Sir Paul McCartney Minute Maid Park November 14, 2012
Seeing Paul McCartney live is a lot of things. It's communing with a spirit that touched millions and will touch millions for as long as humanity lurches forward. It's hearing the old schmaltzy bedrock anthems and the proto-everything blasts that made the past 50 years of music so damned interesting.
And it's also about witnessing a man who, even at 70, can still rip a crowd a new anal opening with a flick of his wrist and a mischievous wink.
Wednesday night's McCartney gig at Minute Maid Park could have been his last in Houston ever. That's a reality that had its bony hand on my shoulder all day before the show and during the whole night.
Starting at 9 p.m. sharp and running close to midnight, McCartney's set was an exhibition of the past 50 years of pop and everything that is hopefully to come.
And would you believe that the man nary took a drink of water, rushed off stage for a costume change, an oxygen treatment, or an instrumental break for two hours? Even still his energy levels were off the charts, for anyone of any age.
Maybe he really did die in 1966 and was replaced by a robot.
Things kicked off with "Magical Mystery Tour" with a haze of stage fog. The show did begin a bit subdued to be honest, which was at first terrifying but when your set is close to 40 songs long (he played 37 Wednesday) it's not a race, it's a jog.
The mixture of Beatles and Wings material was genius and seamless, and truth be told it actually seemed like the crowd around me reacted to the Wings work with more excitement and gusto than the Fab Four stuff.
I swear the loudest cheers I heard were not for "Yesterday" or "Let It Be," but for "Maybe I'm Amazed." I can't explain that.
The McCartney performance tics we have all grown up with are still pumping right along: The head bob, the head nod, the coos in the right places, the knowing winks and smiles. The Höfner bass. His veteran backing band was also able to turn on a dime with him and has mastered every possible nuisance of the Beatles/Wings canon.
McCartney peppered his goofball stage banter ("How-Stun? Hugh-ston?") with old war stories about his famous friends, that fraternity of rock gods.
You could facetiously accuse him of being a name-dropper, but how many people can tell anecdotes about being nose-to-nose with John Lennon and George Harrison, or watching Jimi Hendrix beg Eric Clapton to tune his guitar from a club stage after he covered one of their own songs. Or the time when Frank Sinatra complimented you for a song Harrison wrote.
McCartney paid tribute to Hendrix with a quick nod to "Foxy Lady" early on, and he reworked Harrison's Sinatra-fave "Something" with a ukelele open and a metallic close. In tribute to Lennon he pulled out "Here Today" off 1982's Tug of War for a spin.
It was the quietest, most somber part of the evening.
God help if I didn't enjoy "Ob la di ob la da" and "Back In The USSR" more than I ever had in my whole life, and I have even gone on record previously saying how much I hated those songs. Damn you, McCartney.
The best part of the night for me was the bombastic version of "Live and Let Die" complete with Slayer-style pyro and fireworks, which led directly into the decidedly less aggressive "Hey Jude". I could only laugh out loud at the mood shift, and also you know, fire is cool.
At his advanced age, McCartney hasn't lost a bit of his performing acumen. Seventy is the new 50, or so I hope for my sake. Sure, things aren't as loud as they used to be, but he's still active onstage. And he can still belt it out when he needs to, and you still learn a lot about rock bass by watching him play the simplest early Beatles cuts.
Some legacy acts touring these days, even a decade younger than McCartney, could never keep up. Hint: The lead singer used to be an American Idol judge.
The night was stretched out by two "encores," the second out-Whataburgering the first one. I mean how can you beat "Yesterday" into "Helter Skelter" and then closing with "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End"?
Certainly not with "Lady Madonna."
This was a show for my personal bucket list, my rock-writer bucket list, and for my own mental housing chamber. And you know, I now have something brutal that I can hold over my children's and grandchildren's heads in a few decades.
Hearing "All My Loving" live pretty much sealed the year for me, to be honest. Now bring on the secessions, the solar flares, the economic collapses, and the zombies.
Personal Bias: I like bands and artists that were influenced by the Beatles, like Nirvana, David Bowie, Neil Young, ZZ Top, Elton John, Genesis, the Velvet Underground, The Ramones, Electric Light Orchestra, The Kinks, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Animals, Donovan, The Beach Boys, Can, U2, R.E.M., Arcade Fire, The Cure, The Clash, AC/DC, Buzzcocks, Big Star, Jack White, Queen, Oasis, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Cheap Trick, The Strokes, Beck, and the Rutles. I probably missed a few hundred but you get the idea.
The Crowd: I was chest-deep in Houston socialites where I was sitting.
Overseen In The Crowd: Everyone from fetuses to hipsters and those in wheelchairs with oxygen tanks.
Random Notebook Dump: Nothing off McCartney II. For shame, Sir Paul. For. Shame.
Magical Mystery Tour Junior's Farm All My Loving Jet Got to Get You into My Life Sing the Changes The Night Before Let Me Roll It Paperback Writer The Long and Winding Road 1985 My Valentine Maybe I'm Amazed I'm Looking Through You And I Love Her Blackbird Here Today Dance Tonight Mrs. Vandebilt Eleanor Rigby Something Band on the Run Ob la di ob la da Back In The USSR I've Got a Feeling A Day in the Life / Give Peace A Chance Let It Be Live and Let Die Hey Jude
Lady Madonna Day Tripper Get Back
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Yesterday Helter Skelter Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End