Sunday, April 30, 2017

Paul McCartney One On One

The last time I saw Paul McCartney in concert was in Kansas City (Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey). We were both younger in those days.

The first time I saw him was in St. Paul. I was in high school and he was single. Oddly enough, we never went backstage together. I suppose, in hindsight, that's a good thing. I would have considered that creepy and the press would have noticed Paul McCartney with a high school student. I'm pretty sure that's not his style anyway. His soulmate was an older woman.

Now that I'm too old to pay $300 for a concert ticket, and Paul is far older than anyone ever expected of a rock star back when he started, this could very easily be the last time I see him perform. He can't do 3 hour shows much longer, and I can't rationalize the high ticket prices. That and his refusal to acknowledge any country in Asia besides Japan. I live in the single most populated country in the world, by a long shot, and I have to fly to another, far smaller country to see him.

The opening to Thursday's show at the Tokyo Dome was a little strange, with his Hofner bass on the video screens like it was a golden idol, with fireworks exploding behind it. I've never seen anything like that in a concert before. While the audience was cheering, Paul and band casually strolled on stage. It looked more like the end of a concert than the beginning. Then they played “A Hard Day's Night” and the crowd went wild. The light show on screen reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I don't think it was supposed to.

“Junior's Farm” was the less political, radio-friendly version. Although, right now might not be the best time to sing about jumping the fence at the houses of Parliament.

They showed clips of A Hard Day's Night and various Beatles footage during “Can't Buy Me Love”. We all knew it was going to be a nostalgic night, with mostly songs from the '60s and '70s.

“Letting Go” was a little disappointing. Not because of anything the band did or didn't do, but because nothing can compare with the Wings Over America version. “Temporary Secretary” was also a little disappointing. Despite using keyboards for all of the string and horn parts on every song, which is just criminal, the keyboards for the synthesizer part on this song sounded wrong. It's essentially an electronic song. The keyboards should be easy.

“Let Me Roll It” was one of the rare times Paul picked up an electric guitar. “Let Me Roll It”, “I've Got a Feeling” and “The End”. Most of the night, he was on acoustic guitar and Hofner bass. He actually played lead guitar on “I've Got a Feeling”, with a solo in the coda. He also played an acoustic guitar solo during “In Spite Of All the Danger”. It's kind of odd that he doesn't give himself lead parts more often.

People like to complain about Paul's voice, especially during songs like “Maybe I'm Amazed”, which requires a combination of screaming and soft ballad. I'm sure that's hard to do in your 70s. And maybe he shouldn't do it right after screaming at the end of “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five”. But he didn't sound bad Thursday night. He just didn't sound 28 anymore.

He tried to speak Japanese before “In Spite Of All the Danger”. He had a script on the floor, which he stared at the entire time, but it was still pretty bad. He obviously doesn't speak a word of Japanese. The audience loved it, though. Japan is one of those countries where people appreciate the effort, even if you butcher their language. No one will ever yell at you to “learn Japanese or get out” or “go back to Mexico, Pablo”.

“You Won't See Me” was interesting. He did a little acoustic intro that most of the audience didn't recognize until he started singing the lyrics. The audience sang along with “And I Love Her”. I was looking at one of the video screens when he did his little booty shake, so I got to watch his 50 foot tall butt dance to the song.

The saxophone solo on “Lady Madonna” freaked me out. I was looking around the stage, but I couldn't see anyone with a saxophone. Then I realized that Wix was playing it. That was disappointing. They might as well use drum machines instead of real drums. I bet Paul could afford to hire real musicians.

Just before playing “FourFiveSeconds”, he introduced the song with, “We just played the oldest song and now we're going to play the newest song.” But the song he played right before was “Lady Madonna”. Hardly the oldest song he played that night. He played a lot of Beatles songs. Half the concert was Beatles songs. And most of them are older than “Lady Madonna”.

What surprised me was that five people cheered when he started to play the guitar intro. What really surprised me was that he played that song at all. The lyrics were on the giant screen behind the stage, but they were in English, so I don't think as many people sang along as he expected.

The funniest part was when they showed a picture of Kanye onscreen and some of the audience booed. I don't know what Kanye did to offend the Japanese, but his fans weren't in the audience that night.

Before he introduced “Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite”, he led the audience in a little sing a long, during which he gave a dirty little giggle that really surprised me. I've never heard him laugh like that.

While introducing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, he spoke a little Japanese. There were subtitles at the bottom of the video screens, so everyone understood him, but I got the impression that he thought everyone understood his bad Japanese. After the audience cheered, from reading the subtitles, he said it again, only much worse. And not a single person in the stadium cared.

Some people ask why Paul still tours at his age. There was a brief moment during “Band On the Run” where he leaned against Rusty Anderson and smiled before bouncing up and down. The look of pure joy on his face answered that question.

The first “Live and Let Die” explosion scared the hell out of the woman standing next to me. She had never seen Paul in concert, and didn't seem all that familiar with the song, so she didn't know it was coming. She also thought the stage was on fire, with all of the lights and lasers – and actual fire – but the people she came with reassured her that we would all survive. It probably didn't help that the video screen directly above the stage showed nothing but fire. I suppose it would have looked like something went terribly wrong if it was any other song.

The audience laughed when Paul pretended to go deaf from all the pyrotechnics, but it was pretty loud. At his age, he might want to rethink that.

The only time his voice really sounded like he was an old man was during “Hey Jude”. He struggled a little here and there throughout the concert, but it looked like he was having a hard time breathing during “Hey Jude”. With his mussed up hair and a spotlight right in his face, I almost thought I was going to witness a heart attack on stage. He caught his breath as the song went on, though. By the na na nas, he was good to go. Of course, he mostly doesn't sing that part.

When he started playing “Yesterday”, the audience wanted to cheer, but everyone knew they had to be quiet if they wanted to hear the song. That was one of those times I knew I was in Japan.

“Hi Hi Hi” was funny, simply because he was playing it in Tokyo. The greatest revenge is selling out a stadium concert while the politicians are long gone.

The crowd went nuts during Abe Jr's short “The End” drum solo. And then it was over. The confetti and smoke when Paul left the stage was pretty weird. If you're going to shoot your confetti load all over the crowd, make it bigger.

I can't say it was the best concert I've ever seen, or even the best Paul McCartney concert I've ever seen, but it was probably the last time I'll ever see him. He's never coming to China, and going to Japan for a concert is absurd. Maybe if I happen to be somewhere while he's there, I'll see him, but I'm sure those concerts would be sold out long before I got there.

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