McCartney still the showman

Paul McCartney in concert Sunday night at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale
2010-03-30T00:00:00Z McCartney still the showmanColey Ward Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 30, 2010 12:00 am  • 

GLENDALE - In 1993, my parents took me to see Paul McCartney at Philadelphia's 62,000-seat Veterans Stadium - my first rock concert.

We sat in the upper deck, stage right, and Paul played a set of classic Beatles tunes and Wings hits like "Band On The Run" and "Let Me Roll It," peppered with songs from his recently released and coolly received "Off The Ground" album.

Much of that sticky June evening is now a blur. I remember the roar of the crowd when McCartney and his band opened the show with "Drive My Car." I remember being wowed by the fireworks that accompanied "Live And Let Die," which Paul wrote for the James Bond flick of the same name.

More than anything, I remember being terrified somebody would see me socializing with my parents.

Fast forward 17 years to Sunday's McCartney concert at the approximately 18,000-seat Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, where a packed house saw the former Beatle kick off his latest tour.

This older McCartney, clad in a collarless jacket that recalled the 1963 pre- "Ed Sullivan Show" Beatles, was a little less spry and more restrained.

Since I'd seen him last, McCartney had lost his wife of 29 years, Linda, to cancer; gotten remarried to a much younger woman; had a daughter and gotten divorced.

He'd released five more studio records, as well as a couple of live albums.

As for me, I got a job, not as a paperback writer, but as a journalist; moved to Tucson (where they now import California grass); and married a girl with a mother named Loretta (get back, Loretta!).

At Sunday's concert, McCartney bantered casually with the audience, his mischievous sense of humor firmly intact.

Many audience members brought homemade signs with messages such as "Kiss me Paul" and "I want to hold your hand."

McCartney told the crowd he liked to read the signs, but sometimes it made it hard to concentrate on the chords.

"I had one guy with a sign that said, 'I'll trade you my wife for your guitar pick,' " McCartney recalled. "And I said, 'What's she like?'"

McCartney kicked off the show with a medley of Wings hits: "Venus and Mars," an abbreviated "Rock Show" and "Jet."

Next came "All My Loving," the night's only nod to the pre-"Help" Beatles.

The Glendale audience was the first in North America to hear Paul perform his piano-rocker "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" from Wings' "Band On The Run" album. The song is McCartney at his most unhinged. Flush with wailing guitar solos and an intoxicating bass line, it was written to be played live.

There were homages to McCartney's deceased Beatles mates. A ukulele version of George Harrison's "Something" gave way to electric guitars halfway through.

Paul paid tribute to his murdered songwriting partner, John Lennon, with the song "Here Today," which wonders, "And if I say I really knew you well/What would your answer be?" Later, "A Day in the Life" segued into Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."

Amidst all the looking back, McCartney found time to play a couple of tracks off his most recent album, "Electric Arguments," which he recorded under the name The Fireman. The joyout "Sing The Changes" willed the audience to its feet. While McCartney's solo career been hit or miss, his work with The Fireman proves that he's still a creative force.

Just as he did when I was a teenager, McCartney broke out the pyrotechnics for "Live And Let Die." Unfortunately, while 13-year-old me found the flames and fireworks exciting, 30-year-old me was terrified.

I wasn't the only one.

After the song, McCartney leaned against the piano and looked like he was catching his breath, still a little dazed from the intensely loud and hot special effects. He gestured to somebody offstage as if to say, "Too much!"

The rest of the show was a trip down memory lane, with Paul egging on the audience as they sang along to "Hey Jude."

He did two encores of three songs each, all Beatles material, and closed the show with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)," which segued into the "Abbey Road" classic "The End."

It's unlikely that McCartney, who is 67 years old, will still be touring when I've got a 13-year-old of my own.

Then again, the way he's going, you never know.

Contact reporter Coley Ward at 807-8429 or cward@azstarnet.com

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