by carl wilson

I Buried Paul


No, no, not quite. My review of last night's Macca show in today's Globe and Mail is pretty moderate, actually. The most pleasant surprise was that he's still pretty funny, in that early-Beatles-taking-the-piss-at-press-conferences kind of way. But considering this is the first and probably only time I've been in the presence of a live Beatle, I wished that I could have felt my enormous childhood love of their music called forth, but the tunes rolled out in the canned way they must. Not that there was no humanity to the show - I was impressed that he's touring with such a compact band, just two guitarists, keyboards, drums and himself (on guitar, piano and, of course, "my Hoehner Hofner bass"). And bizarrely, the press got fourth-row seats - the only time I've even been on the floor in that stadium, much less right up front. So it was, you know, nice. But his devotion to his own tepidness is kind of extraordinary, and you never felt that all the strange and sad and joyful things that have made up his very unusual life were ever manifest, ever mattered very much to the convivial ritual we were sitting through. The emotional and chronological distance from the nucleus of his significance had about the same effect as physical distance, as if I weren't seeing Paul McCartney at all, but a simulacrum by the goodnatured keeper of his legacy. (In a way a horrible Wings performance would have felt meatier.) The showbiz trappings, effects and overblown stage set, etc., only seemed to foul up that goodnaturedness. Of course, everyone around me was screaming and jumping up and down, which made me feel a way I almost never do - like a jaded journalist. Compared to a lot of rock nostalgia acts, McCartney has to be commended for bringing his full energy (despite occasional stiffness) to a two-and-a-half hour, genuinely live concert.

Hey, maybe it really was the stand-in! ... The "Paul is dead" rumour always had a funny poetic aptness to go along with its factive absurdity. [... on to the review ...]

The affable, unassuming McCartney

The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, October 11, 2005

At 63 years old, he's indisputably still the cute one. Over a few hours at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto last night, Paul McCartney waggled his head when he hit the high "aaaahs," tugged his forelock when he thanked the audience, and warbled about the delights of English Tea and, "peradventure," a spot of morning cricket croquet.

It's down to the perversity of today's rock-nostalgia concert business that such modest charm had to be buttressed by a 12-metre-high movie screen showing literal video illustrations of his song lyrics, and at one point retracting to reveal a tightly disciplined shower of indoor fireworks -- possibly the most unwarranted pyrotechnics in rock history, coming during the distinctly sparkless new song Follow Me.

The excesses began with a pre-show soundtrack of crescendoing strings that made it seem Mr. McCartney was about to descend from the heavens in a chariot of fire. Next came a brief set by DJ Freelance Hellraiser, who mashed up bits of Mr. McCartney's discography into dance tracks as he does on their recent collaboration Twin Freaks, to decent effect -- though for many of the greying boomers in the 16,000-strong sold-out crowd, this element must have seemed like a ploy to make them appreciate Mr. McCartney's eventual appearance all the more, as a respite from music they can't bear. Perhaps it was for their kids, who were also out in force mouthing along with every word of the Beatles tunes and looking a little lost during the Wings ones.

But the most egregious part of the prelude was a lengthy home movie in which Mr. McCartney narrated the story of his life. Does one of the world's most adored pop personalities (an expletive-deleted Beatle!) really require such self-aggrandizement?

In the video, Mr. McCartney said he always thought of the Beatles as nothing more or less than "a great little band," which bespeaks at once his unassuming nature and the disappointing blandness of his ambition. This combination was what he brought to the stage. Nothing in the show would lead one to reflect, except on the passing of time, but you couldn't complain about his affable showmanship and the solid performance of his four-piece backing band.

The set list was calculated only to please, and incidentally to introduce the crowd to Mr. McCartney's latest album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. True to reviews that are calling it his strongest effort in decades, its songs fit well into the evening's hit parade, which otherwise ranged from opener Magical Mystery Tour all the way back to pre-Beatles tune In Spite of All the Danger, as well as Drive My Car, Jet, Long and Winding Road, I Will, For No One, Fixing a Hole, Eleanor Rigby, and so on.

The songs were bridged by chat and storytelling, including a mini-songwriting workshop showing how he developed Blackbird out of a passage of Bach, and the story of how earlier in the tour he fell into the hole in the stage from which his piano is raised and lowered through the set. (Fans have begun holding up signs reading "Mind the gap.")

A moment of recognition for "departed loved ones -- John, George and Linda" brought an ovation. The Liverpudlian wit was still quick for bits of banter with the audience, though age and wealth have certainly smoothed and rounded the edge.

Audience sing-alongs were always encouraged. "Twenty thousand backing singers," Mr. McCartney commented. "What more can you ask for?"

For him, the answer is nothing: In the end, he knows that fans come sentimentally, to celebrate what his life has brought to theirs. And he precisely shares the feeling.

Read More | Live Notes | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, October 11 at 12:24 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)



Cool site, interesting

Posted by Joseph on October 19, 2005 5:04 PM



Oh, duh. Sorry JD, of course you're right - I actually meant to type "Hoefner" as an anglicization of the umlauted spelling, but then my mind wandered, or drifted, or stalled. Thanks for the deserved slap.

Posted by zoilus on October 12, 2005 11:32 AM



"...and himself (on guitar, piano and, of course, 'my Hoehner bass')."

Dude, it's a "Hofner" bass. Or Höfner, if you want to spell it German-style. Originally called a violin-body bass, but now known as the "Beatle bass."

Posted by J.D. Considine on October 12, 2005 10:08 AM



"you never felt that all the strange and sad and joyful things that have made up his very unusual life were ever manifest, ever mattered very much to the convivial ritual we were sitting through" --

very well said. I got the same feeling from watching his cover of "Something" on the Harrison tribute concert TV program. I thought & thought about it -- is it his wide-eyed "I'm cute & sincere" expression that annoys? I imagine that if I had shut my eyes, the cover would have sounded as sweet and sincere as his expression ineptly seemed to want it to. Is it a case of a poorly presented persona? (Must not be, because as you say, most people LOVE it and have for decades.)

"Zoilus" indeed -- I'm with you.

His friendly distanced pop-figurehood reminds me of Bing Crosby. Set that lovely baritone on cruise control & everybody enjoys the ride.

Posted by John on October 11, 2005 4:01 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson