Paul McCartney leaves Vancouver's Beatles fans with little to complain about

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At B.C. Place on Sunday, November 25

Pretty well all of the world’s biggest pop and rock acts have played Vancouver since the '60s. The Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, U2, Guns N’ Roses—our city has played host to all of them over the last four decades or so. The only huge name that hadn’t made it here since the decade of discontent, it seems, was Paul McCartney.

That all changed last night, of course.

For the first time since the Beatles played Empire Stadium in August of ’64, McCartney’s violin-shaped Hofner bass was visible to the hordes of Vancouverites who’d followed every moment of the music legend’s life since the Fab Four released “Love Me Do” back in ’62.

To make things even more special, rumours were rampant that Springsteen himself was going to fly in in advance of his show at Rogers Arena tonight (November 26) so he and his pal could finish the set they started in London’s Hyde Park last July before being silenced by plug-pulling authorities who forgot that curfews don’t count when it comes to the Beatle ‘n’ the Boss.

As it turned out, though, Springsteen was a no-show—damn those rumour-mongers!—but it didn’t matter all that much. What the concert lacked in additional star power it more than made up for with additional song power. During his marathon three-hour set McCartney performed no fewer than 38 songs, the majority stone-cold Beatles classics.

And you know that can’t be bad.

The Beatles tunes chosen tended, obviously, towards the ones McCartney sang lead on and/or had the main role in composing, the universal “Lennon-McCartney” songwriting credit notwithstanding. But he didn’t forget his old bandmates, inserting a snippet of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” into “A Day in the Life”, and pulling out the ukulele George Harrison once gave him for a version of the latter’s beloved Abbey Road hit, “Something”. There was no mention at all of Ringo Starr, although the famously affable drummer’s happy-go-lucky spirit was felt in the positive vibes put out by McCartney’s ace skin-basher, Abe Laboriel Jr.

The most “McCartneyish” Beatles numbers were the ballads he performed solo on acoustic guitar, including “Blackbird”, “And I Love Her”, and, of course, “Yesterday”, which kicked off his second encore, and was followed by the Wings hit “Mull of Kintyre”, which featured an appearance by the Delta Police Pipe Band. The evening’s other Wings songs were “Band on the Run”, “Jet”, “Junior’s Farm”, “Mrs. Vandebilt”, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”, “Live and Let Die” (which boasted stunning pyrotechnics), and “Let Me Roll It” (which included a few bars of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”). Conspicuous by their absence were any songs from Wings’ follow-up to Band on the Run, Venus and Mars.

Besides Laboriel, McCartney’s touring band includes keyboardist Paul Wickens and guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, all of whom provided plenty of strong backing vocals. The big concern of the night was whether or not the 70-year-old frontman’s singing would be up to snuff, but for the most part it was. There were definitely moments that it lagged—McCartney shook his head, displeased, when his harmonies on “Paperback Writer” swerved out of tune—but he was still hangin’ in there near the finale when the raging “Helter Skelter” called for everything he had.

By the time the show ended, aptly, with Abbey Road’s “The End”, there wasn’t a lot any true-blue Beatles fan could complain about.

You can follow Steve Newton on Twitter at twitter.com/earofnewt.

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Eastendian

Nov 26, 2012 at 10:25am

The most fabulous show I've ever seen!

Gary Mondoux

Nov 26, 2012 at 11:45am

Wow!!! is the only way to describe it 3 hours of roking entertainment

Gordon

Nov 26, 2012 at 11:48am

I was there and even though "Bruce Springsteen" was no show, there is no complaint. Paul put on a 3 hour show. My money was well spent.

TJ Prente

Nov 26, 2012 at 11:56am

I have a been a fan since the age of 8, that's four decades of his music basically playing as the soundtrack of my entire life. So incredibly happy to have been there. All my loving...

greggron

Nov 26, 2012 at 1:00pm

I remember 35 years ago learning to play "Yesterday" on clarinet in Grade 6 - such a haunting song. Then last night seeing an actual Beatle - the one who wrote it perform it - unreal.

R U Kiddingme

Nov 26, 2012 at 1:02pm

I'm not surprised he left out Jenny Wren or Ever Present Past (two of my faves) but was slightly disappointed that for totally understandable reasons he went with his tried and true hits because I don't think most music fans -- certainly not me until recently -- realized that McCartney has had an unbelievable late-late-late revival of songwriting prowess. His newest albums are solid.

As for the Boss no-show, that was ok. I kinda was hoping that Elvis Costello, who lives here part time, might show up to duet on their collaborations like My Brave Face or So Like Candy.

All that is nitpicky. I had no idea that Paul could still bring it at age 69. Excellent playing, mostly excellent singing, tons of energy, and of course all those pop-culture icon hits. What a great evening of music.

Bonus kudos to BC Place. It used to be a bad venue for concerts, sheer mud and reverb. However between this and The Wall it has to be admitted that for arena rock, the sound system is decent even in the nosebleeds.

Steve Newton

Nov 26, 2012 at 1:13pm

McCartney turned 70 last June my friend

Todd Wong

Nov 26, 2012 at 2:21pm

Great concert - a bit hard to see him from the back of the floor - because everybody was standing all night - but we were prepared for that and the side screens were great! Little kids were standing on their chairs.

Biggest surprise was Mull of Kintyre with the Delta Police Pipe Band... Macca introduced the song by saying he had relatives attending the concert, and he'd hear it from them if he didn't play this song.

The set list even included My Valentine, from his newest album 2012's Kisses on the Bottom (produced by Vancouver area resident Diana Krall) and also Sing the Changes from the 2008 The Fireman album.

No he didn't play anything from Venus and Mars, but nothing either from Speed of Sound, Ram, Off the Ground, London Town, Chaos and Creation, nor lots of other albums. It just goes to prove the depth of McCartney's musical catalogue - whether Beatles, Wings or solo work.

Hoolio

Nov 26, 2012 at 3:21pm

This show was nothing short of brilliant! I can't figure out how Bruce Springsteen even got into this article! Dah!

Jimmy

Nov 26, 2012 at 3:23pm

Can't believe I saw a "Beatle"....
Bloody fantastic show.

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