Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sir Paul Rocks the Decades Away

Paul McCartney is 70 years old.

On Saturday night, we took our son (12) to see Sir Paul, his second nighttime concert. If you discount Weird Al Yankovic, then it was his first nighttime concert.

Ben and I at the Barclays Center
McCartney does not disappoint an audience. You won't get tons of introspection, but my heavens what a catalog. NEWSDAY printed a set list from the OUT THERE tour opener and he did not vary, moving a few songs around here and there.

It was out first experience with the Barclays Center, owned by the devious Bruce Ratner. It's a marvelous "first class" facility as they call it, where everything is new, expensive, shiny, and expensive. Tour t-shirts were $40 outside and $45 inside. Should have bought it outside! No re-entry! And that plastic bottle of water you got for $1.49 at Duane Reade? Please throw it out and buy the same thing inside the arena for $4.75.

Our commute to the show was uneventful – LIRR to 3 train, right to the building. The reverse commute was quicker, but an outdated LIRR booklet showed a departure not on the summer schedule. So we waited 27 minutes for an after-midnight train, with muddy audience members from the Governors Ball concert at Randals Island (they saw Guns N Roses as the main attraction of their evening).

Due to the fact that Sir Paul records an album every few years, it's tough to peg him as a nostalgia act or an oldies tour. You get a chill when McCartney opens with "Eight Days a Week" from 1964 and notes later, "We never got around to playing that one live before."

The theme of this specific tour seems to be the redemption of Paul's second band, the much-maligned Wings. There are people who feel that Paul should never have followed the Beatles with another band, and others who feel that since he wrote the majority of Wings' material, it was all a sham. Still others feel it's ridiculous that Wings lasted almost as long as the Beatles and were forced down our throats by the record label and radio stations.

I could definitely have done without "Mrs. Vanderbilt" or "Hi Hi Hi" (as an encore!) as part of the concert. McCartney recalled performing in the Ukraine and how "Vanderbilt's" catchy chorus was the audience's favorite part of the entire concert.

The wife and I had seen Billy Joel's LAST PLAY AT SHEA in 2008, where McCartney made a surprise decibel-amplifying appearance. And when Paul returned in 2009 for the FIRST PLAY AT CITIFIELD, we were there when BJ returned the favor.

In comparing the set lists, it's interesting that Paul was pushing TWO (!) "recent releases" in 2009 – one was his 2007 studio LP, MEMORY ALMOST FULL and his 2008 CD as "The Fireman," ELECTRIC ARGUMENTS. His set list contained four songs from those CDs and very little Wings material. For this tour, we got one song from KISSES ON THE BOTTOM, his 2012 collection of classic Tin Pan Alley material. Otherwise, Beatles/solo/Wings all the way.

McCartney stage setup at Barclays Center
Eerily, Paul dedicated a number of songs to people who have passed away. "Let's hear it for John (Lennon)," he directed the crowd, before launching into "Here Today." A rush of images of waterfalls surrounded him. Later, he said, "Let's hear it for George" and broke into "Something." Here, we got a large number of photos of McCartney and Harrison taken by Linda Eastman McCartney. And Paul later remarked, "Here's a song I wrote for Linda" and the band played "Maybe I'm Amazed."

There were three other tributes – one for the late producer Phil Ramone ("Another Day," which Ramone produced), "My Valentine," written for Nancy, his current wife, and the familiar riff from "Foxy Lady," which led into a Beatles story about Jimi Hendrix.

It's the survivors who get to chronicle the living and McCartney has been recording and touring for six decades. Yet there's a certain somber sadness when he can dedicate number after number to departed comrades, then rebound from "Here Today" to the jaunty "Your Mother Should Know," complete with Beatles footage from MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR.

Paul is still in fine voice and when the band played "Eleanor Rigby," I experienced a "Voice of God" moment. Chills down the spine, blinking back tears of remembrance, looking back decades with memories of hearing it as a teen, then college, then as a parent... That makes it all special, being there to witness your own child hearing the song live, alive as music history, and alive in the moment anew.

Paul McCartney turns 71 years old on June 18. He has more tour dates after that.

Set list from Saturday, June 9 is here.

Here is someone's lousy video for "Live and Let Die" from the show we saw:

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