing out the first category of people who keep stopping to take photos while you’re running late.
Today, a fourth category was created: You could also be a rock legend celebrating their album release with a kickass concert inside the stunningly gorgeous New York City landmark.
On Friday (Sept. 7) evening, Paul McCartney celebrated the release of new album Egypt Station (his best LP in 13 years) with a nearly two-hour show live streamed by YouTube.
Taking the stage just before the YouTube live stream started, Macca – with his good-natured charm in full effect – coached the crowd on how to react during three particular concert moments.
1) He explained that when the live stream commenced, the camera would be solely on him as he pretended to test the acoustics of the room (which, btw, were gorgeous given the high ceilings). He would then sing a line from “Hey Jude,” after which the off-camera crowd would sing the next line back to him. During the test run, the crowd sang the line but kept crooning, causing McCartney to wave his hands back and forth in faux horror like a fussy film director and explain that he just wanted the one line. Everyone chuckled, because when you’re watching Paul McCartney goof around, you have no choice but to surrender.
2) He informed the crowd that when he played a little music box mid set, the audience was to whip out battery-powered candles (provided at the door) for “Let It Be.” Easy enough, yes, but not dropping them throughout the concert proved difficult for some (i.e., me).
3) At the end of the show, he told the crowd to be ready to snap in unison with him. The footage would then be edited to make it look like the audience disappeared with one collective finger snap. The age-old ‘do you snap on three or after three?’ debate proved troublesome for a few, and once again McCartney feigned disappointment and pretended to scold his fans.
Speaking of those fans, there were plenty of A-listers spending their Friday night in Grand Central. Meryl Streep was there, beaming ear-to-ear and swaying to the music, and visible briefly on camera when the three-man horn section walked into the crowd to play the NOLA-flavored Wings deep cut “Letting Go.” Amy Schumer and Steve Buscemi chatted briefly before the show started, and others like Chris Rock and Kate Moss were in attendance as well.
But it was two non-famous fans that got special treatment during the show. Prior to the Egypt Station track “Who Cares” (sort of a Dire Straits-esque sequel to Tug of War’s “Somebody Who Cares”), McCartney asked for a show of hands of those who had been bullied in the past. Pointing to two girls in the front row, he told them to come up on stage and asked them to share their stories of bullying (one girl’s story involved a punk rocker mocking her for loving the Beatles, which naturally elicited immediate pearl clutching). After calling out the people who had pushed them around in the past, Macca dedicated the anti-bullying ode to them and sang it directly to them as they danced around stage; both looked simultaneously ecstatic and bewildered, as if at any moment they might wake up and realize the entire experience was a dream (which is quite frankly the most reasonable response to McCartney bringing you up on stage and chatting with you).
The other notable moment was during “Blackbird,” which he performed in the round on a makeshift stage in the midst of the audience. Accidentally singing “broken wings” instead of “sunken eyes” on the second verse, McCartney came to a dead stop, shook his head with a laugh at the mistake and started again. And again, the man who wrote the song “Blackbird” and has been singing it for nearly 50 years live made the same mistake. Chiding himself with a twinkle in his eye, McCartney started over and nailed it on the third try. The crowd cheered, clearly not bothered that he’d messed up – after all, no one in the 300-strong crowd was exactly clamoring for the show to wrap up quickly.
But of course, it did eventually come to a close (with the Abbey Road Side 2 medley, naturally). When it did end, it didn’t matter if you were tabloid-grabbing celebrity or just a regular person who loves Paul McCartney – you found yourself in a position you never would have believed in a million years: wishing you could spend more time at Grand Central Terminal on a Friday night.