Photo by DAN LONG
1. At some point in the last decade Paul McCartney assembled a team of pop imagineers and big-picture media strategists to re-brand his act from ‘The Cute One drum majoring a Boomer-ific oldies parade of warmed-over shimmy-shimmy shake moptoppery’ to ‘Sir Paul, doe-eyed Elder Statesman of Pop with one of the greatest songbooks in the history of recorded music, who is also an Important Artist who continues to make challenging and inventive work that is still relevant to The Kids,’ which is to say everyone under the age of 72. So, in addition to re-animating the Lennon/McCartney songbook, he jams econo with Nirvana and scores first person shooter soundtracks. Judging by his sold out performance at the Wells Fargo Center, I’d say mission accomplished.
2. The show is grand spectacle on every level. For an hour prior to the commencement of Macca’s set, DJ Chris Holmes spun a mesmerizing turntablist tapestry of shimmering Beatles re-mixes and mash-ups interpolated with chop-shopped Beatles covers — from the likes of Chubby Checker, Nancy Sinatra, the Langley Schools Music Project and, most notably, Esther Phillips’ Billie Holiday-meets-Mantovani rendering of “And I Love Her” — while an artfully photoshopped dual montage of Macca imagery scrolled down the two giant iPhone-shaped video monitors that bookend the massive stage, seamlessly morphing motion pictures into stills that span the pre-dawn of the Silver Beatles to the end of Wings and beyond. Those three story high iPhone-shaped monitors deliver an endless feed of smartphone-friendly, selfie-ready Sir Paul imagery tailor-made for instantaneous Twitter/Facebook/Instagram social mediation. Quite brilliant, really.
3. Paul still puts asses in seats — a lot of asses — which is not only crucial to the perpetuation of brand Macca but more importantly the survival of the concert industry itself. The dirty little secret of the concert biz is that it’s always been, and is now more than ever, all about gathering a moneyed mass of humanity under the roof of an industrial-scale revenue-harvesting machine disguised as a performance venue and charging them confiscatory prices for hot dogs and beer and branded baubles. I played along Sunday night, consuming conspicuously with a $10 cup of Stella Artois and a $5 club soda for my sober concert-going companion before being unwittingly upsold to the $15 tub of beer the second time around. For a mere $30 I purchased a grand total of two beers and a club soda. This in a country where wages have not risen, not-coincidentally, since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. This is how peasant uprisings get started.
4. More importantly, Paul’s still got it. Thanks to clean living and a decades long vegan diet, not to mention the contracted services of a cosmetological engineer adept at the art of masking his mule grey locks in chestnut mare brown, Paul looks fit, trim and decades younger than his 73 years on this earth. Either that, or in some attic in Liverpool there is a painting of an aging Paul McCartney dessicating into decrepitude. And while the top end of Macca’s range has been somewhat diminished by the inevitable ravages of age, use and a half-century of (until very recently) unrepentant dope-smoking, Paul can still shred on “Helter Skelter” and “Live And Let Die” and break your heart with “The Long And Winding Road” and “Hey Jude.” I’m not ashamed to say that a single tear rolled down my cheek during “Hey Jude.” You can’t fake that shit.
5. The only stumble of the evening was the inexplicable raising of “Temporary Secretary” from the gratefully dead, aka 1980’s McCartney II, which best I can tell was Macca’s ill-conceived attempt to get his Devo on and get his New Wave bonafides stamped. This song should be forcibly asphyxiated in a shallow bath and replaced with “Jet” or “Coming Up” or even “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” Immediately.
6. Hands down the bestest/funnest/freshest song of the night was the bouncy singalong of “All Together Now” from Yellow Submarine which prompted me to posit out loud that ‘By Jove, Paul should do a children’s album!’ only to be corrected by my $5 club soda & lime-tippling concert-going companion who astutely pointed out that all his songs are children’s songs.
7. While Macca and his crack backing band were zooming through the mighty “Band On The Run” a film of the faux-prison break cover shoot for that album unspooled behind them, revealing cameos from not only the preternaturally cool James Coburn (which I remembered) but also the recently dearly-departed Christopher Lee (which I’d forgotten). And then the undertaker drew a mighty sigh seeing no one else had come and a bell was ringing in the village square for the rabbits on the run.
8. Paul ended Sunday night’s epic, 39-song, two and a half hour rock n’ roll fantasy camp for Beatlemaniacs by playing the second half of the second side of Abbey Road: “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and, fittingly, “The End.”
9. All you need is Paul. Paul is all you need.
10. The fact that I sorta-kinda know his ‘people’ and they were on site Sunday night triggered a brief glimmer of hope that I might be invited to a post-show meet & greet/photo-op with Sir Paul. Didn’t happen, sad to say. Hoping to of have my own Chris Farley Moment, I had come to the show equipped with a two-page (one for Paul to hold and one for me) sharpie-scrawled sign that read:
Text by Jonathan Valania