Paul McCartney Thrills Hundreds of High School Students With Surprise Performance
By Eric J. Greenberg
Photos: MJ Kim/MPL Communications/iHeartRadio.
It was a day of surprises and celebrations at Frank Sinatra High School for the Arts in Astoria, Queens, as Paul McCartney thrilled hundreds of lucky students and teachers with an unannounced 90-minute performance Wednesday night to promote his latest album.
Backed by his tight longtime band, McCartney, wearing a tailored dark suit and light blue shirt, charmed and delighted the 400 member audience with songs from his past (the Beatles, solo work and Wings) and his future (a collection of his latest tunes simply titled NEW, scheduled for release October 15).
See also: LIVE REVIEW: Paul McCartney at Barclays Center, 6/10/13
He also answered a dozen interesting professional and personal questions posed by Sinatra students and veteran New York morning classic rock radio personality Jim Kerr, who hosted the event, which was sponsored by iHeartRadio.
McCartney's appeal clearly spanned the generations--from 14-year-old freshmen spontaneously waving their arms to "Hey Jude," and their 50-year-old teachers nodding their heads, to the 87-year-old legendary singer Tony Bennett, who watched from the wings at the school he founded 12 years ago.
"To have a Beatle perform at my school is amazing, it's such an honor," said 16-year-old Sinatra senior vocal major Lily Kaufman. "He's an inspiration. People look up to him. A lot of people who go to my school want to be in his position someday."
"I can't believe our school got this opportunity," said 17-year-old senior Deva Brown. "He's a legend. I know all the songs because my dad played a lot of Beatles when I was growing up."
While the event had been in the works for nearly eight months, sponsor Clear Channel Media executive Tom Poleman said school officials had kept McCartney's name a closely guarded secret and would not divulge the Beatle was the special artist until after the show began at 2 p.m. Perhaps that contributed to the calm and orderly atmosphere inside and outside the school before the show.
It was a far cry from the mass hysteria and screaming of thousands of teenage girls that accompanied McCartney's first visit to Queens nearly 50 years ago, when he, John, George, and Ringo landed at Kennedy Airport a few miles away and proceeded to transform the music and culture of Western civilization.
Besides promoting a new album, there were other celebrations to commemorate. Unveiling NEW's title track, McCartney announced that it was his wedding anniversary and dedicated the bouncy tune to his wife of two years, New Yorker Nancy Shevell. "Happy anniversary, baby!" he shouted from the stage to Shevell, who sat in the audience in a yellow dress and could be seen bopping in her chair to Beatles classics as "Eight Days a Week" "Back in the U.S.S.R.," and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."
It was also the birthday of McCartney's late friend and songwriting partner John Lennon, who would have turned 73.