McCartney remains keeper of the Beatle flame
Jan 5 2006
Writer Paul Collins recalls the impression Paul McCartney made when
he played Boston in 2005 and reflects on the legend and legacy of
the former Beatle
THE year of 2005 has become history. As is so often the case, the
year seems to have rushed by us in a soft blur, leaving us a bit
stunned, scratching our heads in collective wonder at how it had
slipped through our hands so quickly.
As we stand poised on the crest the new year, we give pause to look
back over these last 12 months and on those things that made us
laugh, made us cry, put us on the edge of our collective seats, and
that thrilled us.
In short, we remember those things that touched us, struck a chord
in us, and made us happy. We recall those artists who left a lasting
impression, as they entertained us.
When I look back on this year in entertainment, my mind's eye sees
images of Paul McCartney threading their way through the projector
in my brain. They are images that make me smile when I pull them up
from that place where I keep my most treasured memories.
In September, I was a member of a sold-out audience in Boston that
watched Paul McCartney take the stage, and effortlessly turn back
the clock, if only for an all-too-brief period of time.
After four decades of standing in the harsh glare of the public
spotlight, his mass appeal has not faded. The magic is still there
in McCartney, and one could feel it in the air when he took the
The atmosphere in Boston's Garden was charged, and it tingled with
an excitement that was palpable as McCartney proved once again that
he's still rock's most enduring superstar. He is also a tangible
proof point of the fact that after all these many years, the Beatle
flame still burns brightly.
In Boston, I watched him turn back the hands of time in a
performance that left no doubt in anyone's mind that the passing of
time has not eroded or diminished his skills and talents in any way,
shape or form.
For the years have been kind to McCartney, as at 63 he looks and
sounds great, and he still has the energy of a teenager on stage.
Rock music's marathon man can still blow the roof off of the concert
hall, and he clearly, still loves performing. He still tears into
songs with that same intensity and passion as he did all those years
For many among the Boston audience, there were surely a series of
faded images of that long-ago night in 1964 when Ed Sullivan first
introduced the Beatles to America that were winding their way
through the projector in their mind's eye.
As I say, for a few hours he turned back the hands of time. The
crowd saw what they paid the price of admission for.
They saw Paul, who is still the charmer. Paul, the "cute" Beatle,
and Paul, the ultimate rocker who still has the power to grab an
audience by its collective lapels, pull them right out of their
seats and shake them up.
He can rock the building to its foundation as he belts out a rough
and raw Helter Skelter, and then he can touch our tears with the
sweeping beauty of The Long and Winding Road, the haunting allure of
For No One, or the stunning visual imagery of Penny Lane.
He's Paul, the most successful singer/songwriter in history. Paul,
half of the writing team that created a songbook that took rock
music off the streets and out of the back alleys, brought it out
into the sunlight and made it an art form.
The portfolio of timeless songs that Lennon and McCartney penned
together became the soundtrack to the lives of the generation that
was so touched by them.
A generation that still remembers how they followed the Beatles,
from their days as a leather jacket-clad Liverpool street band, to
command performances before the Queen, to Paul's massive concert in
Moscow's Red Square as the guest of the President of Russia.
In the here and now, McCartney really delivered on stage in Boston.
From his opening number Magical Mystery Tour, right through to his
last song of the evening, he captivated his audience completely
serving up a plate-full of wonderful memories.
His songs swept the audience up and took them on a musical odyssey
through his long career.
Time and again he brought them to their feet when he sang classic
songs from his Beatles days, tunes from his solo career in Wings,
and a healthy dose of material from his new CD Chaos and Creation in
the Backyard, a collection of innovative and fresh new songs that is
his best work in many years.
His stage presence and audience rapport are still very much in tact,
as he joked with the crowd all night long, in addition to sharing
some personal and touching remembrances of John Lennon and George
Harrison, and their now fabled childhood in Liverpool.
In the era of an increasingly fickle public whose attention span is
steadily shrinking, and where 20-something rock performers are only
as good as the song they happen to have on the charts at the moment,
few if any artists can boast of McCartney's mind-boggling longevity
and staying power.
In the hearts and minds of a generation who, way back when, were
searching desperately for a hero after losing their innocence
forever in the wake of John Kennedy's assassination, the Beatles
came along and filled that gap.
Paul, and his band mates, became heroes of a sort to a generation,
and in the process, they also became the kings of their teenage
rock 'n' roll dreams.
Perhaps this is what is at the core of why so many people are still
drawn to McCartney like a moth to a flame so many years after they
first saw him.
For when all is said and done, the reason that the fans are ready
and willing to pay the obscene ticket prices is for the opportunity
to have that once in a lifetime chance to see Paul sing the Beatles
songs once again.
For his enduring presence and his music from that golden period in
rock is, in the final analysis, for many, a vehicle back to the
serene, uncomplicated long-ago dream world of lost youth.
He offers them a chance to relive those old days and to forget about
life for a couple of hours. He can, and does, take them back to a
time when life seemed so much easier, when the promises that
tomorrow held were infinite, and where middle age was so far away
that it didn't even exist in their minds.
To this end, he did not disappoint when he ripped into songs like
Back in the USSR, Hey Jude, Band on the Run, and an absolute killer
version of Live and Let Die. He took them back there to that place
one last time.
As I say, it was a magical evening with a still fresh and viable
Paul McCartney. A night that saw half-forgotten memories from long
ago and far away dragged out of those dusty corners of the mind and
into the sunlight of today.
As he has done throughout his long career, McCartney left his
audience on their feet, smiling, happy, and screaming for more.
And as I sat there watching him close out, I was struck by a thought
that kept drifting through my mind. Not only is Paul McCartney the
most successful singer/songwriter in history, and an enduring
musical legend, above all else, Paul remains the keeper of the
Paul Collins is an American freelance writer and public relations
consultant who lives in Massachusetts.
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