Why do we gather together as human beings when it’s often more comfortable and convenient to be alone? Is there potential for true communion when we gather? It is possible to rid ourselves of artificial divisions? What is the purpose and potential of music? If it inspires, what can we do with that inspiration to make it useful? Can it be used as a vehicle for compassion?
These are questions that were running through my mind as I sat among a sold-out crowd of 45,000 other people at Safeco Field in Seattle on Friday, July 19th. Most of the questions were answered by Paul McCartney’s explosive 3 hour performance, and they’re still questions that I’m pondering in the aftermath of the historical event. Do I think too much? It’s very possible. But I can’t help but think that events like these, where we temporarily forget our horrid cliques, our particular belief systems, our judgements, our knowledge, and our biases, opting to come together with no agenda other than celebration and good will, are among the most valuable things we can possibly do.
This was not a nostalgia show. In fact, there was no division, and that’s significant. Unlike, say, a Rod Stewart show or your typical Casino fodder, all ages came together to see Paul McCartney on Friday night, and that in itself was a thing of beauty. No judgement. No barriers. Just communion.
There was the chaos associated with any massive event of this scale, of course. A rock n’ roll show at Safeco Field had never been attempted before. The surrounding streets were almost impossible to get through for blocks, and opportunists were charging up to $60 for event parking. Line-ups and insane crowds. $10 beers. Small annoyances. Infinite distractions. Expensive tickets.
But then the music started. The familiar Beatles favorite “Eight Days a Week” got the crowd warmed up after a lengthy (and quite beautiful) pre-show video/musical presentation. McCartney and his band (Guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards/vocals, and drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr.) were on point throughout the set to say the least. Not only do the band back up Paul’s musicianship. They back up his contagious and persevering positive attitude. It’s the people behind the instruments that is just as important as the technical skill.
Running through an inspired selection of Beatles, Wings and solo hits and welcome deep album cuts, the setlist couldn’t have been improved, short of asking Sir Paul to stay on stage longer than the 3 hours he did. Highlights for this reviewer included “Paperback Writer”, “Blackbird”, “Your Mother Should Know”, “Lady Madonna”, “Here Today”, “Mrs. Vandebilt”…well, this is getting rather pointless, isn’t it? There wasn’t a bad performance all night. Special surprises included spot on renditions of Sgt Pepper tracks “Lovely Rita” and “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”, along with an unusual but welcome cut “All Together Now” (from “Yellow Submarine”).
One could say that while the show was amazing in it’s own right, it really lifted off with the massive fireworks display accompanying “Live And Let Die”, a spectacle that lifted the whole crowd to new heights. After this, “Hey Jude” completed the main part of the show. Enter the encores, and there were many. After returning with “Day Tripper”, guess who Sir Paul called onstage to join him. Dave Grohl, Krist Novaselic, and Pat Smear…with Nirvana being my favorite band growing up, and one of the reasons I got into rock music, this was almost too much. A historical event to say the least. Not only did the boys join in for “Cut Me Some Slack”, the track included on the recent “Sound City” documentary directed by Grohl…they stayed on stage for the rest of the set (except “Yesterday” of course)! Seeing this massive ensemble blow 45,000 people away on the roaring “Helter Skelter”, well, that answered my question about the potential music has to inspire, to create change. I’m still piecing together everything, deciding how I’ll use the inspiration in my own life, and how I can bring it to the world.
This is the most profound effect that Paul McCartney has as an artist. He is a vehicle of compassion and love, as we all are, and he uses his gifts to maximum potential. You cannot be cynical in the presence of an energy like this. Thank you to Paul, his wonderful band, and the surviving members of Nirvana for a deeply profound experience.
Eight Days a Week
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face
We Can Work It Out
And I Love Her
Your Mother Should Know
All Together Now
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Something (Paul on ukelele)
Band on the Run
Back in the USSR
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Cut Me Some Slack (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Get Back (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Long Tall Sally (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Helter Skelter (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Golden Slumbers (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
Carry That Weight (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
The End (with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
James – spot on review with only one complaint….you left out Paul “Wix” Wickens! I’m sure it was an oversight as I’m confident that you are aware of the incredible contribution Wix has made to the McCartney concerts.