Monday, November 14, 2005

Paul McCartney concert is truly out of this world

A night after performing a full-length 37-song set at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim on Nov. 11 that I unfortunately missed, Paul McCartney returned to perform an equally-ambitious show that stretched from 8:40 p.m. until 11:35 p.m. - that was just short of three hours!

The reason McCartney's Saturday night show on Saturday, Nov. 12 stretched beyond its normal 2-1/2 hour length was out of this world. Really! Sir Paul announced early in the show that it was arranged with NASA for this evening's show to mark the first time that a live music event was being broadcast into space. True enough, the time came after he had already delivered 16 memorable songs. Via big screens, Sir Paul and the two astronauts on the International Space Station (flying by at 220 miles above Earth) were able to communicate and the sold-out crowd could view and cheer and be part of the historic event as well. Paul McCartney and his excellent band delivered a wonderful version of "English Tea" while NASA astronaut Bill McArthur and Russian Cosmonaut Valery Tokarev sipped some tea/coffee/some kind of liquid out of their squeeze packets. McCartney and company also performed "Good Day Sunshine," a perfect song to complete the task of waking the astronauts at the beginning of their day. McArthur got cheers from the crowd when he did a flip in space, and toward the end of the live feed, did a command flip performance when asked to do so by McCartney.

McCarthur seemed especially thrilled that the Space Station residents were being treated to a show from the legendary performer.
"That was simply magnificent," McArthur said, adding he considered McCartney an explorer too noting his creative contributions.

The overall show was magical. Kicking off with "Magical Mystery Tour" and performing another three dozen tracks after that, the concert was equally a celebration of his unmatched catalog and the magic that greets his performances. There were the blistering rockers (notably "Live and Let Die" and "Helter Skelter" - oh joy!), the great new material from "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" ("Fine Line," "Jenny Wren," "Follow Me"), the Beatles gems ("Blackbird," "Yesterday," "Let It Be," "I Will," and many more) and underappreciated solo/Wings material ("Let Me Roll It," "Maybe I'm Amazed").

And this is McCartney's best band since the Fab Four. No question. Virtuoso lead guitarist Rusty Anderson, guitarist-bassist Brian Ray, animated drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and keyboardist Paul "Wix" Wickens all contribute vocals and energy that further enhances these shows (I caught the same lineup at the Pond in October 2002, and enjoyed the blend even more this past weekend). Indeed, Brian Ray nailed it when late in the show he stepped up to the mic and said, "This truly is the happiest place on Earth."

I encourage anyone reading this who lives in Southern California to catch McCartney when he plays at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Nov. 29 or Nov. 30. I've caught McCartney a number of times stretching back to the mid-1970s when he fronted Wings. He truly keeps better and his shows have a kind of power and mystery that touches people of all ages. Even when he isn't being beamed into the heavens, McCartney is in a universe of his own.

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