What keeps Paul McCartney on the road?
by Nathan Poppe
Published: July 14, 2017
As with every Paul McCartney tour, "One On One" features dozens of classics from the most beloved catalog in popular music, spanning Paul’s entire career — as a solo artist, a member of Wings and as a Beatle. [Photo provided by MJ Kim]
For a knighted pop singer with a career stretching nearly 60 years, Paul McCartney seems like such a normal person.
The most scandalous thing I could find on TMZ was a video of him getting rejected alongside Beck at the doors of a club.
I read his latest interview with Rolling Stone and couldn't help but notice how cooly the 75-year-old performer dissected The Beatles' legacy.
“We always tried to be the best band in Liverpool,” McCartney told the magazine. “Then we tried to be the best band in England. Then we tried to be the best in the world.”
There's only a handful of musicians who could say something like that without appearing arrogant. McCartney's reflection on his mop-topped phase sounds so matter of fact, and there was very little precedent for what The Beatles did in their touring years. Those suits, songs and the resulting screams are the building blocks of arena tours and today's high-profile music entertainment.
The newest leg of the "One On One" tour lands in Oklahoma City on Monday and marks Sir Paul's return to the Chesapeake Energy Arena roughly 15 years after he helped open the downtown venue. He'll play nearly 40 songs over the course of three hours, a feat he'll accomplish without even taking a break for water.
In Rolling Stone, Paul McCartney promised a few surprises at his Oklahoma City tour stop, including a cut off "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which turned 50 this year. [Photo provided by MJ Kim]
“Can you imagine The Beatles stopping like, ‘Excuse me, hang on folks,' and go, glug, glug, glug?” he told Rolling Stone. “We just didn't do that, so I'm not raised in the ‘drink water' school. But before and after, I'll do that. But once I get on, I can stay on and do my thing.”
Building audience, legacy
So what keeps McCartney in the concert game? Why's he still on the road so often? His band wrote the touring rules decades ago, and he's got little to prove to fans.
Maybe he's always got a creative itch to scratch.
Look back a couple of years ago at “Hope for the Future.” It was a song McCartney wrote for the 2014 video game “Destiny,” one of the most expensively produced ever. It's full of hope, optimism and sadly fell flat on its face. The music video plants a Paulogram (hologram Paul) into the alien landscape of the video game. The Brit looks about as comfortable as an itch on that part of my back that'll never get covered with sunscreen.
A year later however, he'd collaborate on “FourFiveSeconds” alongside Rihanna and Kanye West. It's an acoustic pop gem with as much heart as “Let It Be” and a reminder of the simplicity that the Beatles worked so hard to perfect.
Maybe McCartney doesn't want to be forgotten. That's harder to believe, though. After all, every year seems to mark a significant album anniversary (happy 50th birthday to "Sgt. Pepper's"), and there isn't a medium The Beatles haven't conquered. After the music streaming behemoth Spotify debuted the band's catalog on Christmas Eve, more than 6.5 million people tuned within 100 days. Spotify streamed 2,793 years of The Beatles in three months.
Paul McCartney reacts to the crowd after taking the stage at the then-Ford Center in 2002. [Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman Archives]
It often takes an obit to remind people of a special talent. McCartney just continues to build an even bigger audience and his star power hasn't dipped in his twilight years.
I figure McCartney must have something to prove to himself. There's gotta be a thirst stemmed in something deeper than he'd be bored retiring. It can't be the money. He could likely take a whole year off and still not fall too far off Forbes' list of highest paid celebrities. Genius-level talent doesn't sit still, and I picture McCartney tackles an arena like an everyday person mows the lawn or buys groceries.
He grew up in the spotlight, escaped an everyday life in Liverpool and made it happen surrounded by his best friends.
Touring is just what he does. When you're on for so many years, there's no off switch.
After all, who'd want to stop leading the biggest band in the world?
In this Feb. 9, 1964, file photo, The Beatles perform on the CBS "Ed Sullivan Show" in New York. [AP Photo]