Paul McCartney live at BC Place
Paul McCartney opened for himself last night at BC Place. Leading up to the Macca experience, fans got a selection the Macca experience. It was sort of weird.
But what do you do when you are Sir Paul McCartney?
Playing a selection of your catalogue while a montage of classic photos scrolls by works as well as any opening act, and the crowd won’t care if they hear any of these songs twice anyway. Such is the man’s musical legacy that he could come on stage and croak his classics and the fans would freak.
At 77, he certainly never croaks.
But his voice is taxed quite often, taking on tunes such as the opener A Hard Day’s Night and many others. For every near note perfect Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da, there were plenty of rough patches. What do you do?
One of the genuine problems of being a huge fan of artists such as Little Richard and the like when you are penning tunes in your teens is singing them six decades later. McCartney has wisely put a crew of backing musicians behind him who can play their asses off as well as harmonize all over the place.
He has also done some really great rearrangements of tunes such as the Wings hit Letting Go, the first time it would benefit from a brass section trio of trumpets, sax and trombone. When the horns players appeared off stage at the entrance to aisle 214, it was the one bit of arena show in what was otherwise a straight ahead band-on-the-clock performance.
Not that they were dialing it in, just that the music did the talking on the stripped-down stage with its simple light show and three screens. Save for Live and Let Die with its pyro, laser and fireworks overkill, that is.
OK, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. was an absolute joy to hear and watch, and guitarist Rusty Anderson could be the rock ‘n’ roll brother of Ty Burell’s Phil Dunphy in Modern Family.
“We’ve got some old songs, some new songs, and some in between songs,” said Sir Paul. “And this one is definitely an old one”
All My Lovin’ came out in July 1963. The anti-bullying Who Cares came out on last year’s well-received Egypt Station. The set was peppered with — obviously — plenty of Beatles songs but also gave flight to McCartney’s Wings era and these proved some of the evening’s peaks.
Strapping on his Les Paul, McCartney ripped out the killer hook on Let Me Roll It, ending with a few bars of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady at the end to jam around in honour of the late guitarist.
This was followed with a story about Hendrix asking Eric Clapton to come tune his guitar during a performance in which he opened with a version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had only been released two days prior.
Yes, McCartney could just be telling stories and maybe playing acoustic versions of songs and it would be a blast. In fact, some of the best performances of the evening were the strumming ones: I’ve Just Seen A Face and Blackbird were particularly powerful. Apparently singer Emma Stevens — whose version of the song in the MicMac language went viral — was in the audience and got a shout-out.
So did Sir Paul’s wife, Nancy McCartney, when he introduced My Valentine. This song that he wrote for his wife featured Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman onscreen signing the song’s lyrics. A nice touch for a song that is, frankly, pretty forgettable. Particularly when up against the song he wrote to his late wife Linda McCartney.
Maybe I’m Amazed is definitely a post-Beatles highlight and a monster to sing. McCartney did himself proud on this challenging piece. He also commented on how the band knows which songs get people to bring out their phones, and which ones are “black holes:” “But we are going to play the news ones anyway.”
The Egypt Station tune that succeeded was Fuh Yu, with its almost Coldplay-like chorus: it’s the rare case of the master chasing the kids. Whatever keeps him happy and playing works for fans.
Of his contemporaries — and let’s be honest, McCartney is on his way to being the last man standing — there is no one else who can regale arenas with tales of George Harrison’s prowess on the ukulele before launching into Something or still have Let It Be, Hey Jude, Band on the Run, Hester Skelter and more to come at the two-hour mark in the concert.
The man’s back catalogue is ridiculous.