Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Con(cert) Report: Paul McCartney

As mentioned (numerous times) last week, I had the chance to see Paul McCartney perform live in concert last Friday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as part of his current Up and Coming tour.

This, as anyone who reads the blog knows, was a big, big deal for me.

I've written about The Beatles before, and I think I summed up my feelings about the band way back in the very first months of Exfanding, in a post about Neil Gaiman's Sandman series.

Here's what I wrote:

John Lennon was killed before I was even born, so I never had the experience to...experience...The Beatles as my parents did. By the time I discovered them, there would be no new albums to buy, no new music to wait in anticipation for.

When I listen to The Beatles now, I know that I am listening to the greatest band in history.

And I know that, in my mind, and in the minds of many others, there will never be a better, more significant and groundbreaking group of musicians. The Beatles were, and still are, the pinnacle of rock music.

When I listen to The Beatles, I know that, and I appreciate that, and I love what I'm listening to, and I'm moved by it, and the words of John Lennon are omnipresent in my every day existence.

But, at the same time, when I hear their songs, there is a twinge of sadness. A bit of regret--maybe a little jealousy? Because, while the music will live on forever, there won't be anything new.

And, more importantly, there won't be anything better.

Now, what all that had to do with Neil Gaiman's Sandman? Well, you'll just have to go back and read the entire article to find out.

But, honestly, I still feel that way about The Beatles, and I think I'll always feel that way. Their songs link me and you to the generation that came before, and to our parents and their times.

Blackbird links us all to the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement and Come Together is still as relevant now as it was then.

Beatles songs transcend time and manage--somehow--to bridge that staggering gap between generations in America today. As I sat down in my seat (it was pretty high up, but I could still see Sir Paul, and I could certainly hear him just fine), I looked around.

In the row behind me was a family of four; mother, father, and two kids in their tweens. To my right was a man in his 40s with his teenaged son. To my left was a group of friends in their 20s. Standing in line to get into the show, I noticed an elderly Chinese couple, most likely in their 80s, who didn't speak a word of English.

Transcendent, indeed.

People who know anything at all about me know how I feel about organized religion. I won't get into those feelings here, because a blog is certainly not the place for such things. (Especially one that focuses on topics like Batman and Darth Vader toasters.)

But I will say this: Seeing Paul McCartney made me realize something. As I sat there, the unmistakable chords of The Long and Winding Road echoing through the arena, a thought flashed right through my mind.

These songs are my prayers; these songs are my psalms.

Hey Jude. Let It Be. Yesterday.

I wasn't alive when The Beatles were together, I wasn't yet born when John Lennon was taken from the world.

But I was there the night that Paul played Here Today, a song he wrote for John just months after his death, with Yoko Ono and Sean and Julian Lennon sitting (standing, and clapping, and smiling) in the audience.

"It's the conversation we didn't get to have," Paul explained. And then he started to sing.

The crowd--the rowdy, raucous Las-Vegas-on-a-Friday-night crowd--was stone cold silent as the most famous voice in the world filled the arena.

I felt (and still feel, as I type this) a chill run the course of my body and a tear well up in my eyes.

In front of those eyes, Paul McCartney was singing to John Lennon.

My goodness.

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