Paul McCartney American Airlines Center, Dallas Monday, October 13, 2014
It's a funny thing, seeing one of the Beatles. On the one hand, it's not as rare of an opportunity as you might think; after all, Ringo Starr just played his second show in the area in less than three months. And that show came just two days before Sir Paul McCartney showed up to play the American Airlines Center on Monday night. On the other hand, this was Paul McCartney. You know, one half of the greatest songwriting duo in pop music history, and probably the world's greatest living musical icon.
Then think about the fact that Monday's performance -- 50 years on from the one and only appearance of the Beatles in Dallas -- was rescheduled from June, when a health scare forced Macca to postpone a fistful of his shows. Suddenly each occasion has that much more heft. He makes for an awfully youthful 72 years old, but we can't rely on that lasting forever.
The fleeting nature of things -- of life, of friendships, of good health -- was brought into perspective on several occasions during McCartney's nearly three-hour performance last night. One song, "My Valentine," went out to his wife Nancy, who he said was in the audience. There was plenty of time for grand gestures and big sing alongs, so he didn't waste the opportunity to focus on some of the details as well.
More often than not his remembrances entailed dedications to friends and loved ones who have passed away: there was the story of Jimi Hendrix performing "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" the day after the album had been released; there was the song for John Lennon about the conversation he never got to have with him; and there was the ukulele rendition of George Harrison's "Something." Each was a somber, if touching, moment.
But McCartney, even more so than his fellow Beatles, has always had a special sense of humility. For a member of the world's most universally loved band, he's always been humble, and even when tragedy has touched his life he's carried himself with an admirably quiet dignity. Chalk it up to some British tendency for emotional repression if you will, but he's never let his troubles get him, or the rest of us, down. His comments about "Blackbird" and how it was inspired by the civil rights movement gave a particularly revealing glimpse into that pathos.
That everyman sensibility has long been a key trait of his music, as well, which is why McCartney has made it his business to simply get on with the show for so many years now. Back in the '70s, when Lennon had disavowed performing, it was Paul who threw himself into touring with Wings. Likewise, while those somber moments -- which also included a tribute to his late wife, Linda -- were given their space on Monday, they still weren't allowed to drag down the proceedings.
Rag on McCartney all you like for his pop sensibilities, his schlocky tendencies or his unabashed domesticity, but he knows how to write an uplifting anthem. Hell, "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be" were stadium-rock power ballads before stadium rock was even a thing. They thrive on broad strokes and a certain kind of profundity in simplicity that makes their messages seem universal. When the 18,000 fans inside the AAC raised their lit-up phones in the air during each of those songs and sang along, it was hard not to feel the camaraderie.
Of course, there's a limit to it all as well. Last night's set list covered just about everything concertgoers could've hoped for, including a healthy selection of Beatles cuts, but that also meant that there were few surprises. (Save, perhaps, for the fire canons that went off during "Live and Let Die." Who saw that coming?) McCartney delivered each song with gusto, but it was mainly all an excuse to hear reproductions of the original recorded versions and to sing along with the man himself.
(Spare a thought here for the backing band, whom for all their guitar faces and rock star poses were relegated to the background. Still a pretty solid gig, though...)
Even Paul himself seemed to feel a little boxed in at times, if ever so slightly. When he performed one of the tracks off his latest album, "Queenie Eye," he dragged out the ending to try bolstering audience participation. It was a valiant effort that saw most the crowd remain seated, but when he launched into "Lady Madonna" shortly thereafter the room burst to life once more, with most everyone on their feet.
In fact, even the response to Macca's "classic" solo material was minor compared to even the deepest Beatle cut. Then again, what else could be expected? It's hard to resist the pull of nostalgia, and pretty well everyone -- across generations, cultures and countries -- has fond memories of the Beatles and their music. Love them or dismiss them as blase, but there will never be another band with the same influence. And there will never be another Paul McCartney.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Inevitably, he finished the night off by driving in that very point, pulling out all the stops with a double encore that rolled out mega-hits like "Day Tripper," Yesterday" and "Get Back." It brought the night to a buzzing climax, which was the only way it really could have ended. It's how McCartney has always done things: The song may not go on forever, but it'll sure as hell go out with a bang.
Set list: Eight Days a Week Save Us All My Loving Listen to What the Man Said Let Me Roll It Paperback Writer My Valentine Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five The Long and Winding Road Maybe I'm Amazed I've Just Seen a Face We Can Work It Out Another Day And I Love Her Blackbird Here Today New Queenie Eye Lady Madonna All Together Now Lovely Rita Everybody Out There Eleanor Rigby Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! Someting Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da Band on the Run Back in the U.S.S.R. Let It Be Live and Let Die Hey Jude
1st Encore: Day Tripper Hi, Hi, Hi Get Back
2nd Encore: Yesterday Helter Skelter Golden Slumbers Carry That Weight The End