One on One with Paul McCartneyPosted on May 8, 2016 by Matthew Martin Music BlogsShare On: Tweet There was no opening act. There was no auto-tune. There was no lip-syncing. There was no intermission. For three hours, the seventy-three year old Paul McCartney delighted, dazzled and downright entertained nearly 20,000 fans aged eight to eighty. And I was there to see it. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to see a Beatle live and in concert. And not just a Beatle, but a founder of Wings (my favorite band of the 70’s) and a decades-long solo entertainer. He is the only musician in history to have number one singles as a solo artist, as well as part of a duo, a trio, a quartet, a quintet, and a sextet. He is a living legend and if we’re being honest, probably doesn’t have too many more tours left. For years I told my wife “If Paul McCartney ever comes within a 250 mile radius of us, we’re going to see him.” And he came within sixty miles: To have him make a stop in Little Rock, Arkansas (a mere hour from my house) meant I had to go. I had to go. I had to. I did. My infatuation with the Beatles begins with my childhood. I was born in 1984, which means I am supposed to be way too young to appreciate music from the 60’s and 70’s, but my mother made sure that I listened to a variety of artists and songs growing up. More often than not the radio dial in our house was set to Cool95, a local station around these parts that played oldies (music hits from the 50’s and 60’s). It’s through Cool95 that I discovered the Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Elvis and of course, the Beatles. And though I will always be an “Elvis” guy, the Beatles are my favorite band of all time. Their music consistently evolved as they never settled into a groove or fell back on a trend for the sake of it. It seemed like every two albums they were doing something new. Their first two LPs (Please Please Me and With the Beatles) were raw and manic. The next two (Beatles for Sale and Hard Day’s Night) slowed things down and showed the band was willing to branch into new territory (even if their label wasn’t). Their next two albums (Help! and Rubber Soul) mark the real first turning point for the band, as their style started to evolve (with Help!) away from the “Beatles sound” they had cultivated, and by Rubber Soul, the band was an entirely new creature. Experimentation was the name of the game on their next two records (Revolver and Sgt. Peppers) as the quartet moved away from writing and recording songs that could be performed in front of a live audience. The music on those albums was unlike anything ever heard before. There were still lyrics, chords, harmonies, melodies, verses and choruses, but the way they were delivered was revolutionary. The two-disc White Album and its follow up, Abbey Road, turned the dial back away from psychedelia and into more traditional rock music (albeit with a few bizarre offerings here and there), just as the group had reached its breaking point (their final album Let it Be would not be released until after the group had formally gone their separate ways). As the band evolved it was often Paul who led the charge to change. The avant garde style that they made famous with Revolver and Sgt. Peppers was Paul’s idea (with Eleanor Rigby acting as kind of the gateway to that new musical world). After every band in the world was following their lead, it was Paul who suggested the band return to their roots with the White Album, and get back to recording together in the studio with the Let it Be and Abbey Road sessions. And yet, it was also Paul who kicked-off the idea of the band going off on their own and recording solo-songs, when he recorded Yesterday by himself for the Help! album in 1965. When the Beatles were ready to officially dissolve and break off into solo careers, it was Paul who first publicly announced “the Beatle thing is over” (even though John—privately—had already moved on), and it was Paul who sued to have the Beatles formally and legally dissolved. And with that the greatest band in the history of ever was finished. All of them went their own way, though occasionally a couple of them would team up to work on each others albums. As for Paul, he released a pair of solo LPs (McCartney and Ram) before forming Wings with wife Linda and guitarist Denny Laine. Though comparisons to the Beatles were immediate, Paul and company worked to distance themselves initially from the 60’s sensation; for example, when touring they never played Beatles songs. Nevertheless, the comparisons were there, and the band’s first two albums (Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway) doubly-suffered as a result. Under great pressure and needing a hit that would establish the band as a worthy successor to the Beatles, Wings recorded the album Band on the Run at EMI’s ramshackle studio in Nigeria. The album was a smash hit and not only gave Wings credibility as a band, but restored McCartney’s credibility as a song-writer. With renewed confidence, the band’s live act finally started featuring songs from McCartney’s Beatles’ repertoire. After the release of Venus and Mars (my personal favorite Wings album), the group toured the world, released another big hit album (Wings at the Speed of Sound) and their first live record, Wings Over America, (my personal favorite live album of all time). The high of 1973-1976 wore off, however, as London Town underachieved and Back to the Egg was a disappointment. After Back to the Egg, Paul returned to solo-recording, and for over thirty five years that’s what he’s been doing. Fifteen or so albums (not counting numerous compilation records, live albums, classical recordings, and his work with The Fireman) have been released, with no end in sight. At seventy-three he’s still as busy as he was at twenty-three. Seeing him live in concert, especially from as high up as I was (where he looked like a faceless little stick man strumming an itty bitty guitar), you’d never guess he was as old as he was. He’s probably performed all of the songs he sang a hundred-plus times in concerts all over the world, but to each one he brought energy, passion and charm. As mentioned at the top of the article, there were no opening acts or warm up performances to get the crowd in the mood. My wife and I sat in our seats a good forty-five minutes before he appeared and the area was already half-full and filling fast. We didn’t need a warm up. We were ready. As we waited Beatles, Wings and solo hits played over the sound system, which only fueled the anticipation. And then the moment finally came and for the next three hours he delighted everyone in the room with songs from all eras. I saw Paul McCartney live. I still can’t believe it. Unless Elvis Presley rises from the grave and decides to do one more show, I will never experience anything like it again. (we don’t know how to take a selfie) (Verizon Arena in Little Rock was jacked and ready to go when the show started) (The video screen was a necessity if you wanted to actually SEE Paul McCartney live) It was an experience I’ll never forget and will cherish forever. If you ever have the chance to see your favorite musician in concert, you simply must do it!