Monday, December 13, 2010


I had the great privilege tonight to see Paul McCartney's amazing concert at Harlem's Apollo Theater. It was an invite-only event put on by SiriusXM in honor of hitting the 20 million subscriber mark (I am an employee of the company, but the event was, rightfully so, for subscribers). (By the way, I didn't take this picture, my friend Jon, who is a subscriber, and won a ticket to the show, took this picture).

It was an incredible show (for a full setlist, check me out on Twitter, I tweeted each song as he played it). Ostensibly, he is promoting the 30th anniversary of what is maybe his greatest post-Beatles work, Wings' Band On The Run, and he played a bunch of songs from the album ("Band On The Run," "Jet," "Let Me Roll It" and "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five"), but the setlist had tons of his songs from when he was fab. The opened with a very muscular version of  "Magical Mystery Tour," followed closely by "Drive My Car," "All My Loving" and even "One After 909."

Paul is one of the greatest songwriters of all time, even his detractors have to admit that. But he is also a great showman, and knows how to write a setlist.  He goes from totally rocking with songs like "Back In The U.S.S.R." to really quiet songs like "Blackbird" (which he said was inspired by the racial injustices in America). He can go from a pretty angry song ("I'm Looking Through You" is one of his meanest, it always seemed a bit out of character to me) and then the very next song was the tender "And I Love Her." And it's all believable.  I don't think he gets enough credit for the diversity of styles he has mastered, both musically and lyrically.

My highlight of the night, though, was his cover of Marvin Gaye's "Hitchhike." He did it as a tribute to all the great performers who had played at the Apollo.  It was a bit messed up, the sound on the vocals went out during the song ("now you know it's a live radio broadcast," he joked afterwards) and he had to start over.  But it was a great performance and it featured go-go dancers, rocking it '60s style (if I had to guess, I would say Maureen Van Zandt, wife of Steven, was the choreographer). There were other guests - a children's choir - on "Wonderful Chrismastime," one of my least favorite Paul songs, but it was sweet. I loved when Paul put on the mandolin for his semi-recent classic "Dance Tonight." Another great moment was "A Day In The Life" which went into John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance." And, finally, the ending medley of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" which went into "The End."

Like Bob Dylan and Ozzy Osbourne, Paul couldn't do it without an incredible band.  These guys love Paul, and they love and respect his music. Keyboardist Wix has been with Paul since 1989 (the first tour I saw Paul on, Flowers In The Dirt), the other three guys have been with him since 2001: guitarist Rusty Anderson, guitarist/bassist Brian Ray and especially drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., who is not just a monster behind the kit, but also has a charisma and sense of humor that everyone love (especially, it seems, Paul). It doesn't just come off as the Paul McCartney review, these guys really make it rock and come off like a band.  Paul ended the night saying "See you next time," and I can't wait until "next time" comes around. At 67, the guy rocked for two hours, if you ever have the chance to see him, you should definitely go! He really works it: besides playing his main instrument, bass, he also switched to electric and acoustic guitar, piano and even mandolin. All these years later, he still rocks.

Oh and by the way, "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" was a hell of a lot of fun, I know people make fun of that song, but get over it!

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