Paul McCartney - US Airways Center - 8/12/2014
All photos by Jim Louvau Paul McCartney. Full slideshow here.
While waiting for Paul McCartney to start his set Tuesday night at US Airways Center, I tried to think of living and performing musicians who are irrefutably rock legends (metal bands purposefully excluded).
I came up with The Who, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Rush, and The Beach Boys, and let's throw in U2.
I'm sure my list is far from complete, but it's still small. The chance to see a true musical legend doesn't come around very often. For me, Paul McCartney trumps them all. Sir Paul's work with the Beatles and beyond laid the foundation for all pop music that followed. He's one of the few people out there whose legacy is undisputable.
As we wrote last week, though many associate McCartney with sappy love songs and for being the clean-cut, straight-edge half of the Lennon-McCartney duo, McCartney has actually consistently been an artistic experimenter, from his spearheading of the concept album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (considered by many to be one of the best albums ever made) to the boundary-pushing albums he released as collaborator with Youth under the name The Fireman. Even now, at 72, when no one would bat an eye if he chose to disappear from the public eye, he is still performing and making new music -- his album New, came out in October, and to the surprise of critics, it was actually pretty good.
The album was the premise but not necessarily the reason concertgoers packed into US Airways Center Tuesday night. Before the show started, the delightful and weird McCartney tune "Temporary Secretary" began playing through the loud speakers. The song is one of McCartney's strangest, starting with a frantic, somewhat urgent electronic instrumental riff, on top of which McCartney sings a somewhat robotic-sounding ditty about needing a temporary secretary. It was nice to hear, even if it meant it wouldn't be performed live. (It's a shame McCartney doesn't play some of his weirder stuff during his live shows, though he would probably get crucified for doing so in front of crowds hungry to hear hits). As the song ended, the lights went down and a dreamy, drowsy rendition of the lyrics of the "The End" came in through the speakers -- "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." The band, led by bass-toting Sir Paul, entered and launched into "Eight Days a Week."
The song touched off nearly 40 songs' worth of music, including two-dozen Beatles songs, six Wings songs, four songs from New, and a smattering of songs from his solo records.
The concert seesawed from old to new and back again; following "Eight Days a Week" was "Save Us," from New.
"Hey Phoenix, Ari-ZO-na," McCartney said after "Save Us" finished, emphasizing the third syllable with glee, as if saying the word for the first time. "I have got a feeling we are going to have a little bit of a party tonight! You ready for it?"
The band then launched into "All My Loving."
McCartney's voice sounded fantastic for the most part, nailing the signature falsetto parts in "All My Loving" (and, later, the guttural screams of "Helter Skelter" and "Hey Jude"). McCartney and company then played two Wings songs, including "Listen to What the Man Said," and then McCartney strapped on a guitar to play "Let Me Roll It."
After that ended, the band started into the main riff from Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady." McCartney did his best Hendrix here, soloing for a few minutes (all I'll say is that his guitarists, Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, would have ripped out better solos, but, hey, give him credit for trying.) After the interlude ended, McCartney launched into a story about how the weekend after the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's, he went to see a Hendrix concert. And though the album had only been out a few days, Hendrix kicked off his concert with a cover of the title track. McCartney called it one of the best compliments he'd ever received.
It was one of several touching stories McCartney has repeated at concerts throughout the years. He also told us about things he wished he would have said to Lennon, and about how he wrote "Blackbird" about the fight for civil rights in the American South. He also shared a story of writing "Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite!" with Lennon -- the two were in Lennon's room, McCartney said, and the lyrics for the song came directly from a poster hanging on Lennon's wall.
McCartney introduced "Maybe I'm Amazed" by saying, "I wrote this song for Linda." The song itself is a masterpiece of a love song, and the performance was nothing less. McCartney and company powered through the song, and when it ended, the crowd responded loudly, with many giving him a standing ovation.