rockinlibrarian: (love)
Twenty-one years ago approximately exactly (it was sometime in the first half of the summer) I had a life-changing experience. It was one of those things where all the evidence had been slowly gathering over the course of your life, and you enjoyed the bits and pieces as they came without thinking too hard about it, but suddenly one day one final piece makes all the others snap together and NOTHING IS EVER THE SAME AFTERWARD, like watching the UK Office and finding yourself suddenly Imaginarily Married, for example. It's part of your very identity taking shape, never to be cast aside, never to be just a passing fad, but a permanent HI-I'M-AMY-AND-THIS-IS-WHAT-I-LOVE, and it becomes half your Internet alias, once the Internet becomes common enough that you need an alias for it.

So my Bucket List gained an item: someday I MUST experience that When-Everything-Gelled-Moment again, but Live In Person. But it seemed like it might never happen, because the guy was getting OLD, you know? And he kept not coming to Pittsburgh. But it turned out, reportedly, that this was only because Pittsburgh's venues could no longer support his stage set-up, so when we built a new arena a few years ago that could, he was the FIRST artist to play there. And a few years later, putting together his current tour, Pittsburgh was one of the first two US cities booked. I think he missed us.

Then a month or so ago he got sick and cancelled the rest of his gigs in June. WE WOULD BE ONLY HIS SECOND SHOW AFTER THIS HIATUS. What if he was still sick? (I'd tried to see his old bandmate Ringo in concert once, but HE'D gotten laryngitis the day of the show and cancelled a few hours before. Can you blame me being a little nervous, here?) As the day got closer, and reports from the front assured us he was doing well, cancellation seemed less likely. But what if we were setting ourselves up for disappointment, here? What if he was well enough to perform, but not quite well enough to give it his all? I'd seen him do an appearance on a talk show last year where he must have been under the weather, because his voice didn't sound quite right, and the ENERGY wasn't quite there, and it made me sad, like maybe he WAS getting too old. But apparently he WAS just sick, because the next performance I saw on TV was right back up to standard.

IT'S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING, I decided. I have his music and I've seen him on TV so many times, if at THIS concert he's not quite up to snuff, that's fine, because the point is I'm IN THE SAME ROOM as my Musical Hero, watching him make music in person for once. Just to say I was there.

So I'd play that up. I would Document the Experience accordingly. Except I forgot to take a picture of the crab cake salad I had before the show until after we'd finished so all I got was this:
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My sister, her mother- and aunt-in-law, and I ate at Joe's Crab Shack at Station Square, then decided to walk across the river to the arena even though it was threatening to rain.
004 (1024x768) Good Eeeeevening, Pittsburgh!

We arrived and joined a HUGE throng of folks waiting outside-- they didn't open the doors until a half-hour before, apparently, which was luckily just as we got there.
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We ran into one of Maggie's best friends and her husband at that point. The three pairs of us were all going in the same door, but sitting separately once there. Maggie and I were sitting down near the balcony of the top tier, immediately stage-left. They were really kind of cool seats. But to get to them we had to start at the top and walk down the Most Terrifying Non-Haunted Staircase Of Ever.
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I'm not sure you can get the full effect from the picture. Maggie mentioned how cool it would be to be an usher here and get to see ALL THE CONCERTS, but I'm pretty sure you have to be part mountain goat to work in THIS section at least. If we had sat somewhere else I may have gotten up to dance. Here I was very happy to stay firmly seated, thank you very much.
008 (1024x768) That's the space behind the stage, where nobody sits.

In lieu of an opening act, there was a sort of slideshow thing happening on the screens while mostly remixes and covers of Paul's songs and Beatles songs in general played for about half an hour. 009 (1024x768) The music was interesting and certainly pleasant, and the wait was all right because there were still loads of people coming in or waiting in line for the restroom.

Meanwhile, Maggie's friend messaged her a set list she'd found online. I didn't feel any need to be Spoilered-- who knew how accurate the list would be anyway-- and wasn't really paying attention as Maggie read it aloud until she said "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" and I squealed, because, of all LESS-well-known songs he could pull from to play, I'd been wishing for that one, so I hoped THAT would play out. Then as she continued to read down the list and went on to a page AFTER "Hey Jude"-- I was like, "Wait, what? A whole page AFTER 'Hey Jude'? But he ALWAYS ends with that!" -- we looked again and saw that page was actually two encore sets. And the second encore ended with "The End." THAT'S IT, I decided. We HAD to get him out for both encores if he was going to end with "The End!"

I can't decide now whether to sum things up or go through the actual set list so you can see it ALL! ...I copied the list from the review in the newspaper the next day. There are just a few minor changes from the list Kate had found, notably playing "Yellow Submarine" in honor of Ringo's birthday. TRIVIA FACT I ACTUALLY DIDN'T KNOW BEFORE: It was also Paul's dad's birthday. Ringo and Paul's dad had the same birthday. Different years, obviously.

Anyway, here we are, here's our view of the stage:
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As soon as he came out, my sister and I both said, "He looks GOOD!" That time off really did him good-- he seemed almost YOUTHFUL, even, full of energy and oh so much charisma. In fact, once he took the stage I swear he did not so much as take a sip of water for the next THREE HOURS. His BAND would take breaks. He'd just use those opportunities to play solo for awhile.

He played four songs from his new album, conveniently entitled NEW (conveniently at least until he comes out with an album AFTER this), and "My Valentine," but everything else was over 30 years old. But it wasn't like a greatest hits collection, either-- I happened to know every song he played, barely (as I'll note later), but the songs seemed mainly chosen because they ROCKED the most, or would otherwise translate well live on stage. And they did. There wasn't a clunker in the bunch.

Here's the set list with my notes:
"Eight Days a Week"-- the whole audience started singing along immediately. Actually pretty much everyone sang the entire time.
"Save Us"-- from the New album
"All My Loving" --it was during this one, actually, I noticed how weirdly (awesomely) ROCK AND ROLL it was. People like to brush off Paul McCartney as being too cheesy or too pop or too Silly Love Songs (which incidentally he did NOT play), but this concert rocked and rocked hard. When even "All My Loving" has a bit of an edge to it, you'd better believe it!
"Listen to What the Man Said"
"Let Me Roll It" --this evolved into a short but incredibly rocking jam of "Foxy Lady." Then he told the story of how Jimi Hendrix learned "Sgt. Pepper" in two days to perform it in concert, then added a funny story I hadn't heard about Jimi's guitar going super out of tune in the middle of the show so he pulled Eric Clapton out of the audience as the only one who could possibly tune it.
"Paperback Writer"
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"My Valentine" --the baby grand was on our side of the stage, and I am SUCH a SUCKER for the piano, that I got super-excited every time he went toward it and started squealing "PIANOPIANOPIANO!" like the 80's spaceman in The Lego Movie says "SPACESHIPSPACESHIPSPACESHIP!"
"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" --Seriously, this is such a ROLLICKING piano song. I'm so glad he played it.
"The Long and Winding Road"
"Maybe I'm Amazed" -His voice was strained on this, which somehow made it even clearer that this is, in and of itself, an amazing song. Because it was BLOWING ME AWAY even with his singing not up to scratch.

"I've Just Seen a Face" --Back to the guitar. This is another song not enough people know (relatively. For a Beatles song) and I'm so glad he played it.
"Yellow Submarine"
"We Can Work It Out"
"Another Day"
"And I Love Her" --so gorgeous. The drummer was playing bongos and the keyboardist was on woodblock. My appreciation for the backup band absolutely soared during this show. I'd never thought about it, but you'd better be PRETTY DANG GOOD to play with the arguably-or-not-even Greatest Living Rock Legend In the World. And yet nobody gives them any notice-- they're just the backup band, nobody knows who THEY are. But they seriously rocked. And that keyboardist-- not only is he synthesising all the instruments that aren't actually there, he's also PLAYING actual auxiliary instruments: harmonica, woodblock, once he was even playing an additional guitar. He's not the keyboardist, he's a ONE-MAN-BAND!
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"Blackbird" --went up to the front of the stage, which raised in the air and had some really beautiful blue lighting effects
"Here Today" --still on the elevator, the blue lighting takes on a water effect. This is only the second time I've ever heard this song (the first time only a couple months ago), even though it's apparently existed since the early 80s. WHAT THE HECK. I mean it was only about the third time I'd ever heard "My Valentine" (really, I ought to look into owning that one-- it strikes me how much more complex it is than I remember every time I hear it), but that's only a couple years old. It's not like I'd somehow TOTALLY MISSED IT FOR THIRTY YEARS.
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He got the psychedelic upright piano out for the next three. Maggie kept saying how much she loves this piano. I love that I RECOGNIZE this piano, that this piano TRAVELS THE WORLD WITH HIM. I suppose all the instruments do, but they stand out more when they're painted psychedelic colors.
"New" --from, you know, THAT album
"Queenie Eye" --also from that album
"Lady Madonna"

"All Together Now" --I got all excited and thought "I have to tell the kids about this one!" Afterward he said, "That one was for the kids." YES, YES I KNOW!
"Lovely Rita" --Hey, it's my mostly theoretical future band!
"Everybody Out There" --another "NEW" song
"Eleanor Rigby" --He played a gentle guitar part here while the keyboardist provided the usual strings on synthesizer
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite"--I was like, Idaknow, why would he play OTHER people's songs, but then they did this and it was awesome so he can play whomever's dang songs he wants
"Something" --Likewise. He did the same arrangement as they did in the Concert for George, with the ukulele. He prefaced it with the same story, and it was interesting hearing him tell the story again, since it wasn't in the same words exactly. He also mentioned how George was into ukuleles before ukuleles were cool. Watching this, especially with the pictures of George in the background, made me sad that I'll never get to see HIM in concert...
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" --he said, "In this song there'll be a part for YOU all to sing by yourselves!" But we sang the whole thing anyway.
"Band on the Run"
"Back in the U.S.S.R." --after this, as he headed back to the baby grand (PIANO!) he told a story about playing in Moscow, the first Western act at the venue, and he still sounded so amazed about that fact
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"Let It Be" --the audience started waving lit cell phones like lighters
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Maggie joined in.
"Live and Let Die"-- I've seen this done on TV, and knew it came with pyrotechnics, but those things are INTENSE in real life! 020 (1024x767) FEEL THE HEAT. Maggie was like "Those are real fireworks."
"Hey Jude"

Oh yeah, my hands were starting to chafe from clapping, but I wouldn't stop because it was ENCORE time! This whole encore set was just PURE, PURE rock and roll. It was so awesome:
"Day Tripper"
"Hi, Hi, Hi"
"Get Back"

Second Encore
"Yesterday" --more amazing than this not showing up until the second encore is that I don't think I would ever have missed it. HE HAS THAT MANY LEGENDARY SONGS.
"Helter Skelter" --"You still want more? You asked for it," he said before wailing into this.
"Golden Slumbers"/"Carry That Weight"/"The End" --the most amazing ending ever is still the most amazing ending ever live. I was SO, SO grateful we got to see this whole thing!

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Hey look, I was here!

On the whole, I was struck by how obvious it was that we were watching someone IN HIS ELEMENT. I'd been thinking how weird his life has been, how he's been INSANELY WORLD-FAMOUS since he was barely an adult, and how weird it must be listening to all these people sing songs he wrote 50 years ago, but then I realized-- no. THIS was exactly where he wanted to be. The fame stuff-- that was all craziness that happened in that space in between his own home and the concert halls. IN the concert halls it was just the music. Nothing to do with fame. He was living his dream-- playing music and listening to his band make music and listening to the crowd love the music. You could tell in the enthusiasm he brought to the three--two and a half--whatever-- songs in this show that he hadn't even written. You could tell in the way he tended to turn away from the audience when one of the other band members had a solo, as if to say, "Stop looking at me now, it's my friend here's turn in the limelight," in the way he laughed and joked onstage with the band or the crew or the audience. He was ALIVE. In that moment, in the concert hall, he was existing in that sacred space where his talents meet the needs of the world, and you could feel it.

Now I'm not sure when I'll ever start feeling like listening to anyone else's music again...

EDIT: Here's a nice interview he did the day before this concert, which is extra-interesting to read in light thereof. Now we know what goes on in his mind... that's kind of a cheap Beatles song reference when it's neither a) one of his songs, nor b) a good song at all, but never mind.
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