Okay, maybe he’s in my top-five. But on my list of any non-family and non-Bella-Pham people, Paul is my number 1 person [EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey dude, thanks. -BP].
There are a number of factors that go into why I claim this, but as of right now, my dominating reason is what I witnessed that man do at the Key Arena on Sunday, April 17th. He didn’t just play a concert; he issued a tertiary experience, fully capable of sending the individual out of the material body, through time, through space, and into a dimension unfathomable until seen in person. Paul had this humble Fool on the Capitol Hill Here, There, and Everywhere after a Hard Term’s Night, riding on the Wings of a Blackbird and totally Amazed (Maybe I’m). This reporter apologizes for all of the McCartney puns.
I entered Key Arena that night with a plan to keep my cool. Nope, I wasn’t going to scream my head off at his sight, I wasn’t going to sing along passionately to every word he sang, and I most certainly was not going to allow this one person make me reflect upon my Beatles-filled childhood in a reminiscent stupor of emotion. Nope, no way. I’m too cool for that.
But then I saw the lights dim, and I heard the familiar sound of the very end of “A Day In The Life,” where John Lennon had an orchestra play their instruments from the very bottom note to the very top in the most anticipation-inducing build-up music has to offer. And then the famous piano chord infiltrated Key Arena, in sync with the lights…
And then I saw him. Standing there.
Paul McCartney walked onto the stage with his full band behind him to a deafening applause that could only have been for a man who changed the course of music forever. He grabbed his signature 1961 model Höfner bass guitar, and immediately launched into “A Hard Day’s Night.” All around me, people were in utter disbelief of whom they were watching, even though they had paid for a ticket with his name on it.
To my left in the cheap-seats of Key, an elderly man fully clad in suit and tie, holding onto the guardrail to keep his balance started sobbing at the glimpse of Macca’s face. If I was in shock at the sign of Paul McCartney, than this man who most likely holds memories of the Beatles playing Ed Sullivan on black-and-white TV from 1964 must have been transformed back in time fifty-some years ago.
The energy of the performance was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Here, we have a man who will be 73 in June, who moves about the stage with more vitality than most 20 year olds I’ve seen play. The band played “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and Paul’s mannerisms and movements reflected the same juvenile spirit as when he wrote the tune. Of course now, he probably has enough money to buy love. Nonetheless, he’s been a key player in the entertainment game for long enough now to know that if he tried slowing down at all, it wouldn’t feel right to him.
After performing the Wings song “Let Me Roll It,” the band kicked into a groovy rendition of the classic Hendrix song, “Foxy Lady,” and when the song was over, Paul reminisced to the crowd about his first interaction with Seattle-born Jimi. He told the story of meeting him in the sixties, and being in awe of such a talented human being.
There were three major set changes in the show: one with the full band playing electrically and with Paul on either bass or piano, one with the whole group playing acoustically and moved to the very front of the stage, and one with just Paul playing an acoustic guitar. From the piano, Paul led classic Beatles/Wings tracks like “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “The Fool On the Hill,” and “Lady Madonna.” He dedicated “Maybe I’m Amazed” to his late wife Linda McCartney, who tragically passed away on April 17th, 1998 (the concert at Key Arena was the 18th anniversary of her death).
From the stripped down set, they performed the song that made the Beatles huge: “Love Me Do.” This song was dedicated to George Martin: The Beatles’ producer whose magic ears allowed the group to evolve and develop in the way they did. Martin passed away this past March at age 90. Because of this, I sympathize for Paul. Yeah sure, he’s a huge famous rock star who might not deserve sympathy as much as someone who isn’t a huge famous rock star, BUT George Martin was probably the last person on Earth that Paul could go to for advice. Everybody else in the world (including Ringo) can’t help but be star struck in his presence, so when Martin died, I’m guessing Paul may have felt like one of the last genuine relationships he had just ended.
At one point, the band left the stage, leaving Paul and his acoustic guitar at the front of the stage. Sure enough, he began playing the beautifully crafted chord progression of the White Album classic, “Blackbird.” He started to sing the famous line, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night…” and the part of the stage that he was standing on began to rise into the air. He was at eye level with me now, singing me the song that I have memories of my dad teaching me on guitar, of performing nervously at an 8th grade talent show, and of falling asleep to many nights in my younger days. Nope, nope, nope I’m too cool to feel the emotion. Keep your cool, Jason. Keep your cool. What’s that? A tribute to George Harrison, where Paul is playing “Something” on the ukulele? McCartney, you bast*rd.
The first set before the encore contained 32 songs. This set ended with Paul at the piano and the band fully rocking. The second to last song may have been the most incredible part of the whole show. “Live and Let Die” is a song by Wings written for the James Bond movie. The tune famously begins with Paul’s piano and voice singing, “When this ever-changing world in which we’re living makes you give it a cry… So live and let die.”
The lights blacked at “die.” All I could see was the drummer’s silhouette flapping its wings and come crashing down. At the hit of the cymbals, FIRE from every direction on the stage shot in the most brilliant instance of complete chaos, illuminating the mad musical scientist at the piano responsible for the flames. In this moment, Paul McCartney was seemingly manipulating the music to control the fire, and to control every human being under his spell in that arena. This stands as the most tasteful pyro I’ve ever experienced in a concert.
After a heartfelt “Hey Jude,” the band went off the stage to signal the encore. Of course, the reappearance was made, this time with Paul going to his acoustic guitar to play the opening chords of the ballad “Yesterday.” There was a time in my life when I went to bed every night after watching this video:
I couldn’t help but scream out as soon as I could tell what song he was playing, “Opportunity knocks, Paul!!”
After “Yesterday” came “Hi, Hi, Hi,” then “Birthday,” and then a sick-as-metal “Helter Skelter,” with Krist Novoselic of Nirvana making a guest appearance. I’m going to enjoy telling my grandchildren about how I saw a Beatle and a member of Nirvana play a song together. I really hope they’ll know who these people are.
The very last recordings off of the very last Beatles album are a medley of three very distinct songs, “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “The End.” The first is a lullaby, the second is a message to the listener that although life will be tough, we must keep living strongly, and the last is The Beatles’ final bow and farewell (followed of course by “Her Majesty”). This medley of songs stands as sacred text among devout Beatles fans. The lyrics are words to live by, seeming to come from some higher entity, and brought forth by the prophets Paul and John.
So if these songs are how the Beatles experience is concluded, what better way for Paul to end his concert than to recite his sacred text. He sang his lullaby, he told the audience to live strongly, and through “The End,” he and his band made their fond farewell with the lines, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” I was not nearly ready for him to leave; it felt like he had just started. But it is selfish to ask someone to keep performing after 39 songs. I had to come to terms with the concert no longer existing, for like all highs, there was a steady come-down period.
We need people in this world who are able to issue these experiences. Paul McCartney does it for thousands of people every night he’s on tour. He is given a tremendous about of love by the people who adore him, so by his own standards, he must deem it necessary to give the love back. Taken love = Created love. And because he lives strictly by this karmic equation, Paul McCartney is probably my favorite person alive. I cannot think of anyone else who has experienced as much as him, and still lives in a humble state of karma. He tours at 73 years old, not because he needs to, but because he knows he must balance that love.
And for this, I thank Paul McCartney.
JASON McCUE | Paul4Prez | KXSU Reporter