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.
- A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles song)
- Save Us
- Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles song)
- Jet (Wings song)
- Temporary Secretary
- Let Me Roll It (Wings song) (Foxy Lady outro)
- I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles song)
- My Valentine
- Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings song)
- Here, There and Everywhere (The Beatles song)
- Maybe I’m Amazed
- We Can Work It Out (The Beatles song)
- In Spite of All the Danger (The Quarrymen song)
- You Won’t See Me (The Beatles song)
- Love Me Do (The Beatles song)
- And I Love Her (The Beatles song)
- Blackbird (The Beatles song)
- Here Today
- Queenie Eye
- The Fool on the Hill (The Beatles song)
- Lady Madonna (The Beatles song)
- FourFiveSeconds (Rihanna and Kanye West and Paul McCartney cover)
- Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles song)
- Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles song)
- Something (The Beatles song)
- Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles song)
- Band on the Run (Wings song)
- Back in the U.S.S.R. (The Beatles song)
- Let It Be (The Beatles song)
- Live and Let Die (Wings song)
- Hey Jude (The Beatles song)
- Yesterday (The Beatles song)
- I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles song)
- Birthday (The Beatles song)
- Golden Slumbers (The Beatles song)
- Carry That Weight (The Beatles song)
- The End (The Beatles song)
The Stones have done it longer. Led Zeppelin did it louder. U2 does it with more spectacle. But no one gives a concert quite like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. For more than 3 hours, they (or more accurately, Bruce) rocked an April Fool’s Day crowd at the Verizon Center like an opening band singing for its supper. The famous Springsteen stage histrionics were all present: massive guitar solos, stage sprints, crowd surfing, and even a reprise of his famous Super Bowl camera crotch slide (this time joined by a 10 year old boy pulled from the crowd). Strangely, all of Bruce’s energy only served to push him further away from his always steady but never spectacular backing band. Clearly, the loss of Clarence Clemons has removed an element of cohesiveness that cannot be replaced (though his nephew did a decent job musically). However, that can’t explain Little Steven’s near invisibility or Nils Lofgren’s timid playing. Even Max Weinberg’s drums seemed muted.
Not that any of this mattered to the crowd. Springsteen fans are perhaps the most dedicated crew of aficionados outside of Deadheads, and the ones surrounding us in the floor standing-room section knew every song after three notes and sang their hearts (and vocal cords) out. Springsteen’s modern canon dominated the beginning of the set list, with nearly half the songs coming from albums released since the E Street Band was reunited more than a decade ago. Born to Run was well-represented as always, but the personal highlight of the night was a tour premiere performance of “Adam Raised a Cain” (notwithstanding the idiot behind me yelling throughout the song).
Springsteen’s rare ability to reduce grown, professional men to a slobbering heap of drunken yodelers cannot be matched (well maybe by Jimmy Buffett but no one has ever envisioned the themselves escaping Margaritaville). Somehow, their perceived dedication only reminded me of current state of rock concerts, in which getting to nostalgically sing along to your favorite song trumps the band’s actual performance. Watching these bozos wrap their sweaty arms around each other’s shoulders as they belted out off-key harmony vocals reminded me not of blue collar folks legitimately touched by Springsteen’s down-to-earth realism, but rather drunken frat boys singing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” at last call. This is through no fault of Springsteen’s, as demonstrated by the set list- he pulled out “American Skin (41 Shots)” (in honor of Trayvon Martin) and seemed reluctant to do “Dancing in the Dark.” To me, the most honest moment of the night was when Bruce relayed his love of Smokey Robinson and the entire Motown scene before making his way out to a platform at the center of the crowd (almost within touching distance for us) to lead the crowd through a medley of the Motown standards “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and “634-5789.” Most definitely a preacher amongst his congregation.
- We Take Care Of Our Own
- Wrecking Ball
- Death to My Hometown
- My City of Ruins
- Seaside Bar Song
- Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
- Jack of All Trades
- Trapped (Jimmy Cliff cover)
- Adam Raised a Cain
- Easy Money
- She’s the One
- Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
- The Promise
- Apollo Medley- The Way You Do the Things You Do/634-5789
- American Skin (41 Shots)
- Because the Night
- The Rising
- We Are Alive
- Thunder Road
- Rocky Ground (With Michelle Moore)
- Out in the Street
- Born to Run
- Dancing in the Dark
- Land of Hope and Dreams
- Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
For a superstar, A-list band, Radiohead is still held by its fans as the little indie band that could. How else to explain the number of people who actually paid to download the freely available In Rainbows? The love is reciprocal, as the band has stuck to its indie ideals throughout its two decades together, even if that meant creating “music” that alienated mainstream followers (like me) who never graduated past (the incredibly overrated) OK Computer. So the idea of seeing them in concert was simultaneously and worrisome; given every great review of a Radiohead show I’ve heard, I was concerned that I was merely hearing from the converted. Not being a huge fan myself, and lacking an intimate knowledge of their catalogue, I challenged Radiohead to impress me based purely on performance. I was in the perfect position to be won over. And I was. But not for the reasons I expected.
Opening act Caribou put on the kind of atmospheric light-show that would have been perfect for the 9:30 Club or Black Cat. Unfortunately, the mammoth bowels of the Verizon Center zapped most of the effect. Radiohead received the standard hero’s welcome, as the crowd roared its approval for every intro. Epitomizing the fanbase were two large, unshaven gentlemen in front of us, both wearing overalls and reminding me of the infamous McGuire twins sans motorcycles. During each song (which they heartily sang along to), one would offer up his hands in prayer to the heavens, and the other would respond by making it rain. These gestures were as animated as the crowd got, unsurprising given that Radiohead’s repertoire is not exactly Tom Petty sing-along style. Obviously, the only two songs that I knew (“Airbag” and “Paranoid Android”) were the only ones that stuck out for me. The rest of the songs were interesting enough, but given the band’s disdain for hummable melodies or standard song structures, nothing was going to get stuck in my head.
Visually, however, it was the most stunning show I have ever seen. The band played against a screen backdrop- not so unusual. However, the specialty came from a series of smaller screens hanging above the stage that moved up and down, sideways, even at one point all planking above the band. The camera angles were not standard face or instrument shots, but rather came from angles at the side, on the floor, or behind an amp. Colors brightened and faded as the screens shone their projections outwards. It was almost impossible to watch the actual performance, given the captivating swirl of digital activity happening simultaneously. For an expert fan, it may have distracted from the songs, but for an amateur, it was the perfect complement to the wall-of-sound musical performance from a major league band that still wants to think it is playing in the minors.
- Kid A
- Meeting in the Aisle
- The National Anthem
- Morning Mr. Magpie
- Lotus Flower
- Go to Sleep
- The Gloaming
- There There
- You and Whose Army?
- 15 Step
- Paranoid Android
- Give Up the Ghost