One off my bucket list: Paul McCartney in concert

HUMMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2017 – 12:00am

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“Watching Paul McCartney made me feel a lot of things,” says author Jim Paredes. “Paul influenced me so much that I got to understand myself when I was growing up. He became my constant peg in my own songwriting career.”

They announced in the news that Paul McCartney was doing a show in Sydney five months ago. I immediately tried to get tickets within the day. Alas, the show was sold out quickly.

That night, they announced a second show for Dec. 12, the next day. My friend Charlie Moraza was lucky to get four tickets.

I wasn’t going to miss this, I told myself. Watching Sir Paul perform has been on my bucket list for the past few years. The only other time I ever saw him was more than 50 years ago when the Beatles performed in Manila. Back then, I watched with my brother Raffy. The sound was terrible. We had really lousy seats, but hey: it was still the Beatles.

I had bought a plane ticket back to Sydney months ago for this. I arrived four days early for the concert.

Last Tuesday, I was at Qudo Bank Arena with Charlie, his wife Malu, and my son Mio. It was a massive venue that seemed like it was more than twice the size of Smart Araneta Coliseum. It was packed to the rafters.

When Paul McCartney and his band entered the stage, the whole place instantly lit up with energy and excitement. Amid screams and applause, Paul struck that famous complex chord that starts the song A Hard Day’s Night, and very soon after, everyone went wild and crazy. He segued into Jet, one of my fave songs he wrote for his post-Beatles group Wings.

The hits kept coming like an avalanche. Can’t Buy Me Love, Drive My Car, Let Me Roll It, You Won’t See Me — and he went on and on. Except for his new stuff, everyone sang along with him through every tune. The whole audience was in good spirits.

Paul once in a while would talk a bit about his personal history. He talked about some of the songs he wrote, and about his friends in the business. He mentioned Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton with fondness and admiration. He also narrated seeing Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on a taxi in London decades back, and John and him flagging them down for a ride. During the cab ride John and Paul offered to write a song for them.

It was quite a surprise to learn that John and Paul gave the Rolling Stones their very first chart-topper, I Wanna Be Your Man (a song Ringo sang in the Beatles’ version). He also paid great respect to George Martin, the producer of the Beatles who helped them immensely with their records. It was interesting to hear that when the Beatles recorded Love Me Do, he was asked by George Martin to do the solo vocal parts. And to this day, he can still detect a bit of that nervousness in his delivery when he listens to the record. “But not tonight!” he said to the audience delight before launching into the song.

A high point for me was his tribute to John Lennon. Before he sang Here Today (a tribute to his friend and former songwriting partner), he talked about how people should not wait to express their feelings to people they love. He narrated that when they were still young musicians in Liverpool, none of them went and said, “I love you, man” to each other. It just wasn’t the norm, he explained.

When John died, he wrote Here Today to express that love that was sometimes unrequited. I actually teared up when he sang it.

Well, knowing you,

You’d probably laugh and say

That we were worlds apart.

If you were here today.

Uh, uh, uh, uh… here today.

But as for me, I still

Remember how it was before

And I am holding back the tears no more.

Ooh ooh ooh… I love you Oooh.

Paul’s voice had a sadness to it. It was honest and heartfelt and moved the entire arena.

He also paid tribute to George Harrison whom he said loved to play the ukulele. He started singing George’s Beatles hit, Something,while accompanying himself on the uke. The band joined in soon after. It merited wild applause.

He sang so many hits like We Can Work it Out, Band on the Run, Live and Let Die, Blackbird, Obladi-Oblada, Let It Be, I Saw Her Standing There, Eleanor Rigby, For the Benefit of Mr. Kite (a John song, actually), And I Love Her, A Day in the Life and many more. It was noteworthy that he sang Helter Skelter, one off the Beatles’ most controversial songs because it was apparently a favorite of the killer Charles Manson. I never liked that song, because of the Manson association. But I loved the high-energy performance that night.

And as much as he sang the hits, it was impossible to sing ALL of them. He DID NOT sing, ‘Till There Was You, Here, There and Everywhere, My Love, No More Lonely Nights, Silly Love Songs, If I Fell, and so many others that I love. A three-hour show was still too short. He must have sung at least 30 songs. I eventually lost count. He ended the show with the audience singing Hey Jude along with him.

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Before responding to encore calls, Paul and his “band on the run” ran around the stage waving British, Australian, Aboriginal and LGBT flags, much to the delight of everyone. After a short break, he sang five more songs. His final encore was a medley of songs comprising one-third of Side B of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album. It included Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, and The End. The last song was so majestically performed and a perfect ending to the concert.

Watching Paul McCartney made me feel a lot of things. I felt that Paul had influenced me so much that I got to understand my own feelings and myself when I was growing up. He has become my constant peg in my own songwriting career. He is a very talented, playful, generous performer. His capacity and effort to give the audience a great experience through his songs and performances resonated with me. That’s what we also always aimed for when we were performing as APO!

Clearly, his music will be loved and remembered for all time. More than just being a great performer, he is an icon, someone who unites people in a way that makes them feel good. We all grew up with Beatles music playing as the soundtrack to milestones in our own lives.

The concert was more than 60 years in the making. That’s how long he has been writing songs and performing them. Six decades! The show had the right songs and repertoire, the best lighting effects, the most magical graphics and visuals, and a truly iconic great performer to deliver the songs. And he still does them well and with great passion. Remarkably, he still has the mannerisms of a guy in his 20s. He is still so young at heart, energetic and competent at age 75. He is still slim and wears tight pants. He seems ageless. No tummy or sag at all.

It was a concert I will never forget. It was the best I’ve seen in my entire life. While the technical support was awesome, ultimately it was about THE MAN himself — so legendarily accomplished, so gifted and yet so humble. He has given the world his gift of music. And the world has responded again and again with resounding gratitude.

Throughout his adult life, he also stood for the right things —vegetarianism, animal rights, saving the planet, cancer awareness. What is there not to like about Paul McCartney?

I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out if the Beatles had never happened, or if Paul McCartney had not written and performed his songs. Honestly, I may not even have become a musician at all.

Thank you, Sir Paul McCartney. That’s all I want to say. And though there were thousands of other people there that night, in some way it was a “one-on-one” experience we had, just like the name of the tour promised.

You validated me, and I remain a huge fan!

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Sold-out concert of Paul McCartney in Sydney last Dec. 12. It was a massive venue, packed to the rafters.

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