He may have recently turned 68, but Paul McCartney performed like a man one-quarter of his age before an adoring Toronto crowd.
Paul McCartney performs during the first of two nights in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on Aug. 8, 2010.
Baby, we’re amazed!
He may have recently turned 68, but Paul McCartney performed like a man one-quarter of his age before an adoring crowd at a packed Air Canada Centre last night.
For the first of two concerts—he returns to the ACC tonight—the living legend’s stamina was absolutely stupefying. He seemed to turn back the hands of time during a nearly three-hour marathon that featured 36 songs and nary a sip of water between them.
Backed by a tremendous quartet that included monster drummer (and chief dancer) Abe Laboriel Jr., the agelessly thin, limber Macca focused his set liberally on his Wings catalogue—particularly 1973’s exceptional Band On The Run—and another band of his that you may have heard of called the Beatles.
It didn’t take him long to get started on either. Looking resplendent in a black suit, he launched the show on a slightly mellow note with the Wings’ “Venus And Mars” before heaving it into another gear with “Rock Show,” the song’s second half, and then segueing directly into “Jet.” Several thousand fans’ fists ripped through the air in unison every time the title was chanted.
After “All My Loving,” the third song in and the first to herald back to the Four Lads Who Shook The World days, McCartney took a moment to acknowledge his surroundings.
“This is such a cool atmosphere,” he said. “I just want to drink it in for myself.”
Then it was back to business and a steady string of hits and classics. The jacket came off to reveal a white shirt and suspenders. Then McCartney spent the rest of the night switching from his signature left-handed bass to left-handed guitar, mandolin and, for the first go on the piano, “1985” and “The Long And Winding Road.”
His voice was in fine fettle. Although the sound heard from the side stage remained largely distorted and cavernous most of the night, McCartney delivered some pristine moments, including a dynamic falsetto on “Here Today.” It’s a song he told the audience he wrote after the 1980 passing of John Lennon about “the conversation we never had.”
McCartney generously acknowledged his two former Beatle mates who have shaken this mortal coil, strumming a ukulele version of “Something” that he said he played for George Harrison and tacking a coda of “Give Peace A Chance” onto “A Day In The Life.”
Whether you loved “Let ‘Em In,” “Drive My Car” or “Let It Be,” McCartney and his sidemen—keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens and guitarist Rusty Anderson with occasional help from supporting guitarist and bass player Brian Ray—didn’t mess with your memory cells. They kept the solos in the arrangement intact, with Wickens in particular re-creating trombone or sax parts with his fingers.
It wasn’t only McCartney’s performance ethic that made his performance so magical and memorable. It was also the Liverpool lad’s charm.
For example, he performed “Blackbird” on acoustic guitar and inadvertently mixed up the verses. He explained he was too busy trying to focus on everything and had unsuccessfully warned himself not to read the numerous signs that audience members had brought.
At least one of those signs, the one that read “My Dad drove me 2,000 km to hug a Beatle,” paid off, as he brought the young girl on stage during his second encore for the hug she requested.
He also joked about the arsenal of instruments he brought along for the tour.
“If you’re wondering why we have all these guitars up here and why we keep switching – we’re showing off,” he deadpanned.
And he told some great stories, including being complimented by the fact that Jimi Hendrix performed “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in concert in England two days after it was released back in 1967.
But there was one more ingredient that spiced up the immaculately written hits like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Get Back,” “Lady Madonna,” “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude,” that were paraded in front of the 18,000 in attendance: Paul McCartney’s zeal.
It’s clear from his performance that the fire and passion still burn deep within his soul. Whether he’s rocking out to “Back In The U.S.S.R,” romancing the masses with the ballad “My Love” or regaling us with the stoic anthem “Mull Of Kintyre” (with full highland band), McCartney’s genuine enthusiasm knocks his game up a notch.
Last night, he embodied the true definition of the word “inspiration.”