Reviews of shows I've been to (and maybe you have too!)

Posts tagged “Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney at Verizon Center (8/10/16)

No one comes to a Paul McCartney show expecting surprises. The point is to revel in five decades of nostalgia, not get blown out of your seat. Even still, I was put off by the sameness of Paul’s show at the Verizon Center on August 10. If you’d seen it once (as I had in 2014, or some guy in the crowd had apparently done 108 times previously), you’d seen it all: the heartfelt yet perfunctory tributes to John Lennon (“Here Today”) and George Harrison (“Something,” featuring Paul on ukulele); the cute stories reminiscing about things that happened during his time with The Beatles, or when song X was recorded; the pyrotechnics accompanying “Live and Let Die;” the crowd sing-along to “Hey Jude.”

None of this is to take anything away from Paul himself. At age 73, he is simply amazing. While never possessing the boundless energy of Mick Jagger or guitar-god histrionics of Pete Townshend, Paul’s dynamic musicality and buoyant enthusiasm are capable of carrying a show all by themselves. His guitar playing remains stellar. His voice, though weakened slightly, was flawless, especially on the quieter numbers like “Blackbird” (though the Verizon Center’s lousy acoustics did their best to drown him out on the louder songs). He did even manage to change things up a bit by throwing in a couple of songs from his 2013 album New, along with the incongruous “FourFiveSeconds.” So I would be a fool to complain about getting nearly 3 hours of timeless music. But still.

When Paul performed in Washington D.C. for the first time all the way back in 1964, the Beatles played for barely 30 minutes, and were nearly inaudible due to the screams of the fanatic teenagers in attendance. Now that those rambunctious teenagers have aged into sedate grandparents, Paul’s performance has likewise settled into that of an age-appropriate cover band. You’ll smile and sing along, but you won’t twist and shout. Me, I’d take the frenetic energy of that first Beatles show. But we’ll see how I feel when I’m 64.

Set List

  1. A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles song)
  2. Save Us
  3. Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles song)
  4. Jet (Wings song)
  5. Temporary Secretary
  6. Let Me Roll It (Wings song) (Foxy Lady outro)
  7. I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles song)
  8. My Valentine
  9. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings song)
  10. Here, There and Everywhere (The Beatles song)
  11. Maybe I’m Amazed
  12. We Can Work It Out (The Beatles song)
  13. In Spite of All the Danger (The Quarrymen song)
  14. You Won’t See Me (The Beatles song)
  15. Love Me Do (The Beatles song)
  16. And I Love Her (The Beatles song)
  17. Blackbird (The Beatles song)
  18. Here Today
  19. Queenie Eye
  20. New
  21. The Fool on the Hill (The Beatles song)
  22. Lady Madonna (The Beatles song)
  23. FourFiveSeconds (Rihanna and Kanye West and Paul McCartney cover)
  24. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles song)
  25. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles song)
  26. Something (The Beatles song)
  27. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles song)
  28. Band on the Run (Wings song)
  29. Back in the U.S.S.R. (The Beatles song)
  30. Let It Be (The Beatles song)
  31. Live and Let Die (Wings song)
  32. Hey Jude (The Beatles song)

Encore:

  1. Yesterday (The Beatles song)
  2. I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles song)
  3. Birthday (The Beatles song)
  4. Golden Slumbers (The Beatles song)
  5. Carry That Weight (The Beatles song)
  6. The End (The Beatles song)
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Paul McCartney @ Nationals Stadium (7/12/13)

He has been in the public eye for so long that it is nearly impossible to imagine popular culture without him. For anyone born after 1950, he has been an omnipresent musical force, one responsible for pretty much everything currently associated with popular music. His appearance on the public stage has separated music into precise “before” and “after” categories. After an initial decade of continually releasing groundbreaking recordings, his output went into a commercial and critical nosedive for years, before he resurfaced as an “elder statesman” of rock and roll in the 1990’s. He continues to tour and record to critical and commercial acclaim as he pushes into his eighth decade. His music transcends generations.

Oh sorry, that was about Bob Dylan. Here’s what I meant to write about Paul McCartney:

He has been in the public eye for so long that it is nearly impossible to imagine popular culture without him. For anyone born after 1950, he has been an omnipresent musical force, one responsible for pretty much everything currently associated with popular music. His appearance on the public stage has separated music into precise “before” and “after” categories. After an initial decade of continually releasing groundbreaking recordings, his output went into a commercial and critical nosedive for years, before he resurfaced as an “elder statesman” of rock and roll in the 1990’s. He continues to tour and record as he pushes into his eighth decade. His music transcends generations.

Catch the difference? Yeah, it’s that part about “critical and commercial acclaim.” Somehow, the regularity and consistency that has generated plaudits for Dylan has done squat for McCartney, in spite of their parallel careers. Dylan’s music is “profound” and “a thing of grace,” an enduring symbol of the legacy of the 60’s; McCartney’s is “peppy but regretful,” endured only because it is so inescapable. Dylan at his concerts is “energized”, “more than human”; McCartney is “appreciative” and “nice.” “Bob” abides. “Macca” tries too hard. Dylan is revered. McCartney is accepted.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why. McCartney has been unfairly disregarded ever since The Beatles split in 1970, supposedly exposed as a lightweight popster lucky to have fallen into a lucrative partnership with the now-martyred John Lennon. For years, I had blamed critics for such an unjust characterization, which conveniently ignored McCartney’s leadership role in creating three of the most influential albums in the annals of rock and roll. But after seeing McCartney play Nationals Stadium to a sea of baby boomers, I now realize the blame actually lies with his fans.

Whereas aging icons like Dylan and the Beach Boys offer laid-back comfort and easy-going vibes at their shows, McCartney (much like Neil Young or the Rolling Stones) brings no such assurances. He is still trying to win you over, to get you on your feet, to have you sing along. The man knows how to play to a crowd. Great songs? Check. Musical dexterity? Check. Fireworks? Check. Yet for all of that effort, the aging audience reacted to his greatness not with excitement but with passivity. They took his effortless performance for granted, furtively counting down the time until they could sneak out to the parking lot during the encore in order to beat the traffic. In fact, the only non-passive action taken was to snuff out any attempt at spontaneous enjoyment by ratting out potential miscreants (i.e. anyone who dared to stand) to stadium security. It was at great personal risk that I danced my ass off during “Nineteen Hundred Eighty Five.”

IMG_0082How can you not get excited to see a live performance of “Yesterday,” perhaps the most famous song in pop history? What are you doing still glued to your seat during the theatrical, fireworks-filled performance of “Live and Let Die”? Do you have a soul if you refuse to join in the sing-along of “Hey Jude”? Sure, I understand a drop in energy when McCartney kicks into the oddly-chosen “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” not exactly the best concert song, especially when the carnival atmosphere is recreated by a synthesizer. Or disappointment at the attempt to recreate the immaculate harmonies that characterize the studio versions of “Eleanor Ribgy” and “Paperback Writer” in a live setting. But it seems shallow to pick out such minor quibbles, rather than marvel at the awesome display of some of the greatest rock and roll ever created being unfurled over nearly three hours of playing. If anything, complaints should be directed at what songs were left out (Where was “Oh! Darling”? How could he not do “Things We Said Today”!?).

So what is it about Paul McCartney that has led to such apathy amongst his fans? Chart-busting record sales? Saturated airplay? Overt “cuteness”? To me, it’s all of those things, summed up by one word: greatness. His music is so good, and so pervasive, and so ingrained in the collective conscience that as the music’s creator, he has become subsumed by it. The appreciation that McCartney deserves is instead held for the music itself; it doesn’t matter who the actual performer is. Seeing him in concert (or listening to him on the radio, or playing one of his albums) is, for the older generations, equivalent to listening to world’s greatest cover band: time will only remember the songs. Contrast this with Dylan. Dylan is great because everyone says he’s great. His recent musical forays (both live and recorded) are so unique and challenging that they demand intense scrutiny for maximum appreciation, thereby confirming their greatness. McCartney’s music is so effervescent that it is effortless. McCartney is great, but because no one says so, no one realizes it. And in the end, I’m not sure Paul McCartney will ever be truly appreciated until he is gone. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Setlist:

  1. Eight Days a Week (The Beatles song)
  2. Junior’s Farm (Wings song)
  3. All My Loving (The Beatles song)
  4. Listen to What the Man Said (Wings song)
  5. Let Me Roll It (Wings song) (“Foxey Lady” Jam)
  6. Paperback Writer (The Beatles song)
  7. My Valentine
  8. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings song)
  9. The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles song)
  10. Maybe I’m Amazed
  11. I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles song)
  12. We Can Work It Out (The Beatles song)
  13. Another Day
  14. And I Love Her (The Beatles song)
  15. Blackbird (The Beatles song)
  16. Here Today
  17. Your Mother Should Know (The Beatles song)
  18. Lady Madonna (The Beatles song)
  19. All Together Now (The Beatles song)
  20. Lovely Rita (The Beatles song)
  21. Mrs. Vanderbilt (Wings song)
  22. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles song)
  23. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles song)
  24. Something (The Beatles song)
  25. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles song)
  26. Band on the Run (Wings song)
  27. Back in the U.S.S.R. ( The Beatles song)
  28. Let It Be (The Beatles song)
  29. Live and Let Die (Wings song)
  30. Hey Jude (The Beatles song)

Encore:

  1. Day Tripper (The Beatles song)
  2. Hi, Hi, Hi (Wings song)
  3. Get Back (The Beatles song)

Encore 2:

  1. Yesterday (The Beatles song)
  2. Helter Skelter (The Beatles song)
  3. Golden Slumbers (The Beatles song)
  4. Carry That Weight (The Beatles song)
  5. The End (The Beatles song)