Paul McCartney performs Friday evening at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Energy and emotion flow in McCartney marathon
Saturday, October 15, 2005
By Susan Whitall / The Detroit Newshttp://www.detnews.com/2005/events/0510/15/ent-349551.htm
AUBURN HILLS -- Paul McCartney presented 16,000 souls at the Palace with a marathon show that would have served well to explain who he is to, say, a visiting alien from Venus.
Starting at about 8:30, a DJ served up mashups of McCartney songs that grew in volume, paired with displays of paintings (no doubt by Macca). One could sense the relief from older members of the audience when the cacophonous music simmered down in volume and World War II sirens heralded a documentary of McCartney's life, starting with his birth certificate.
It's fascinating stuff for McCartney and Beatles fans, but it goes on a bit and we didn't get to see the knight himself until just about 9 p.m., when he came bashing out, playing "Magical Mystery Tour" with his young band. He entertained the sellout crowd for the next two and a half hours, zipping through Beatles songs, Wings songs, and several from his new album "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard."
The album has drawn some warm reviews, and of the new material the audience seemed to like "Jenny Wren" the best. It appeared that more than a few fans mistook it at first for a Beatles song.
McCartney played his old Hofner left-handed bass for most of the Beatles songs like "Drive My Car," "I'll Get You," "Got to Get You Into My Life," etc. The Hofner is a bit more worn now than it was back in the '60s when he played it onstage, but burnished and mellow -- much like McCartney's voice, which hits an amazing number of high notes for his age, but sounds a little worn at the top this time out. He has to bear the brunt of all the singing, unlike in the Beatles when he had Lennon, Harrison, and even Starr to take over the leads.
McCartney switches to piano for "Fine Line" and the always-stirring "Maybe I'm Amazed," his early love song for Linda that still sounds raw and hopeful.
The next song was one only the hardcore fans had heard: "In Spite of All the Danger," a rockabillyish tune McCartney recorded with his pre-Beatles group, the Quarrymen (also featuring John Lennon and George Harrison). He explained that the recording cost five pounds, one from each boy, so each of them got to keep the old shellac record for a week -- except the drummer, who kept it for 23 years.
As always, McCartney's interaction with the audience is well-honed and ongoing. He kept up a patter about the many signs out in the audience, and how he feared that reading them would make him lose his place. But he read one anyway, "'Ben is asking Melissa in the fourth row to marry him.' ...Well go on, get down on your knees and ask her, Ben!" he ordered.
Ben complied, and someone yelled out "She said yes!"
"Well that's a first for me," McCartney quipped. "And I hope it's a last for you, Ben."
Later on, he had different sides of the arena sing the chorus to "Hey Jude," then the people on the floor, then just the men, then the women ..."And now just Ben and Melissa," McCartney said, pointing to the fourth row. They did, although nobody could hear a word.
Sideman Brian Ray, who switched back and forth from guitar to bass, depending upon which McCartney played, thanked us for "50 years of great music, from Hitsville to Mitch Ryder, all the way to the White Stripes," and everybody seemed happy to take credit for all musical feats from the Motor City.
Some of the best moments of the show were McCartney's softer songs like "Fixing a Hole" or "I Will" or "For No One," songs that seem slight at first hearing, but have the common thread of dreamy, quirky melodies that were always a nice counterpoint, on the Beatles albums, to the blunter acerbity of Lennon's songs. The otherworldly quality present in those songs, particularly "Let It Be," put the lie to idiotic jibes like Yoko Ono's recent one, that McCartney's songwriting was simpler and somehow less serious than that of her ex-husband, John Lennon.
McCartney's rockers, particularly "Jet," "Live and Let Die," and "Back in the U.S.S.R.," are what keep a vast arena like the Palace rocking and the energy high. But there's something about the elegance of the chords of "Hey Jude" or "Let It Be" that creates the most emotion. Cynthia Lennon recently was moved to tears, telling a reporter how touched she was that McCartney wrote a song as anthemic and enduring as "Hey Jude," to cheer up her son Julian when she and Lennon were getting divorced.
One of the best moments had to be the impromptu songwriting workshop, where McCartney played a snippet of Bach, on guitar, that he and George Harrison used to play together as boys messing around in McCartney's front parlor in Liverpool. He showed how a certain part of the melody that they got wrong, actually, fascinated him because "I liked the way the bass part had a little melody in it. So I took that bit and put it in this song," he said, chiming into the chords to "Blackbird," the beautiful ballad from the "White Album."
And an instance where video served him well was during "Good Day Sunshine," when McCartney explained how NASA woke up the Discovery shuttle astronauts with the song during the recent difficult mission, when they were doing tricky repairs. Video of the crew played behind the band, "with the first female space commander, an Irish lass named Eileen Collins," McCartney said.
McCartney's young band did yeoman's work replicating his Beatles songs; keyboardist John "Wix" Wickens used his hand and feet to do the intricate parts on "Eleanor Rigby."
Best of all, for anybody who sat up in a dorm room sipping Boone's Farm and listening to each Beatle rock out on a guitar solo on the song "The End," McCartney and his bandmates did a pretty good job of capturing that song's swaggering machismo, with first McCartney, then superb lead guitarist Rusty Anderson, then bassist/guitarist Ray taking George and John's parts respectively, battling it out for total guitar domination.
Paul McCartney performs again tonight at the Palace. Select tickets were released a few days ago and some are available for tonight's show.