The Beatles

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McCartney 45 years live - Part 3: The 21st Century

I am about to board the plane to Philadelphia when I hear the news that McCartney has fallen into a hole on the stage during last night’s concert. It's September 2005 and I'm ready for a six-hour flight, my destination: two of Paul's concerts. It's not my habit to fly long distance for a pop concert, but this was a special occasion. So I had a bit of a fright, after all, he's 63 years old and falling of the stage could be serious. Only after arriving, I hear that McCartney's crash has no negative consequences.

There is nothing that points out to the incident, when I see him performing a few days later. Except for the sign I made: "Mind The Gap!", the phrase you hear in the London Underground whole day. You wouldn’t want it to happen again in front of your eyes. Macca sees it while playing, I get a wink, and after finishing the song he quotes my sign and then tells how he tumbled down earlier that week in Tampa. My moment of communication with him, although minimal, but still...

Video: Magical Mystery Tour

At the beginning of the concert, something’s going wrong during the opening track Magical Mystery Tour: Paul's microphone is stuck to the curtain when it’s pulled up. So the mic goes up as well and when Macca steps forward to start, there is nothing to sing in. While the band continues playing, a roadie pulls down the microphone, after which the show resumes as if nothing has happened. The incident shows the professionalism of the band: they don’t get messed up quickly.
The amazing thing about this band is that there are no click tracks, no backing tapes, no Pro Tools. We are just playing live. Everyone’s timing is so good, everyone’s feel is so good. Paul takes the lead and we follow. There is this sort of push-and-pull thing going on, very spiritual and kind of therapeutic. (…) The music just propels you forward and it makes the moment awesome and perfect and it’s meant to be so. It really connects everything in a flowy way and that’s the beauty of playing live. Like once you get on stage man, time is really irrelevant and you’re just in the zone. Three hours go pretty quick actually. 
Rusty Anderson

In the meantime, they have been together for more than fifteen years, longer than The Beatles or Wings. The experienced guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, both from Los Angeles, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., with 46 years the band’s young one, and Paul 'Wix' Wickens, the only Brit of the four. Wix played in McCartney’s band as well from 1989 to 1993 and as the most experienced one he has the role of 'musical director'.

The relationships are of course different from the earlier years. This is McCartney's live band, he is the boss and the band members are at his service. But it doesn’t show if you see them playing. The five together form a unit, they sound tight and you can see they are having fun on stage. They just rock.
We’re not a karaoke band so we don’t actually have to sound like you’ve just put on the record: We are a kind of a live version, with homage to the signature parts. I wouldn’t change a particular line just because I’ve played it a lot, but nor do we play something exactly the same just because it is recognizable.
Paul Wickens
The melodies and the arrangements are so important and we imagine what it’s like being in the audience.  I’d be pretty upset if somebody didn’t play it right. So I think that’s how we all approach it, we want make sure we play it in a way that people in the audience go YEAH!
Abe Laboriel jr.

Of all the tours I have attended, the 2005 US Tour is my favorite. Not so much because of all the beautiful memories, but especially because of the setlist that has some very surprising choices. ‘Too Many People’ of the album RAM is being played and also ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’, which dates from The Quarrymen. Also striking are the many songs from the early years of The Beatles, like ‘I'll Get You’, ‘Till There Was You’, ‘Follow The Sun’ and ‘Please Please Me’. During the short summer tour of 2004, ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘I've Got A Feeling’ have already been added, but I hear them for the first time.

Video: Too Many People/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window

When selecting the songs that will be played, the band tries to exert some influence. It is thanks to them that ‘Helter Skelter’ has reached the setlist, or ‘Lovely Rita’ and ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’. And if it's up to the guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, we're going to hear ‘Back Seat Of My Car’ sometime. Whether a suggestion from the band makes it to a live performance depends on a number of factors: Is it a nice song to play? Does it sound good, or will the audience appreciate it? But also, isn’t it too difficult? Opposite bass lines and vocal melodies make a live version sometimes difficult to perform. At the end, it’s Paul who decides:
Rusty suggested "Day Tripper." I didn't want to do it because the bass part's very hard. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" is the same. Those are the two in the show I didn't want to do. But the guys said it would be great. (…) At the same time, I'm a dictator. And nobody has a problem with that – I don't think, hahaha!
Paul McCartney

Since 2009, no year has passed without Paul being on the road. The tours flows seamlessly into each other, but they are no longer the long-lasting, exhausting tours of the past. They consist of short legs, spread throughout the year, with no more than about ten performances per month. That lower pace undoubtedly has everything to do with his age, but according to McCartney it keeps him and the band fresh too, so they can return at full force every time and again.

Fifteen years of touring brought many highlights. Performances at the Kremlin, for President Obama in the White House, at the British Queen's Jubilee, during the Olympics. McCartney may have experienced a lot already, but for the band members these are all exceptional events:
You know, just when you think you’ve ticked the biggest box with Paul, there’s four more that come along that are even more epic. When we played at the White House I thought ‘Well, that’s really as big as it can get…’. And then it gets bigger! We found ourselves at the Olympics.
Brian Ray
Video: Let It Be, Live at The White House

Perhaps much less spectacular, but with some impact are the performances at festivals. With The Beatles, Wings and his previous live band, he hadn’t got round to it yet, but now he has performed at almost all of the biggest and most important music festivals. And the band has noticed that since then the audience has changed:
The truth is, Paul has made himself more available to younger audiences in the last few years by playing at some really cool festivals. So now are the times when we’re playing these massive shows, and they’re mainly populated by youth going nuts!”
Brian Ray
There is a youthful energy that seems more prevalent, there’s a deeper excitement. When we started out there was a lot of people in the audience there to relive their youth, whereas lately it feels like people are there discovering something new.
Abe Laboriel jr.

So after 45 years of touring McCartney is still reaching new audiences. And despite his age, he does not seem to be finished yet. In 2005 I was impressed by the swirling performance of the at the time 63-year-old. Since then I have seen him very often and now in 2017, being 75 years old, he hasn’t become less energetic. The only thing that starts to crack is his voice. For the time being, I see that as the only possible reason that could ever force him to stop. If it’s up to McCartney himself he will perform as long as he has fun doing it; he just doesn’t know when to stop.

This was the third and final part of my blog series about 45 years McCartney live.
Part 1: Wings

Part 2: The Eighties And Nineties

Related Posts:
McCartney Live: Ten Favorite Beatles Tracks
Macca live: The soundcheck
Macca live: The setlist
André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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4 opmerkingen :

  1. Terrific post....I have seen him several times and am always amazed by the breadth of songs - and I too was thrilled to see him perform "Too Many People"!