At 72, Paul McCartney proved at the AAC that he can still amaze — and still surprise
By Robert Wilonsky
October 14, 2014
Thirty minutes before showtime at the American Airlines Center came the history lesson. Images began to scroll down the screens bracketing the stage. There was the baby boy who becomes the grinning toddler who becomes the tousled young man who becomes the mop-topped pop star, and the accomplices who become bandmates who become icons. The banner headlines streamed by; so too the faces of other icons of their era (Hendrix, Townshend, McGraw and McQueen). The montage came with a wry, winking soundtrack: an early-days cover of “Besame Mucho,” the Muzaked rendition of “I Wanna Be Your Man,” the dance remix of “Twist and Shout,” Esther Phillips’ so-slinky “And I Love Him,” the solo what-the “Temporary Secretary.”
Paul McCartney, backed by longtime drummer Abraham Laboriel Jr., at the American Airlines Center Monday night. (Brandon Wade/Special contributor)
Then, finally, it was time for The Man himself: Paul McCartney, 72 in June but looking and sounding and carrying on like a much younger man. He opened with “Eight Days a Week,” recorded by the Beatles in the first week of October 1964. Surely its presence at the starting line of this Monday-night marathon was intentional, an anniversary present to the young-and-old-and-in-between audience that sang along with every word.
But on this 50th anniversary (and a few weeks) of the Beatles’ performance at Memorial Auditorium, this was not just a magical mystery tour through the ancient scrolls we’ve long taken for granted like something that’s always been there. Just as suddenly McCartney and his band ripped into “Save Us” off last year’s New, and what plays on record like a bouncy pop toss-off storms the live stage. The flab is excised in concert, where it’s every bit as sinewy as McCartney’s 2013 Nirvana joint “Cut Me Some Slack.” It holds its own against the proto-punk that flared its nostrils late into the night: the still-vital “Helter Skelter.” McCartney can still shriek-snarl-spit it out like the 26-year-old who wrote it. He makes most young comers sound, and look, like pale pretenders.
Sir Paul, for whom every gig is an audition (Brandon Wade/Special contributor)
Back and forth and back and forth he went during the course of a three-hour, 39-song set (!) — from the beloved old songs (“Day Tripper,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Let It Be,” Hey Jude,” “Golden Slumbers” and on and on) to the unfamiliar-to-most new ones (“Queenie Eye,” “New”) to the sorta-forgotten ones (1971′s “Another Day,” Wings’ “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”) to the still-sharp deep cuts (“All Together Now” and, from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Lovely Rita” and John Lennon’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”) Though the set lists seldom change from city to city on this “Out There!” tour — Dallas received almost the same show as Lubbock two weeks ago, without the Buddy Holly homage, sadly — McCartney can still surprise, still dazzle, still wow.
Those who would dismiss him as the old man selling pre-packaged, pre-chewed history are missing out; this is far more than just hearing a Beatle sing Beatles songs to collect a check and skip town. When he sings George Harrison’s “Something” — first alone, on ukulele, then with the full band behind him — it’s a rousing tribute. And when, alone, he performs 1982′s Tug of War offering “Here Today” — a tribute to John Lennon written less than a year after his murder — it’s wrenching. Its performance Monday night was the only time McCartney’s voice appeared to crack, right around the time he got to the words “what about the night we cried because there wasn’t any reason left to keep it all inside.”
Even at this late date he’s unafraid to play to the packed arena all by his lonesome. He offered solo, acoustic renderings of “Blackbird” and “Yesterday,” the most-covered song of all time that only matters when performed by its author. If you think you never want or need to hear these songs again, McCartney and an acoustic guitar are there to set you straight.
Yet he also remains the good-time showman: He told stories about writing songs with Lennon and hanging with Hendrix (after a little “Foxy Lady,” no less) and glided back and forth between bass and guitar and keybs and remarked repeatedly about how the Dallas Cowboys never should have been able to beat the Seahawks in Seattle (his “How ’bout them Cowboys” comment may have been the night’s most astonishing moment). And “Live and Let Die” popped off more flame, fireworks and fury than an entire KISS show.
“Do you wanna keep rocking?” he asked after opening the first encore set with “Day Tripper.” He answered his own question: “I do.” He meant it. He means it.
Below, some highlights. Some, not all.
October 13, 2014
Big Red Truck in Dallas
Photo: Tammy Chambers
Photo: Tammy Chambers
Photo: Alexandra Reyes
Photo: MJ Kim