This is a picture of Paul McCartney singing “Let It Be” last night at Shea Stadium. It’s actually a picture of him on the gigantic screen as I was sitting much too far away to see the actual Paul McCartney.
Months ago, before I knew I would be returning to the States for good, Dennis and his family tried to buy tickets to the final Billy Joel show at Shea Stadium, but the show was sold out within an hour or so, which was not really a surprise. The next day they got word that Billy Joel would be singing a second “final” show and so they waited for an hour and a half on the phone lines, engaging all of us with cell phones to call in and try to get access. Needless to say we got the tickets.
Last night was the show and it was incredible. More than sixty thousand people filled the stadium, dancing and singing along with Billy Joel. At times, when he played a song like “Movin’ Out” or “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” people jumped up and started dancing. And when that happened, the entire stadium shook. Not just shook, the but the concrete platform we were standing on, way up at the top of the stadium, undulated beneath our feet. It was like standing on a waterbed, and one of the freakiest things I’ve experienced.
Oh, but it was a fabulous show. Steve Tyler, Garth Brooks, Tony Bennet, Roger Daltrey from The Who, and Paul McCartney all came on as surprises, McCartney twice. The final song of the entire show was McCartney singing “Let It Be,” and it was one of the most surreal things I’ve seen. An actual Beatle singing “Let It Be”? I tried to call my mom so she could listen as it started but for whatever reason the connection failed. Perhaps it was the sixty thousand other people doing the same thing.
Another amazing moment was when he sang “Good Night Saigon,” and during the chorus, men and women in uniform stood on stage and sang…”And we’ll all go down together…“. I’d seen Billy Joel perform this song years ago in Boston at the Fleet Center, and he’d done the same thing then—-inviting soldiers up to sing. But last night? It was a much more real chorus, knowing we’ve been in war for six years. The crowd was hushed and reflective during the song, but when the uniformed singers came out, the cheers that rose from the audience spoke volumes of patriotism and pride in the soldiers who actually are going down together. And there was a sadness, too. I won’t lie: I was moved to tears.
But my favorite part? Was actually the first song Billy Joel sang. It was “The Star Spangled Banner.” Maybe it was a formality, maybe it was tradition seeing that we were in Shea. But I took it much more personally. Coming home from Brazil, deciding to move here to New York, knowing the US is my home, that song last night felt so good to hear and to sing along to. And I sang so loud. Sang right through the part when most people start cheering “o’er the land of the free” all the way to the end of “and the home of the brave.” And when it was over, I joined the thousands there in jubilant cheers. Lifted my voice with all the others and felt welcomed home.