Friday, October 28, 2005

Shine On Til Tomorrow

After big shows earlier this year from Tom Petty and Green Day, Paul McCartney stopped by the new Iowa Events Center last night for an intimate and modest performance, which was neither intimate nor modest.

Let's get the bad stuff outta the way first:

  • Bad beer. Bud Light? At least Tom Petty had Sam Adams.
  • Too many guitar lifts following a song. It started to look like he just wanted some exercise.
  • The lack of cheesy-yet-necessary lighters: no smokers in Des Moines anymore? Let It Be was sadly not illuminated enough.
  • It had to end at some point. A real bummer.
Now the good:
  • The quality of musicianship. McCartney is underappreciated for his skills on guitar, piano, and especially bass. As a bassist, he truly deserves a spot at the top.
  • The choice of bandmates. The guitarists were so skilled it was almost embarrassing. And the drummer - damn.
  • The surprises: see below.
  • The stage. Video screens made up the floor and backdrop for a very cool submersive effect. The large video screen (for us in the nosebleeds) was crisp and colorful and as high-def as you could need. And the pyrotechnics were kept to a minimum for maximum effect (Live and Let Die was sweet, and his new one Follow Me had some nice cascading sparks near the end of the tune).
  • The music, obviously. It's timeless and life-affirming and just plain fun.
  • He delivers. He's a showman and he knows what the crowd wants. The crowd wants to see the Beatles classics live: Let It Be, Yesterday, Hey Jude (with the predictable yet necessary and enjoyable sing-along: who doesn't want to sing with Paul?!), Sgt. Pepper's, Back in the USSR, Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane, I Will, and on and on and on. They want to see his best solo hits like Maybe I'm Amazed, Band on the Run, Jet, Let Me Roll It, etc. He's a master at creating a mood and sticking with it while seemlessly transitioning from ballads to anthems to rockers.
And finally, the surprises:
  • The DJ who opened the show (spinning bits and pieces of McCartney's ridiculously expansive library of tunes to great effect) was not necessarily expected, but definitely added a nice modern touch to the evening. It'd be great to find this somewhere online.
  • His new tunes, particularly Follow Me and Jenny Wren (the new single), stood up incredibly well with the classics. It seems Sir Paul really got it right with this new album.
  • I had some revelatory moments with old tunes that never really moved me much before last night. Blackbird, in particular, was quite possibly the highlight of the night for me and I would have never expected that. The tune is universal and transcedent and something I'll never listen to in the same way again. Similarly, Eleanor Rigby far exceeded my expectations as a live tune. Amazing.
  • It was really cool to hear him perform some unconventional choices. Too Many People from his Wings days was likely the most surprising choice, but older tunes, including the pre-Beatles In Spite of All Danger, really set things in proper historical perspective, speaking of which...
  • The man is 63 and barely seems 40. He played for nearly 3 hours and hardly broke a sweat. It'd be one thing if he spent the whole time sitting at the piano, but he only did that for a few tunes. He was up-front keeping up with his much younger bandmates without any problem. True, his voice cracked at times and he can't belt out Helter Skelter like he could on the studio version, but this only added organic authenticity to the songs and his persona. The show may have been over-scripted, but it never really felt that way because of that.
I could go on and on, and probably will in person if you ask. For now, though, I will revel in my post-show glow and simply let it be.


Anonymous said...

I have to say, in all sincerity, that going with a true fan like too poppy made the experience that much more amazing. And going with my mom, who knows the impact of the Beatles better than we ever can, was also amazing. Once-in-a-lifetime - we'll never again be at this moment, experiencing it like this. What a treat.

2poppy said...

Yes, of course. I neglected to mention the company you keep during experiences like this add so much more to it. This is the third time I've seen Paul and to share the experience with my wife made it undoubtedly the best.