Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Paul McCartney puts on a one-of-a-kind show

Playfulness and energy. That sums up last night's Paul McCartney show at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

I've been to a ton of concerts, but I've never seen anything like this one.

Almost every seat was filled with cheering people. Sitting up in the 300s level, I was blown away by the sheer number of people there. It's crazy to know they were all there, with very, very expensive tickets, all to see one man. What a crazy world it is. But by the end, I completely understood the attraction.

Paul McCartney wows crowd at Toronto show [Grace Zweig photo]
I have to start by saying that I'm not a huge Beatles fan. I respect them and I appreciate them, but I've never felt the desire to go out of my way to listen to them. Therefore, my views come from someone who didn't know what to expect, and mostly has concert experiences from indie or rock club concerts.

Before the show, screens on each side of the stage showed 60s era photos and videos to the soundtrack of remixed Beatles and Paul McCartney songs.

When the lights went down and the former Beatle walked on stage, the crowd went wild.

The band played perfectly together, reciting the songs with precision and a real tightness.
They performed a wide range of songs ranging from the Beatles’ early material all the way to his most recent album.

He also played the Jim Hendrix song Foxy Lady in a tribute to the late guitarist, emanating the wild rock and roll sound for which Hendrix was known. McCartney told a story about seeing Hendrix perform the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album just days after its release.

In that performance Hendrix used excessive whammy bar movements causing the guitar to slide out of tune, so he asked if Eric Clapton was in the audience—which he was—and requested he tune his guitar for him.

McCartney bounced around while he played, looking like he was having a great time. He was playful and seemed thankful at the same time, combining a sense of ease, excitement and humility.

Real emotion came through as he sang. Even after performing the same songs thousands of times, they still came out fresh and full of feeling.

He joked around with the audience and was very energetic. He seemed at home on the stage and his voice was strong as ever. I could hardly believe the sound and power that came out of this man.

He had a moment of dedication for John Lennon as he introduced the song about the conversation they never had, Here Today. The soft guitar-vocal piece still sounded extremely honest and clearly resounded with many audience members.

A while later came a moment for George Harrison right before he performed Something on Harrison's old ukulele. When the guitar solo kicked in, McCartney switched to a guitar while a slideshow of old McCartney and Harrison photos played behind them.

He also dedicated his performance of My Love to his late wife, Linda McCartney, as well as the other lovers in the audience.

Throughout the show, the musicianship, needless to say, was phenomenal—but I wouldn't have expected anything less from such a legend.

It was a lot of fun watching drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. dancing behind the kit throughout Dance Tonight—and McCartney’s subsequent imitation of the dance. The drummer was amazing throughout the show, performing much of the backing vocals while he drummed, and even left the drum set to sing and dance during a couple of the songs.

McCartney led the crowd in making strange sounds as he began Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, for which he said was only the second time he ever performed it in Canada, with the first being the first night of the Toronto stop.

During Paperback Writer, McCartney played the guitar he used during the period in the 60s when he recorded that song. It seemed he switched guitars after every couple of songs, and he jokingly described these purpose of these changes as simply to show off.

"We've got all these guitars," he said, "we're going to show them off."

Shortly after, the atmosphere changed completely and got even better. It began at the start of what was easily the best set: Let It Be, Live and Let Die, and Hey Jude. Although I've heard the pyrotechnics are identical every time he performs Live and Let Die, it was easily the best performance of the night.

The encore included Day Tripper, Lady Madonna, Get Back. The second encore had Yesterday, Mull of Kintyre, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and The End.

During the second encore, he called up an audience member who held a sign asking McCartney to sign her arm, promising she wouldn't sell it on eBay, quite to his amusement. He signed it on the condition that she sticks to her promise.

He performed Mull of Kintyre with the kilted Paris-Port Dover Pipe Band, which was a great addition to the show.

The energy completely changed from the first two-thirds of the show—more of a concert-like performance—to the last portion, encompassing the final few songs of the main set and the encores, which become more of a party. Instead of sitting and listening, almost everyone was standing, dancing, and clapping along.

It almost could have been two separate shows—but I suppose that's what happens when the performer has such a huge catalogue of material.

It isn’t to say the beginning section was worse, but the second portion is where McCartney truly grabbed every person in the audience and pulled them into the show.

The spread of ages within the audience was huge, with little kids as well as older folks in attendance.

I didn't come into the show hoping to relive past music moments like many of the audience members clearly were. I’ll admit I only knew most of the songs from hearing them in my Dad's car as I grew up.

But it was a great show, and an incredible experience, and I never appreciated the Beatles and McCartney as much as I did that night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said the man is a legend!
I saw him in ISRAEL and last night!
Truly the best concert I have ever seen!