Sir Paul McCartney needs no introduction. He is a living legend. The 64,000 people there to see him perform in Vancouver on Sunday night are a testament to how powerful and enduring “Beatle Mania” is to this day.
Some of life’s greatest moments and experiences are those that take you by surprise, they are the twists and turns that were unplanned yet left an unforgettable mark on your life. Then there are the life changes that are planned: graduating from school, moving to a new city or country, starting a new job. These events mark a permanent shift in the course of your life and yet, as you prepare for your daily life to change dramatically, it is nearly impossible to absorb the immensity of it all until afterwards. Seeing Sir Paul McCartney In play on November 25th at BC Place was a planned event, and yet, it was an experience that left a surprising and profound imprint on my memory. It is a night simply stated, I will never forget. It washed over me, through me & took me back to all the places and ways in which different Beatles have taken me over the years, while also forming new associations as Sir Paul played on.
I guess I should have known better but I was taken aback by the endless snaking lines of people outside BC Place an hour before show time. Once inside the chaos was no less intense. Merchandise tables made it nearly impossible for through traffic to get to other sections or concession line-ups. After eventually finding and settling into my seat, I was overcome by the enormity of the stadium. Further proof that the Beatles have stood the test of time was the extremely diverse crowd- from young children to teenagers to adults young and old- everyone was vibrating with excited anticipation as we waited for McCartney to take the stage. An older couple ended on my left. As the woman took her seat, she looked at me over and before remarking;” You’re a Beatles fan? You’re too young to like the Beatles.” Initially I was somewhat offended by that judging declaration but I retaliated with some positive self-talk: Even though I did not grow up watching the Ed Sullivan show and the 60s are a history lesson to me, I am no less of a valid fan. In fact, I bet I’m an even bigger fan than this old woman….” and with that, I shook it off. Nothing was going to taint my night with Paul. In the end, one thing is clear: we may have diverse histories, lived experiences and understandings of the world, but regardless of our differences, there is a transcendent quality in Paul McCartney’s music that resonates with both of us. The music of the Beatles touches both of our souls in that inexplicable way that only music can do. And so, in eager anticipation we waited, and waited, and waited. The countdown to 8pm came and went, and with each passing minute I grew increasingly anxious. I had the combined restlessness of a dozen children anticipating Christmas morning. By 8:35 I was desperately searching for any visual or audio clues that would give me a sign that Paul was ready to take the stage until finally, dimming lights and a burst of sound as the Magical Mystery tour pulled us back to the sounds and sights of the 60s.
Sir Paul McCartney did not show his age – the screens either blurred his wrinkles or he has had some excellent work done because looking down upon that stage, it was hard to believe that the man before me is already 70. It’s obvious that he has spent the better part of his life in the limelight. He carries himself with charisma, grace and gratitude. McCartney’s tributes to both John and George were extremely touching and brilliantly executed. His set was a fantastic mix of new and old- playing certain expected Beatles hits but interplaying them with some newer material and a number of Wings songs as well. With a catalogue as deep and diverse and his, he of course could not cover everything but he sure did try. Fans feasted on decades of material over the course of three hours and were further thrilled with two encores.
As the crowds spilled forth from BC Place, I was jealous of the out-of-towners whose journey home ended across the street. Then again, stumbling in post McCartney ecstasy up Robson and sharing in the experience with my fellow music lovers was something I am ecstatic not to of missed. There was agreement in the crowd that Helter Skelter was a surprising but loved song choice for his 2nd encore. I dare you to find a media review that did not absolutely loved all of what Paul delivered to his adoring fans. And they’re right. If you were lucky enough to take part in the night, you know that this is an event, an experience that will go down in your personal memoirs and memory banks. As I sit here trying to put the night into words, I can’t help but feel as though words are failing me. If it’s been a while since you’ve given the Beatles a listen, I would recommend All my Loving, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Yesterday, Something, Blackbird and Back in the USSR to help you fall in love all over again. If you are not familiar with Paul’s later band, Wings, give Let Me Roll It, Band on the Run & Jets a listen to.