Tag Archives: The Beatles

‘Macca-holics: There Is No Cure’

Paul McCartney read aloud a sign down front in the crowd that summed up the situation nicely: “Macca-holics: There Is No Cure.” First, I will post Sarah Rodman’s exuberant Boston Globe review of Tuesday night’s concert at Fenway Park, and then will offer my thoughts.

Web photo by Barry Chin courtesy of boston.com

With my wife and two friends, I had the privilege of witnessing and being swept up by Paul McCartney in concert at Fenway Park, along with about 40,000 other people. We arrived just before 5 pm and were milling around Yawkey Way outside the brick-and-green steel coliseum when a sound boomed over the parapet: the man himself had swung into a revved-up take on “Matchbox,” the Carl Perkins’ rockabilly number that The Beatles started covering in 1961. We had walked onto the property in time for the sound check, which continued for an hour in mix-tape fashion, giving us everything from “Penny Lane” and a shortened “Yesterday” to “Honey Don’t,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “San Francisco Bay Blues,” and “Lady Madonna.” Then he took a break. The baseball gates opened at 6.05 pm.

McCartney’s audience runs from kids to grandparents, 10 years to 70+. The Beatles entered American air-space in early 1964, when I was ten, so it is no surprise to me to see kids in “War Is Over” tee-shirts and wearing Beatles’ wrist watches. When McCartney or Ringo Starr comes around these days, the convenings are not exactly reunions on the audience side because many people are attending one of their live shows for the first time. There are many show veterans, for sure, but we sat near a bunch of people who kept saying, “I can’t believe I am seeing this.” On Tuesday night, McCartney had the crowd with the first notes of “Eight Days a Week,” one of the bounciest tunes of Lennon and McCartney’s. In truth, he had them before he walked on stage, but the opening chords sealed the deal. He then soared for almost three hours. With references to Wings and “Blackbird” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” the soaring thing kind of fits.

People at work the next day asked, How was it? Epic. And I don’t usually talk like that. But how else to describe a peak artistic experience by a living legend? You have to put him at the top of the pop mountain in 2013. The Stones are touring. Bruce is vital and productive. And lots of younger artists and groups can fill a stadium, but none of those are historic figures in the mold of McCartney. The combination of total creative material, broad cultural impact, and excellent performing ability is unique in this moment. Bob Dylan, as much as I enjoy and respect his art, cannot fill the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. Paul gives you one helluva show. And everybody knows the words. The concert turns into a massive karaoke bar with the best Beatles cover-band in the world. And the lead singer is the actual guy on the records. Most of the songs he played were pre-1980, heavily tilted toward Beatles’ and Wings’ hits. From the “Maybe I’m Amazed” guy, it is an amazing experience as he keeps throwing monuments out for the crowd to catch: “Back in the USSR,” “Hey Jude,” “Paperback Writer,” “Live and Let Die,” Eleanor Rigby,” “Helter Skelter,” “Band on the Run”—you get the picture. Here’s the set list.

I have to say something about transcendence. Here’s Wikipedia on that: “…a state of being that has overcome the limitations of physical existence and by some definitions has also become independent of it.” Not to get too cosmic about it, but when Paul McCartney is on stage with only a ukelele, looking small from the grandstand but big on the video towers, and strumming the melody of George Harrison’s “Something,” and he gets to the words “You’re asking me, Will my love grow?,” and 40,000 people together join in right there with the words, “I don’t know . . . I . . . don’t know”—then “something” happens, which I can only describe as a transcendent moment. You have to be there. People get carried away. Everyone is standing. People cry. People fling their arms up. People hold their heads in their hands. And then he downshifts to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” to let everyone off the emotional hook. The classic opening notes of “Band on the Run” follow, and so forth.

From 5 pm to 11 pm, the man who must be a freak of physical nature (a good ad for vegetarians) played and sang for four hours in high gear. He gave us two encores, including another monument, the Abbey Road medley that closes with “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”  It’s almost too much to absorb. This is not a golden oldies show. The songs are as fresh as can be. On “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” McCartney’s voice is as good as the first time anyone heard that perky song in 1965. I don’t know how many times he will do this again. If you have a chance to see and hear him and his band, go—and take your kids and friends. He is an artist for the ages who is here with us now. Roll over, Beethoven, indeed. And tell Mozart the news. Two hundred years from now, people will be playing and singing his compositions.

Here’s a picture from the sound check:

The Power of Place: Liverpool and McCartney

Paul McCartney on Tuesday returned to his roots in Liverpool for a concert at the Echo Arena on the dockside along the Mersey River. Read one fan’s report on the concert and hometown atmosphere from the a very active website devoted to McCartney, The Beatles, and their friends. For the obsessives among us, the  report includes set lists for the soundcheck and concert, including two encores, and a click-able slide show. The man is 69 years old.

This past fall, a delegation of business and tourism folks from Liverpool visited Lowell to see how our older post-industrial city was making a go of it through innovative use of its distinctive heritage, red-brick factories, worldly culture, special urban development tools, and higher education.

Here’s the Liverpool Echo review of the concert. The reader comments are interesting and varied, not all full of praise for the local guy made good.

Beatles legend Paul McCartney rocks the Liverpool ECHO Arena - Image 7


The Fab Faux at BHP: Super-Sonic Beatling

I can’t write about this yet. I’m still processing the impact of experiencing The Fab Faux’s performance of Beatles music last night at Boarding House Park in the Lowell Summer Music Series. Late Friday, after the Flecktones concert I wrote that the Series is becoming  a “Can you top this?” operation. For me, The Fab Faux topped the “this” of Fleckdom, as fantastic as the banjo guru and his masterful mates were on Friday. The Fab Faux turned Lowell’s cultural village green into the church of JPG&R and gave the congregation a glimpse of heaven.

It is high art. It is deep pop. It was something new for most of us. In literary art, or any art for that matter, one of the main commandments is  “Make It New.” There was a lot of new last night if you consider that most of us had never witnessed live the playing of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” and many other immortal compositions. This material comes out of a northern English kids’ rock club turned Gothic cathedral turned off-road juke joint turned soaring skycraper turned galactic audio laboratory. And it got packaged for mass consumption. And it is not going away. The two surviving Beatles fill performance venues worldwide. Check on the web for the tour schedules of Paul and Ringo. The faithful flock to the personal appearances. This is history as it happens. The Fab Faux gave us a very enjoyable history lesson last night amid the pulsing colored lights on the pergola stage set against the Front Range of the Boott Cotton Mills.

I can’t write about this yet. I’ll get back to you.

If you are missing these peak musical experiences at Boarding House Park, you should consider looking at the schedule for the rest of the summer. Pick something that looks good, and pack your blanket and folding chair.

BeatleJuice Dance Party at LMA Last Night

The folks at Middlesex Community College threw a party for more than 500 people at Lowell Memorial Auditorium last night with the best music that could be ordered up, All-Beatles-All-the-Time. On stage was the top Beatles tribute band in this part of the country, Beatlejuice, whose players served up note-perfect versions of songs that are the classical music of the past 50 years. The LMA was set up like a music club with a large dance area in front of the stage, round tables on the floor, and additional seating in the mezz level. The audience ranged from kids and lots of college students to a large contingent from the Veterans of Band Battles of the ’60s. If Sgt. Pepper is the Guy Lombardo of the Baby Boomers, we’ll take him. Roll up for the Mystery Tour, and bring on Billy Shears. What creative leaps from “Love Me Do” to “I Am the Walrus” to “Paperback Writer.” Kudos to LMA and MCC for giving us three hours of fun and music, and nothing but fun and music (with a nod to Max Yasgur).

McCartney: ‘Something New’

In July 1964, The Beatles released “Something New,” their fifth album in the U.S. Today’s NYTimes includes an article about Paul McCartney composing music for the New York City Ballet. The man is 68 and still giving us “something new” — a wonderful example of an artist pushing the boundaries of his creativity. He’s moved beyond rock and pop before with classical compositions, a book of poems, and exhibitions of his paintings. Read the article by Daniel J. Wakin here, and get the NYT if you want more of this kind of cultural reporting.