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Fan on the Run: Dave McLean ’78 and Paul McCartney

Last week, on June 23, several denizens of W&L trekked from Lexington across Afton Mountain to Charlottesville for a memorable concert by Paul McCartney. Along with everyone else, they applauded when Sir Paul invited a member of the audience on stage to celebrate the fan’s 100th McCartney concert. Turns out that lucky man was Dave McLean, a member of the University’s Class of 1978, and his moment of glory is splashed on McCartney’s Facebook page.

The first McCartney show for the lifelong Beatles fan occurred in May 1976, when Dave was wrapping up his sophomore year at W&L. It was part of the Wings Over America tour, at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. “As a sophomore, I didn’t have much disposable income, or I would’ve done more,” he said.

So the second — and third and fourth — shows had to wait for 13 years, until 1989. The Paul McCartney World Tour was playing a multi-night stand in Los Angeles, where the McLeans were living. The first night, his wife, Tammy, stayed home with their new baby, Emily; the next, Tammy accompanied Dave; the night after that, “I risked my marriage,” he jokes, and went alone.

On that fateful night in 1989, Dave wound up in the front row, about eight feet from the star. McCartney made eye contact and, “with a grin as wide as a Cheshire cat,” gave Dave a thumbs-up. “I was hooked,” he said. “That started it.”

Since then, he reports, “I have tried to go to the first and last shows in the U.S. of every tour.”

Dave also has traveled to England, Canada and Spain for McCartney shows. His 100 concerts include one-offs, like a 1993 Earth Day concert with Ringo Starr, and a 2010 Sirius XM gig at the historic Apollo Theater. (That night, Dave ended up, quite by coincidence, sitting next to Nancy Shevell, McCartney’s then girlfriend, now wife.) Last year, he was also lucky enough to attend the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the Beatles’ first appearance in the U.S., at the Grammys and at the television show “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America — A Grammy Salute.”

Along the way, Dave started taking oversize signs to concerts, modifying them for each occasion. At a 2005 show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Dave took his son, Michael, to the teenager’s first McCartney experience (and first rock concert of any kind). Dave’s sign listed all the shows he’d attended. It must have been an impressive list, for it elicited the first time McCartney spoke to him from the stage. “You have way too much information on that sign,” the legend joshed.

With all that concert-going, Dave has gotten to know McCartney’s staff — “the inner circle,” he calls them — because he often holds the ticket that permits attendance at the pre-performance sound checks. There the interaction with McCartney continues. At Dave’s 60th show, McCartney said, “Sixty? You hardly look like you’re 60.”

As for his big centennial moment at the June 23 show in Charlottesville, “I didn’t know it would happen until it happened.” McCartney only occasionally brings fans on stage. When it does occur, he says, “They pull you out during the first encore. It’s Paul’s call.” At the Charlottesville sound check, “there was talk it could happen. The security guy knew of my strong desire.” When McCartney acknowledged his 100th concert from the stage, Dave was thrilled. “Honestly, I thought that was it. That was kind of cool. But there was still a hope.”

Then came the encore, and hope became reality. The staffer “gave me the high sign,” and up on stage Dave went, poster in hand, for a handshake and a hug from McCartney — plus a shout-out from Dave to Tammy, who was in the audience, and to McCartney’s inner circle.

Dave found out about his Facebook fame the next morning, when he and Tammy were driving back home to New York and Dave was catching up with work e-mail. To his delight, as his McCartney friends and W&L friends became aware of the Facebook photograph, personal e-mails flooded his inbox.

“In the meantime,” he says with a laugh, “I actually have a life, a job, a family.” An attorney with a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, Dave is a partner in the New York office of Latham & Watkins L.L.P., serving in the litigation department and practicing international arbitration, employment law, securities litigation, and professional liability and insurance coverage litigation. He hails from New Jersey and obtained a B.A. in politics from W&L. He and Tammy have been married for 30 years, and children Emily and Michael are in their 20s.

See Dave’s big moment and read the comments on McCartney’s Facebook page (scroll down to the June 24 entry) and watch him on YouTube (at about 1:13).

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