Paul McCartney at the Bell Centre, Take 2
By Bernard Perusse, Gazette Music Columnist July 28, 2011
Paul McCartney performs Tuesday night during his first of two shows at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette
MONTREAL - Not surprisingly, the differences between Paul McCartney’s two nights at the Bell Centre were cosmetic, but not without significance. A concert so tightly planned and intricately staged leaves little room for spontaneity.
So if this were a concert review per se, it would read pretty much like the one I wrote about the first night. That`s my more philosophical, thought-out reaction, and it applies verbatim to what I saw on Night 2, Wednesday.
But the second show was more satisfying for me because it was my good fortune to see it almost like a fan, without deadline worries, constant note-taking or non-stop thinking about what needed to be mentioned in the review. During Live and Let Die, I even allowed myself the luxury of a weird hallucinatory take on the stage action. As fireworks went off al over the place and plumes of fire shot up in front and back of the stage, a grinning McCartney looked as if he was gleefully playing through the apocalypse.
And the image made a lot of sense. There are many who find themselves in times of trouble and discover that it`s not Mother Mary, but Father McCartney – that was to be the priest`s name in Eleanor Rigby – who brings, if not the words of wisdom, then the notes that soothe their soul. It`s been a constant comfort for many in crisis. You can ask the 34,000 people who sang, shouted, clapped, beamed and cried their way through a pair of three-hour sets over the two nights.
If anything, the second-night audience seemed to sing even louder, which is saying something. They shadowed every word of Blackbird, which was introduced with a different story, illustrating how it evolved from a Bach Bouree. They exploded when the song ended. They burst their lungs on George Harrison’s Something and shredded them even more when the time came for them to take over the chorus of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. They shook the arena singing Give Peace a Chance and annihilated the singalong climax of Hey Jude.
McCartney switched some of his between-song patter, explaining that the Foxey Lady coda added to Let Me Roll It was a tribute to Jimi Hendrix and reminiscing about Hendrix playing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band live two days after the album was released – a well-known anecdote, but always exciting to hear from the source. It’s typical of McCartney’s humility that he still thinks Hendrix was bestowing the honour. What a tribute? Sure, but what a song!
Proving that Here Today, his song about John Lennon, is difficult for him, he once again seemed almost overcome with emotion as he sang.
As part of a tradition, McCartney did respond to a couple of signs held aloft throughout the evening. One woman who just turned 50 wanted him to sign the Sgt. Pepper suit she was wearing. Another held a sign that said “Your smallest fan is in my belly. Sign it and we’ll call him Paul.” Both were brought onstage near the end of the show and he obliged. The pregnant fan got the autograph on her shirt.
Sadly, the woman who held up the “Sign my bottom” request all night went home with an unadorned posterior.
There were changes in the set list. Hello Goodbye was dropped in favour of Magical Mystery Tour, which worked better as an opener. Birthday was replaced by Got to Get You Into My Life. I’m Looking Through You was delightful Tuesday night, but its substitute, Things We Said Today, was even more inspired. And maybe it was tough to lose Day Tripper, but when I Saw Her Standing There is the consolation prize, few complain.
What stood out both nights is how hard McCartney and band can rock. Some ill-informed tweeters have expressed skepticism, the general gist being “Really? If you think a McCartney show is loud, you must be ready for the seniors home.”
But they were clearly not there. If there’s a hipster indie band out there that can rock as forcefully and as loud as I witnessed during Helter Skelter last night, I haven’t heard it. Talk about leaving a throat-shredding screamer for the encores. But then again, half of the challenging Abbey Road medley came at the very end, with McCartney and guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray paying homage to the John, Paul and George trade-offs on the original.
In that sense, both nights ended on the same note of positive energy. If a 20-something kid can be seen singing “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” like he means it, McCartney has done even more than he set out to do.
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