Thursday, August 12, 2010

Paul McCartney rocks the Bridgestone like none other

The legendary Sir Paul McCartney.
This was the best show I’ve ever seen. No seriously. Paul McCartney stepped onto the stage at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena decked out in his black suit and Hofner bass. Though he’d never performed in Nashville, he had spent a few weeks on a ranch just outside Nashville in 1974 during a songwriting session for Wings. I managed to catch the show from his Up and Coming Tour on July 26, and I think it’s safe to say that it ranks up there with one of the best shows Nashville’s seen in a long time.

When he first came on, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that much noise from a crowd anywhere. The show lasted about three hours, but it’s the kind of show you don’t want to end. McCartney’s humor, top notch lighting and pyrotechnics, combined with some of the most iconic songs of the 20th century make this show a night you won’t ever forget.

Going into the show, I was interested in the quality of the sound. I’d only seen one other show at the Bridgestone Arena – Metallica, Lamb of God, and Gojira – and the sound wasn’t the great, particularly the guitar. I was pleased to see Mr. McCartney had no such issues. Everything sounded crisp, clear, and rockin’. 

Vocally, McCartney sounded great. He still has a great rock voice, evidenced by the high octane performance he delivered on Got to Get You into My Life. The first half of the show spotlighted Paul’s non-Beatle work. I’m not very well versed on McCartney’s solo career, so I didn’t recognize very many of those songs. 

The second half of the show featured more of the legendary material: Eleanor Rigby, Hey Jude, Let It Be, etc. Some of the highlights included McCartney’s tribute to former bandmate George Harrison, who died of lung cancer in 2001. He tells the crowd that Harrison was an accomplished ukele player as he brings his own ukele on stage. He begins playing Something, a song on which Harrison originally sang lead vocal. McCartney’s version is in a slightly faster tempo. The full band joins in during the guitar solo and plays the rest of the song in regular time. Meanwhile, a slide show of Harrison photos is playing in the background. It was a very moving tribute to a McCartney’s friend and former Beatle. 

He also paid tribute to John Lennon by performing Here Today. Another highlight was when McCartney broke out Blackbird, a pretty acoustic number from The White Album. To hear this was a pleasant surprise; I’d hoped to hear this song, but I wasn’t expecting it since it’s buried pretty deep in the Beatles’ back catalog. The crowd had a great reaction to this one as well. 

The crowd really got into the show. There was a lot of dancing in the aisles, and it was a neat experience to see the lighters (or cellphones) in the air for Hey Jude. But what was even cooler than that was seeing a couple of the audience members actually getting to join Paul on stage. McCartney saw a boy in the audience holding a poster that said he wanted to get on stage and play a song. Paul invited him onstage and let him dance while the band played Get Back. Another fan got to come on stage to get an autograph from McCartney.

Paul also showed off his talent as a great frontman; he usually provided an interesting tidbit or a little humor between songs. After playing Back in the USSR, he talked about playing in Red Square and how many Russian fans had learned a little English through Beatles songs. The rest of his band was great as well. He had a guitar player who looks like an older version of Gerard Way, the other guitarist resembles a younger version of Tom Petty. They also had a big drummer who broke out some neat dance moves, then came out from behind the set to lay down some impressive backing vocals on Eleanor Rigby.

Seeing Paul McCartney was easily the greatest concert experience I’ve ever had. It’s hard to top rocking out to Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Peppers, and The End, and knowing that everyone around you is as into it as you are. And it’s cool how he has such a multi-generational impact. Fans of all ages turned out, from twenty-somethings all the way up to the long time fans who grew up with The Beatles. Admittedly I’m a big Beatle fan so that probably made it better, but McCartney concerts have that intangible quality that could entertain just about anyone. If you ever get a chance to go, I can’t recommend it enough.

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