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Paul McCartney

Highline Ballroom

June 13th, 2007

 

Yay, here’s Our first entry on Our music page, kiddies. And I’m starting off with a lulu! It took me a long time to put this one to paper (- or HTML), but it isn’t often that you get to see one deity bow to another on a public forum, so strap yourself down, babies, there’s a lot of genuflecting in this one.  

Small insight as to your beloved elephant head. As a teeny tiny calf, the world of musicality was opened up for MG by a left-handed bass player and his band of merry Liverpudlians. The 2nd thing that MG wanted to be when MG grew up was a left handed bass player (- an Ikette was the 1st thing, with Omniscient Godhead placing a distant third). For many prepubescent years, Paulie was everything. Adulthood and the true appreciation of the Cute One as musical innovator only drove the devotion deeper. 

Yet for all this luv, MG had never deigned to see yon bass player in any sort of live forum. All his concerts were arena-style venues and MG is much more about the up-close and personal than binoculars and video screens. Shiva knows there’s no lack of infomercial-like concert DVDs of his out there to assuage my curiosity; though it did feel like ‘Not Paul McCartney’s Live Show but an Incredible simulation’. Still it was enough. Then came the intervention of two other divinities … two goddesses of fandom, The Gracious Ladies McClintock and Raber, long time Keepers of the Shrine of McCartney, advised Yon Pachyderm to get me hence to the Highline Ballroom for a (- not so) secret show promoting Memory Almost Full – Sir Paul’s latest effort. Effort being the big word on our parts because of all we did to get a hold of these elusive,  exclusive tickets – 300 of which would be up for grabs by method of radio contests applying to Paul’s website and that old standby  - the concert campout. To make a long and painful story short, it was through the diligence and auspices of those Gracious Ladies that MG found a red rose wristband with Our Bass Player’s printed autograph about one thick round wrist – MG was heading to Our first ever McCartney gig. 

The venue was a tiny new hall that held a capacity of 700, with only a few seats in the balcony. Filled with trepidation that this was going to be one of those horrible General Admission shows complete with people pushing and shoving their way to the front, Myself and the two Ladies Gracious staked out our spots about four rows back from the front of the stage. Of course, there was indeed some jackass and her 6’5” boyfriend who foisted her way in front of the crowd already gathered (- because we were all just holding your spot, Stardust – I hope you find the snakes I left in your backyard). But other than them and a couple of other pushy morons who felt the wrath of MG about to stomp on them before they pushed in front, the crowd was mostly older, respectful of each other’s space and laid back. We were treated to the Twin Freaks album – an amazing collection of McCartney surreal and captivating remixes by a fella called Hellraiser - and that played right up until the lights dimmed slightly and that bloke from Liverpool meandered to the centre of the stage.  

There he was, kids, big as life and slightly shorter than expected - but that’s me thinking he was 80 feet tall all my life. He seemed self-assured yet slightly taken aback by the logistical nearness of the adulation as he took the stage. Someone helped him on with his bass and that was it for MG - there was the Hofner - that odd-looking, fiddle-shaped bass that has graced the front of Paul McCartney since the Beatles’ Hamburg days. I don’t know which icon I was more thrilled to see; both of them together, and to hear that voice live and in person as he tore through Drive My Car was nearly the test of my immortality. His band was tight and faithfully rendered a set list identical to the London club show of the previous week. And here’s the play-by-play: 

Drive My Car – excited the crowd but seemed almost too easy for Paul – didn’t care - I was too busy having a freak out cos there he was.

Only Mama Knows – Okay, this was different, off the new album and it just blazed. This was an all out rocker and you could see how excited Paul was playing it. Grampa can kick out the jams, I daresay the winner of the night.

Dance Tonight – We were treated to a mandolin-plinking McCartney dancing a jig.

C Moon – The Gracious Ladies tell me this Wings number is a rarity live. I was just happy to see him play the piano that brought him even closer to where we were standing

The Long and Winding Road - the only time I have ever liked this song was tonight

I'll Follow the Sun – We were regaled with a bit of nostalgia from Paul recalling how as a teenager in Liverpool he wrote this song staring out the lace curtained windows and wondering, “Will I ever be a star?” I missed George’s slide guitar in the middle. Noting in his intro that the song was very short, Paul opted for an extended version, repeating the last chorus over and over to tumultuous applause.

Calico Skies – Don’t recall this one standing out in particular, but like all things that night, it got a great reception

That Was Me – Another rocker that had the crowd hanging on every history-checking lyric; "That was me / Sweating cobwebs / Under contract/ In the cellar/On TV/ That was me"

Blackbird – It’s acoustic time and aren’t we glad. I can relive stories I’d read about fans who used to camp out at Paul’s house in the 60’s and would listen as he sat in his window playing this. (- Apparently windows loom large in Paul’s songwriting process)

Here Today – Hoo Boy, break out the Kleenex. This ballad originally written about the loss of John Lennon he dedicated not only to John, but to George Harrison and his late wife, The Lovely Linda as "fallen heroes".

Back in the U.S.S.R. – Boogie Down with Paul

Nod Your Head – Here’s the first audience participation moment in the show (- that he actually requested, otherwise, there was tons of AP). We are requested by Sir Paul to show off our head-nodding skills to the beat of this sweet little throwaway. Apparently in London, they are nod-challenged, so bearing the funk of our nation much fabulous head-nodding was achieved. “New York nods!”, stated an approving Paul.

House of Wax – Back at the piano for this atmospheric exercise in Grand Guignol. Great composition, but thick in the small room.

I've Got a Feeling – After the heavy heavy of House of Wax, This Beatles duet was greeted like a cool drink of Fuji. One of Paul’s guitarists subbed for John’s bits, but he was hardly needed as the entire audience decided to fill in.

Matchbox – Paul gave us a small history lesson on the works of Carl Perkins and how cool he was to deliver lyrics like these, Lend me your comb/ It’s time to go home / I gotta confess / My hair is a mess.”

Get Back – Time to Boogie Down with Paul again. Clearly, Paul was as buzzed by the energy of the audience as by other intoxicants he may have known; he mentioned how he was having trouble “Maintain”-ing and was getting silly. So silly, in fact that he upended the Hofner and balanced it on one hand. (- Watch as MG’s colour goes from a lovely gray to a sickly white), then he leapt behind the piano and launched into:

Baby Face – Which he explained he’d played at many a New Year’s Eve at home.

Hey Jude – Here’s the chestnut, but then again here’s me listening to the chestnut with a few hundred of my new closest friends and Paul McCartney playing piano an arm’s length away. Audience participation moment #2: Obviously the na-na-na’s, however Paul asked the boys and girls to separate their na-na’s and gave the girls a little hip dip and flick of the wrist as encouragement. He asked the ladies to sing it twice because “I like how that sounds”, says he. Yah, that senior citizen can still make the girls scream.

Let It Be – Again, another of my not-favourites (- relatively) that was made excellent because it was him there singing it and doing so perfectly. That cat has lost none of his voice. Nice job by his guitarist.

Lady Madonna – Perfect pick me up after the two ballads. Paul fairly bounced on the piano.

I Saw Her Standing There – Go out the way you came in, why doncha? He breathed new life into this codger with an all-out delivery. For a man who would celebrate his 65th birthday five days later, he gave his “boy-band” (- he said it, I didn’t) backers a run for their money. Someone held a sign up that said “Mak Show” – the old rallying cry the German club manager used to yell at Paulie and his pals to get a good performance out of them - and it couldn’t have been a more fitting motif for the evening. The proceedings had all the rawness of a young band doing their damndest to impress a tough audience, and none of the resting on laurels that Sir Paul could easily have rested upon and phoned in. 

I think the up close and personal does Paul a lot of good. The unfiltered reactions, the “meaningless conversations with the audience”, it knocks him off auto-pilot for a bit; which, I’ve heard from many Paul addicts, is how he deals with the fans. (- Though let me clarify, I’ve never heard of anything but an excellent live show from him) The lack of barrier between himself and the crowd, forces him to be real and it does him good. He glowed; there wasn’t one sour note for him throughout the show. Even though the set list was the same as both the previous and subsequent shows there wasn’t a sign of anything being rote, the format being fairly made for spontaneity. His interactions with the audience were genuine, first looking confused then nodding graciously when a fractured Happy Birthday ran through the audience, arguing with a woman in the front row who asked for his pick, accepting every last bouquet of flowers handed to him with real eye contact. It was lovely. About midway through the show, he looked around and said to the audience who, by now he knew quite intimately, “We should do this again tomorrow night. Whaddya say?”

There wasn’t one person in that very small room who wouldn’t have donated an extremity (-or gone through the agonizing wristband-acquisition process) to live that experience again.  

My first show and after this wonderful and intimate affair, I can’t imagine seeing him in a drafty stadium or anonymous arena, or anywhere any farther away than the arm’s reach of this night. I’m spoiled for life, and that’s a very long time. Thanks, Paul. 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva / Mighty Ganesha 

June 29, 2007

 

PS: Experience the vicarious joy via YouTube:

Paulie at the Highline Ballroom

 

 

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