MCARTNEY @ THE BOWL
When Paul McCartney took the stage at the Hollywood Bowl last night, he paused for a few seconds, as if energizing himself with the history of everything that has come to pass since The Beatles' legendary 1964 and 1965 appearances on the same stage. It was a time warp moment, both for McCartney and for every member of the enthusiastic crowd – even if they were too young to remember Wings, let alone The Beatles.
Lean, lithe, and electrified, boyish smile and mop of (only slightly thinning) hair in place, McCartney is an ageless wonder. His distinct vocals cut across the pristine Hollywood Bowl sound system, growling, harmonizing, and effortlessly smoothing out melodies. You only have to think about the debacle of The Who’s appearance at this year’s Superbowl half-time show (voices ravaged, instruments barely in tune, poses and posturing that was simply an imitation of their youthful vigor and anger) to know how bad some of our rock icons have become.
Not McCartney . . .
McCartney is nothing more than authentic – then and now. He is the real deal, wearing his fame as lightly as his maturity. All the others are simply pretenders to the throne. McCartney is true rock royalty.
The consummate professional, obviously demanding precision/perfection from everyone, his band, his crew, his pyrotechnics team, lighting, and visuals. Pacing his voice through three hours of continuous singing and playing, delivering notes of which his peers can only dream, he also appeared to be genuinely having fun. Regularly switching beloved guitars (“I changed to this guitar because I used it when we originally recorded this song”), moving to and from the piano, cheerfully mugging with the audience, telling tales out of school about Hendrix and Clapton, bouncing and moving and flat out enjoying himself, McCartney appeared delighted to be on stage playing and performing his heart out.
There were plenty of highlights to fill up the evening – some shared by all in the audience, others more personal. McCartney’s tribute to John Lennon – a lyrical imagined conversation McCartney would have with John if he were here today – was sung with a genuine catch in his voice betraying the emotion behind the relationship.
Something In The Way She Moves, a later in the show tribute to George Harrison, was played with a different feel for the relationship, but was no less heartfelt.
Paperback Writer, my favorite Beatles’ song for obvious reasons, was played with high energy against a visual backdrop of changing paperback cover art from the ‘50s and ‘60s genre of ‘nurse stories.’ An odd choice perhaps, but still cool.
And the ringing drama of the James Bond title tune Live And Let Die literally exploded on the stage. Pyrotechnics are a rock concert standard, if not a cliché, but these were as phenomenal and they were unexpected.
Give Peace A Chance and Hey Jude pandered to the audience, but they still played out with genuine involvement on both sides of the stage.
And then there was the ferocious punk-blues abandon with which McCartney tore into harder rock anthems, showing he is as rocking and relevant as ever.
It might not show from this review, but I’ve never particularly been a Beatles or a Paul McCartney fan – both are my wife’s favorites, and it was she who dragged me to the Bowl – but three-quarters of the way through last night’s concert, I turned to say this was without a doubt the best large venue rock and roll concert I’d ever experienced.
Sir Paul, you’re alright by me!