Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Sunday, August 09, 2009

All That I Was Looking For

Paul McCartney played Fenway Park last Thursday night, and at one point, I turned to Brian and asked him how many shows he and I had seen together, and neither of us could come up with a number. When you know someone for 22 years, and the strongest element you have in common is a love of music, that's going to be difficult to gauge, certainly. A few seconds later, he turned to me and said that of all of the music he's listened to over the course of his life, no musician has had a greater impact on him personally than Paul McCartney. This pretty much describes how special this concert really was: I saw a legend with one of my very best friends.

I don't throw that word "legend" around lightly, either. But, we ARE talking about Paul McCartney, a man who, with three of his very best friends, changed the popular musical landscape forever. Of all the bands that have influenced my life, I can safely say that The Beatles have had the most lasting impact on my musical consciousness as well. But, I was always a "Lennon" girl, and McCartney's solo career, until recently, had never excited me all that much. Sure, "Maybe I'm Amazed" is one of the greatest songs ever written, and as Bond themes go, "Live and Let Die" is classic. It was actually Brian's wedding that caused me to look closer at McCartney as a solo artist; he and Alicia chose most of the music the dj played at the reception, and there was so much Paul mixed through the night. I remember "My Love" playing during dinner, and stopping to listen. So, a few weeks ago, when Brian asked if I wanted to go to McCartney, I said yes, after a little persuasion and an agreement that I could pay him for the ticket out of some contract money coming later this month. As the days came closer and closer to this show, I started getting excited. REALLY excited. I was hearing rumors of Beatles song's he'd never played live before. And on Thursday, if you had a conversation with me, I told you I was going to McCartney at Fenway Park that night. Eventually, I think I compared myself to Millhouse, Brian's cockapoo, who finds the world exciting at all levels and just runs around in circles and jumps for joy at all times. By the time, Brian and I got to our seats in the 15th row, I was flapping and giggling.

Brian and I

I had every reason to be flapping, friends. McCartney and his band strolled out onto the stage in the outfield at Fenway Park, almost without warning, and immediately tore into "Drive My Car". The crowd exploded, not in a Beatles at Shea Stadium level(or, Suffolk Downs, the venue they played in this area, as Brian and I learned from a woman in Boston Beer Works who was there), but certainly in a exuberance matching the level of a legendary baseball park, home to a legendary, history-making, curse-shattering team, hosting one of the biggest pop culture icons of all time. And Sir Paul definitely has a grip on historical significance, and of being true to all aspects of the story. Now, admittedly, most people, even fans of his solo work, want to hear his songs from The Beatles days at the top of the list, and he respects and honors that. But, he is also very true to all portions of his history, and the set list spanned The Beatles, Wings, and recent solo work. He is also a shrewd business man, and gave the crowd what they wanted, at a high quality and in spades.


To speak of the extraordinary musical chops of the man who penned "Yesterday" is sort of like announcing to the world that the sky is blue; there's no need. And clearly, he's assembled a band that can roll with the changes, and enhance the mastery of some of the world's classic songs. They were a joy to watch, and to hear. Much of his later solo material I was not overly familiar with, but Brian had created a sampler of songs I'd hear to listen to on our way in to the park, so when "Calico Skies" came up in the set list, I knew it and enjoyed it. But, I have to be honest, The Beatles songs produced the most visceral reactions for me. With two exceptions: "Let Me Roll It" had me swaying to the music in a way I didn't thing was possible from a Wings song, but I've suddenly become totally in love with that song again. "I can't tell you how I feel/my heart is like a wheel/let me roll it/let me roll it to you..." And "Live and Let Die" was the pyrotechnic, bombastic masterpiece a Bond theme should be. Fireworks over Fenway, jets of flame shooting up from the front of the stage, and let me remind you, I was close enough to be able to feel those flames. Theatrical madness at its best.


My friends who had seen this show the night before honored my request to tell me NOTHING about what he may or may not play during the show, so when each song unfolded, I was mostly surprised. A few I had heard rumors about, so when "Helter Skelter" came out during the second encore, I was pumped at the confirmation of this. In fact, both encores were entirely Beatles material, giving the crowd exactly what they wanted. There were two instances of Beatles songs emerging that cause me to turn to Brian and ask "are you fucking kidding me?!?!" (as if Brian had any control over that set list, and I apologize for punching you in my exuberance). "Got To Get You Into My Life" was incredible to hear, and the background was comprised of animation from the soon-to-be-relased Rock Band Beatles edition. Which, is also making me SERIOUSLY consider getting a Wii, as the deluxe edition package comes with a Hoefner bass controller. Right. Moving on, the opening notes of "I've Got a Feeling", which ranks up there on my all-time favorite Beatles songs list, and is recently in heavy rotation for reasons other than this concert, made me start jumping up and down, screaming, and grabbing fistfuls of my hair in disbelief. I just couldn't believe I was standing there listening to him play this song. It was the one song I was hoping to hear, and never in a million years thought I would. It was pure joy.

Sgt. Pepper

In fact, joy was the reaction I was experiencing for most of the night, even during the Lennon and Harrison tributes, which were moving and dignified, and very true to Paul's relationship with each man. John's tribute was a little truncated, and still slightly angry, much like John's life, too short, gone too soon. George's tribute began with a rendition of "Something" that came dangerously close to turning into a "big fat dead Hawaiian man" version of the song, with Paul strumming a ukelele that George had given him, but the band came back after the first verse, and it was a beautifully fleshed out rendition. Pictures of the Beatles, and George alone, many taken by the late Linda McCartney (whose artistic presence was heavy in the set design graphics; it was lovely to see her pictures there), flashed behind him as he played. Miraculously, I didn't cry; I was just left feeling a sweet nostalgia and gladness that these two men knew each other for so long.

George tribute

The moment I did cry was during "My Love". I don't know why. Maybe it was the aforementioned connection to Brian's wedding, maybe I'm hoping to sing that to someone soon, I truly don't know. But that was my one moment of tears. Not even a long moment, either. Most of the night, I was overcome with joy and amazement. During "Let It Be", my brain actually started to shut down. There I was, 15th row, maybe 30 to 50 yards from McCartney, who was singing "Let It Be". And, my brain started to spin. It was one of those, "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" moments, and my brain decided uncontrollable giggling was the way to go. I was so overloaded by watching McCartney (HE'S RIGHT FUCKING THERE!!!!!) play "Let It Be", I started to laugh, and almost couldn't stop. It never ceases to amaze me what kinds of reactions live music produces from me. During the crowd sing-a-long at the end of "Hey Jude", I had another one of those moments. Thinking back to watching Live Aid on television, and all those folks at Wembley singing "naaa, nah, nah,nanana naaah, nanana naaa, heeeey Jude", I nearly lost myself in the significance. However, I pulled out my camera instead, and took footage of the crowd.

This summer has been an incredible summer, filled with concerts. I had that stunning crowd unity moment after The Hold Steady in New Jersey, and then, I saw a legend with one of my best friends. A legend who completely lived up to his billing. This has bumped someone off of my Top 5 Live Shows Ever list, for certain. I am so glad Brian and Kevin convinced me I needed to go to this show. Because these moments don't happen often, and they make your life richer because you lived it, because you were there.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make...

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Midvale School For the Gifted

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    "So I walk like I'm on a mission, 'cuz that's the way I groove. I've got more and more to do, I've got less and less to prove. It took me too long to realize that I don't take good pictures 'cuz I have the kind of beauty that moves..." Ani D.
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