Paul McCartney in Concert: Part III “Some Unfamiliar Songs”

After the very emotional memories brought back by the last Beatles song it was a welcome relief to just get some ordinary songs. Some of them I had never heard. Some Judy had never heard but I had. One was a much different version than I had ever heard and my research after the concert explained why.

For the Wings Fans

Listen to What the Man Said” 1975 Wings album “Venus and Mars“. If he had sung another emotional Beatles song at this point it probably wouldn’t kill me. Fortunately he shifted to a upbeat tune from Wings that wasn’t at all mushy. It was just a nice little rock song that gave me a chance to catch my breath. I’m not sure if it was before or after the song that he stepped to the side of the stage and took off the black jacket. He announced “This is the one and only costume change of the evening.” He also picks up a different guitar. This one a lead guitar painted in psychedelic 60s colors and paint scheme. I’m not sure if the costume and guitar change was before or after the song but it was about now.

Photo by Anne Chapman

Photo by Anne Chapman

Let Me Roll It” 1974 Wings album “Band on the Run“. I’m not sure I had ever heard this song before. It features a big electric guitar riff that repeats throughout the song. They did an extended version it was the electric guitar portion sort of merged into a bit of Jimi Hendrix’s song “Foxy Lady”. After the song he explained that it was in tribute to Hendrix who he said was a fan of the Beatles. He told of a time that they released an album (I forget which one) and two days after the release, Hendrix has learned one of the songs and incorporated it into his own shows.

Naughty Nurses

psychedelicguitar2Paperback Writer” 1966 Beatles single. This is a silly little song about an author whose life’s ambition is to write paperback novels. I mentioned that there were video screens on either side of the stage. They were tall narrow screens that projected live video of part standing on stage. However the center background of the stage was also a giant video display that mostly showed still images but some video that related somehow to the song. On this song it showed the cover images from cheap paperback novels mostly about naughty nurses and the like. In fact most of it was nurses in old-fashioned white nurses uniforms and white surgical masks on. Many of them were covered in blood. I recall it as one of those songs that was a hit song but nobody ever really bothered to pay attention to what the lyrics were about. They didn’t carry it was a Beatles song and it had a great beat and so it was popular. Judy and Anne neither one had ever heard it. As we were waiting on the elevator after the concert we talked to a couple of women in their 60s who had come all the way from Cleveland to see this concert. They had on Beatles T-shirts they had bought on eBay. As we were talking about which parts of the concert they like the most one of them said they got emotional over Paperback Writer. I don’t know what happened in her life in 1966 that connected her to that song. It seemed like a silly song to get emotional about. Oh well. I guess her life at a different kind of soundtrack than mine even though it was Beatles 🙂

I will flash forward in the story for a moment here to say that the day after the concert I went searching for all of the songs that we had heard that night. I had to research many of them on Wikipedia to try to figure out when they were written and what album they were from. I was quite surprised to learn that many of the songs were released only as singles. I was thought that the typical route for music was that a man would release an album first, release one or two songs as singles, and if they were hits continued to release other singles from the same album. But this song as were many others by both The Beatles and Wings were first released only as singles and sometimes B-sides a singles but we’re not put on albums until years later when they would throw together a retrospective or a collection of previously non-album singles. This particular song did not appear on the album until the 1970 album “Hey Jude” which was just a collection of such singles.

On the Piano

Photo by Anne Chapman

Photo by Anne Chapman

My Valentine” 2012 McCartney album “Kisses on the Bottom“. At this point McCartney moved to a grand piano elevated on the right rear of the stage. This is a recent song which he wrote for his current wife. The album is a collection of him singing mostly cover songs of classic pop and jazz songs such as Irving Berlin‘s 1925 “Always” and Johnny Mercer‘s 1944 “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive“. He explained that he wrote it for his current wife while they were on a vacation that was marked by lots of rain. During the performance on the center video screen was a video of a man and a woman performing the song in American Sign Language. McCartney plays piano and it includes an acoustic guitar solo that is great. It was really beautiful both the song and the signing performance. I had heard the song on one of his recent television performances perhaps the Hurricane Sandy concert? I forget. It really fits in well with the other old standards on that album. Neither Judy nor Anne had ever heard it but they liked it a lot.

Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” 1973 Wings album “Band on the Run” The year 1985 is mentioned once in the song that I never really knew why you would name also song that when it was mostly a love song. It’s got some great piano riffs and a big rock ‘n roll beat. On the original album it is in a big crescendo with a full orchestra among other instruments. For the live version the keyboard player using a synthesizer had to provide all the horn section and other orchestral sounds. There’s also some pretty good guitar riffs in it. Not my favorite Wings song but a pretty good one. Judy took the opportunity of a nonemotional ordinary Wings song to make a quick trip out to the restroom.

The Long and Winding Road” 1970 Beatles album “Let It Be“. This was a much different version of the song that I recalled. It was very simple stripped-down piano and acoustic guitar version. It’s a sad ballad that I always really liked. The original version always seemed a little bit overproduced to me with a big orchestra that seem to over dramatize the song. I was disappointed that Judy wasn’t going to get to hear it because she was still in the restroom. When she got back I told her she had missed “The Long and Winding Road” and she said she hadn’t. The restroom was right outside our door and she could hear it just fine. In fact we even sounded better with the volume down and not so much echoing around and sort of muffled sound you get when your ears are overloaded.

Photo by Anne Chapman

Photo by Anne Chapman

It wasn’t until I looked up the Wikipedia article on this song that I learned there was a lot of history I didn’t know about the song. According to Wikipedia it was the last straw so to speak that broke up the Beatles. After they had recorded the original version, producer Phil Spector brought in the orchestra and tried to overdub it with the orchestra. When McCartney heard the overproduced orchestral version he wrote a nasty letter to management at Apple records insisting that the song be remixed. His request went unanswered. There are more details in the Wikipedia article that you really ought to read. In 2003 the remaining living Beatles and Yoko Ono released an album titled “Let It Be… Naked” which was a remixed version of the entire “Let It Be” album. The one we heard at the concert that night was more like the “naked” version and I loved it.

Maybe I’m Amazed” 1970 album “McCartney“. This was probably the most famous of his early post-Beatles songs. It’s dedicated to his wife Linda who helped him get through the breakup of the band. I think when the song was originally released he got overplayed so much I got tired of it and it never really appealed to me after that. I did like the piano playing in the original and at the concert but it’s not one of my favorites.
To be continued…

Paul McCartney in Concert: Part II “Traveling in Time”

The Overture

In my previous post I chronicled the events leading up to my attendance at the Paul McCartney concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on July 14. When we last left our intrepid concertgoers, the lights had dimmed, images begin being projected on video screens. I declared “The concert had begun!”

But it hadn’t.

The images that went scrolling by on the screens started out with images from what appeared to be McCartney’s childhood. The music included McCartney and/or The Beatles and/or other people singing Beatles songs throughout history. You could see it progressing from the past up to the present. However at the rate it was going it soon became obvious this was going to be an extremely long introduction. Each song seem to play out in its entirety where it would’ve been better just to have a few 30 second clips from each song and fewer images. It showed The Beatles back in Liverpool. It showed them coming to America. It showed their hairstyles changing throughout the years. It finally got into the post-Beatles era and included more songs from Wings and other solo songs. Some of them the original songs and some were cover songs by other artists which were pretty interesting. But this overture dragged on and on. Judy looks at her watch a couple of times but I don’t think she looked right as it finally completed. My guess is it was about 25 minutes long which was way way too long. The crowd was pretty polite through most of it but they did start clapping and chanting when it finally became apparent it was almost over. It concluded with the Wings song “Silly Love Songs”. Judy kept saying “that would be a good time for him to come out and start singing that song.”

The images finally shifted to an image of a starry sky. The stars rearranged into the image of McCartney’s famous violin shaped left-handed bass guitar. The lights finally dimmed completely and he and the band came on stage to thunderous screams and applause.

He was dressed in a long black coat over a white shirt and tie and had on black pants. (Actually it just looked like a narrow 60s style necktie. As the photo shows it was just a black stripe on his shirt.) He was carrying the famous bass guitar that I just described. The band consisted of two other guitar players, a keyboard player and a drummer.

Photo by Anne Chapman

Photo by Anne Chapman

You can click on all of the concert photos that Anne took to see larger versions.

Song by Song

What follows below is my impression of each song that he sung, the effect that the song had on me and a little bit of my own history regarding that song. Fortunately I was able to find a set list online the following day which helps refresh my memory of what was played and tells me a little bit about the songs that I didn’t know. The links on each song title and album title take you to Wikipedia articles.

8 Days a Week” 1964 album “Beatles for Sale” This seemed a strange choice for an opening song. I like the fact that it was an early Beatles song and I always thought the title and concept was kind of good for a love song. The idea that seven days a week wasn’t enough to show how much you cared for someone. The backbeat of the song seems to be a little bit country and western in its flavor. I’ve noted that it’s a favorite of country singers on American Idol when it comes to Beatles Week. I guess since I’m not a country music fan it’s not been one of my favorites. But I really didn’t have much time to think about the song itself because it was just so bizarre to think I was really had a concert with Paul McCartney. I sort of flashback to hearing comedian Dana Carvey talk about the first time he met Paul McCartney. His speech turned into something like a little kid and he reached out and touched him and said “You’re a Beatle. I touched a Beatle”. That is exactly how I felt just being there.

Here is a YouTube excerpt from Dana Carvey’s HBO special that shows the routine that I’m referring to. If an illegal copy so this link might end up being broken in the future.

Junior’s Farm” 1974 Wings song. What was this? Another country song? If I wasn’t pretty sure that they were playing almost the same set list throughout the tour I might’ve thought they were stereotyping Indiana as a bunch of hillbilly farmers and trying to win us over with some country songs. This one was recorded in Nashville while the band Wings was staying on someone’s farm. I think I had perhaps heard it one other time but it was hardly among their greatest hits. I was just settling back and enjoying the show, still a little bit awestruck about where I was.

Tell Me Why You Cried

Photo by Anne Chapman

Photo by Anne Chapman

All My Loving” 1963 Beatles album “With the Beatles” Holy Shit! I completely lost control of myself in tears just begin pouring down my cheeks. The song has no introduction. It just starts out with Paul’s local “Close my eyes and I’ll kiss you. Tomorrow I’ll miss you.” It was like someone had thrown me into a TARDIS time machine and transported me out of the arena. It was no longer July 14, 2013. I was no longer at a Paul McCartney concert. It was 1964 and I was at a fucking Beatles concert! It wasn’t that screaming 12-year-old girl in the front row of a Beatles concert kind of crying. I was still 58 years old and it had finally hit me that I was at a concert with the greatest song writer of my lifetime. He was singing a 50-year-old song that was just as meaningful today as it was the day he wrote it. Somehow it wrapped up in the little package all of the wonderful feelings I had ever felt about any Beatles song ever written and all the emotional things that had ever gone on in my life that were somehow connected with Beatles music.

I was surprised by how emotional I had gotten over the song. I had prepared myself for a Paul McCartney concert. I prepared myself the to be moved and to enjoy “Let It Be”. I figured I would cry on “Yesterday” for reasons I will explain later. What I had not prepared myself was for the emotion of being at what felt like an actual Beatles concert. It didn’t matter that there was only one Beatle on stage. I was at a concert that I never thought I would have the opportunity to attend. It really freaked me out.

People tend to throw around the phrase “The Soundtrack of My Life” much too easily these days. I’ve been a fan of Elton John ever since I first heard “Your Song” and it was great to see him in concert two years ago. I love Billy Joel. I saw him in concert back in my college days and still love his music. The 70s rock group “Yes” is among my favorites of all time. I’ve seen them in concert several times as recently as two years ago. My love of keyboard music stems from my love of Keith Emerson of the group Emerson, Lake, and Palmer who were my favorite band in the 70s. The greatest concert I had ever seen was their “Works” tour which came to Market Square Arena and featured accompaniment by a full symphonic orchestra. I’ve seen Sting (with and without The Police) in concert several times and I own all of his albums and love his music. I’ve seen productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s “Phantom of the Opera” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” (the latter of which I could sing by heart at the drop of a hat.) I’ve been to see stage productions of “Les Miserables” three times and saw the recent movie of the musical. Despite my love for all of this music, none of it deserves the title of “The Soundtrack of My Life”. That title is reserved for the music written by the man who stood on the stage across from me and sang a 50-year-old rock ‘n roll love song.

The old violin shaped bass guitar and the long black coat that looked like The Beatles and the fact that even though his face is much wrinkled it is still that same smiling baby face we all saw on the Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago… It all merged together to transport me into a different time and place and filled me with emotions I’m only marginally able to describe here.

When the song was over Judy turned to look at me and I said to her “Is this for real? Are we really, really here? I’m crying my eyes out.” She started laughing a nervous laugh and said that she had been crying as well. She said she couldn’t stand up and cheer or do anything during the song. She just had to lean back and cry. She had said repeatedly before and after the show “I’ve been waiting 50 years for this.” And it meant a lot to both of us that we both had broken down in the same way on the same song at the same time. We both understood what it meant to each other and it meant more to both of us because we were there was someone who understood.

If I had gone with my sister Carol or my sister Karen or just with Anne alone or anyone else I would’ve enjoyed the concert just as much. But I would not have had that moment where Judy and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes and we understood that we had each shared something special.

Photo by Anne Chapman

Photo by Anne Chapman

To be continued…

Paul McCartney in Concert: Part I “Before the Concert”

I had the wonderful experience of seeing Paul McCartney in concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last Sunday, July 14. Like all big events in my life I don’t feel like they are complete until I write about them. The following multipart blog is about my experiences.

Historical Context

When The Beatles landed in America in February 1964 and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show I was just nine years old. There was so much hype leading up to the event that it became a must-see television show. I was at my Grandma Osterman’s that Sunday night like we were most Sunday nights in those days for family get together and generally a poker game. But everyone gathered around the television to watch this new group perform. My dad says he was so fed up with all the hype he refused to watch. He just went in the other room. I don’t really recall what I initially reaction was to the music. But in the weeks and months that followed I became a Beatles fan just like millions of others.

On September 3, 1964 the Beatles performed two shows at the Indiana State Fair coliseum and of course the local hype for the event was extensive. Film clips were shown on all the local news stations. It wasn’t until I was just researching this event that I learned that The Beatles stayed at the Speedway Motel about a mile from my house.

Of course I was much too young to attend that concert. As far as I recall “The Beatles” as a group never returned to Indiana. I was always disappointed that I never got a chance to see them live.

Paul McCartney however has played shows here in Indianapolis in the past but I always figured the tickets would be expensive and hard to get. I don’t really recall when he was here before or the reasons why I didn’t go. I guess it just seemed like if it wasn’t really the full Beatles it would be a letdown of sorts. I also expected he would play mostly songs from his solo albums or with his new band Wings. While some of those songs are pretty good and have become classics, they still aren’t as important as original Beatles songs.

lovewemakecoverBut a few months ago when I heard that Paul McCartney was coming back to Indianapolis to play Bankers Life Fieldhouse I decided perhaps this was an opportunity to check an item off my bucket list. Even if it wasn’t the full Beatles it would still be an experience worth having. Also my decision was influenced by a number of TV shows I had watched recently regarding Paul McCartney and The Beatles. One of them was a documentary called “The Love We Make” which followed Paul McCartney around New York City in the days after the 9/11 attacks as he prepared a benefit concert for the 9/11 victims. It was filmed and directed by Albert Maysles who had previously done a documentary about the Beatles when they first came to America. He also made several other famous documentaries such as “Grey Gardens” and “Gimme Shelter“.

lastplaycoverI had also seen McCartney perform on several other TV specials including the documentary about Billy Joel called “Last Play at Shea” and a documentary “George Harrison: Living in the Material World“. He also performed at the benefit concert for hurricane Sandy. Back when he was first touring with Wings it seemed like he was trying to promote his new music and put the Beatles behind him. The more recent shows contained more and more Beatles music and that made it all the more interesting to see him.

The Pursuit of Tickets

Tickets for the upcoming concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse had already been on sale for over a week when I finally made up my mind to try to get tickets. I really didn’t have much hope that any would be left but I did know the policy was that they do not sell handicap seats to non-handicap people until the last minute. The seats that I wanted would be high in the balcony opposite the stage which for most people would be considered some of the worst seats. However because my head doesn’t turn very well, seats along the side of the arena aren’t very good for a concert for me. They’re great for basketball and hockey but not concerts. Last year I had seen Barry Manilow at Bankers Life and even though you’re pretty far away they always have video screens at concerts these days so it was really an enjoyable experience.

I clicked on links on Ticketmaster requesting one wheelchair seat and one companion seat. I didn’t know who would go with me but I figured I wouldn’t have any problems finding someone to go considering this was Paul McCartney. Usually I ask someone to go with me before I try for the tickets but I did want to get anyone’s hopes up if I couldn’t get them. Much to my surprise and pleasure, within a few minutes I had emails confirming that I had to tickets to see Paul McCartney at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on July 14, 2013!

My first call after that was my good friend Judy Chapman. “What are you doing on July 14 this year?” I asked her.

“I don’t know that date sounds familiar… Isn’t that the date of the Paul McCartney concert?”

“In fact it is… Do you want to go? I’ve got tickets!”

Of course she said yes. She went on to say that she and her daughter Anne had thought about going. However they were on vacation in New York seeing Tom Hanks and Nathan Lane in Broadway shows when the McCartney tickets went on sale. Anne had considered buying tickets for Judy for her birthday which was in June. She would have to buy them from a ticket broker and it was just too expensive for two tickets. I sort of felt bad that I didn’t get three tickets instead of two but I was so surprised I got two to begin with.

In the end, Anne got to go anyway. She went to a ticket broker and got a single seat on the left side of the arena about five or six rows up from the floor. She never said what she paid for the tickets but I’m sure it was quite a bit. Those tickets aren’t cheap from the box office and you add on the ticket broker fees it’s got to be steep. So even though we weren’t able to sit with her, we did ride down to the concert and back with her. She was also in a good position to take some phenomenal photos which you will see further down this blog.

I was willing to pay for Judy’s ticket but we negotiated a compromise. She bought my ticket for my birthday which was July 12. I bought her ticket for her birthday in June. It seemed like forever as we counted down the days to the big event.

Preshow Activities

One wrench almost got thrown into the works… My dad had been having problems with swelling in his feet. After several tests the doctors concluded that an aortic aneurysm that they had been watching for many years was probably throwing off microscopic blood clots causing circulation problems in his feet. They scheduled his surgery for Friday, July 12 (my birthday) just two days before the concert. We weren’t sure what kinds of restrictions would be placed on him. Our typical plans for concerts would have him driving us to the Fieldhouse and dropping us off at a special handicap entrance and then picking us up afterwards. It makes it much easier than finding a parking place. However since Anne would be with us, Judy could drive, drop us off at the handicapped entrance, go park and then meet up with us.

As it turned out dad was in good shape after his surgery. He wasn’t supposed to do anything too strenuous so Judy and Anne did the work of loading me in and out of the van and operating the van lift. Dad just did the driving.

Judy and Anne came to my house early and brought some McDonald’s for dinner. That gave us plenty of time to talk and get caught up on recent events. Then we packed up and headed for the concert.

I was a little bit concerned if the security measures had changed. I have a large leather satchel on the back of my wheelchair where I carry raincoats, medicine, and air pump for my inflatable seat cushion, and other miscellaneous items I might need an emergency. Typically the screeners just look in the bag and look in people’s purses and camera bags but changes in NFL policy now say that you can only carry clear bags of a particular size. If that carried over to other venues it might be a problem.

The only change I noticed however was that the security screening was now done outside the handicapped door. In the past I seem to recall the screening being done indoors right before we got on the elevator. I suppose doing it outdoors is a better idea considering how crowded the lobby can get. Someone with malintent could do a lot of damage in the lobby.

We had arrived plenty early because we weren’t sure what traffic was going to be like especially considering Indiana Black Expo may have been having events downtown as well. But we didn’t have much traffic going in.

There was a long line for the elevator that took a while to get through. When I went to see Barry Manilow and got there early, they did not let people on the elevators or into the arena itself until about one hour before the concert. Fortunately they were letting people in plenty early this time.

Photo of program I purchased for "Paul McCartney Out There Tour"

Photo of program I purchased for “Paul McCartney Out There Tour”

The three of us went to the upper floor where my seats were and immediately began looking for a souvenir stand. I bought a T-shirt and a program. I haven’t bought souvenirs at a concert in 20 years because the prices are just so outrageous that this was something special and I had to have souvenirs. It was $40 for a T-shirt and $30 for the program but I didn’t care. I offered to buy Judy a coffee mug but she said no thanks.

The wheelchair section was either the same one I was in for Barry Manilow or it was one right next to it in aisle 216. However much to my surprise there were two rows of folding chairs in the level area at the front edge of the upper balcony. Our tickets said “Row 2”. If we were going to have to sit back in the second row from the edge with people sitting in front of us, there was no way I was going to be able to see. I was really worried and was going to be really pissed if we were stuck behind that other row. Fortunately Row 2 was the front row. The usher said “We don’t even do this area for Pacer Games. This is only because it’s a sellout”. They removed a couple of the folding chairs in the front row and we parked my chair right against the railing. Judy took her spot next to me on my right. Judy asked “Are you where you want to be?” She was probably referring to the position of my wheelchair. I replied very enthusiastically “I’m EXACTLY where I want to be” and I smiled really big. I wasn’t talking about wheelchair position. I was talking about being at a Paul McCartney concert with her.

Up until the concert started I was still a little bit worried someone was going to say “No wait a minute… You’re supposed to be back here.” But fortunately we were where we were supposed to be. The folding chairs in back of us were sold. Able-bodied people eventually showed up behind us but they stood up through most of the concert.

Anne left us and went to take her seat. After she got there we exchanged phone calls to figure out where she was and managed to spot her. We waved back and forth at each other. She had great seats.

Our approximate seat locations. Anne in section 17. Judy and I in 217

Our approximate seat locations. Anne in section 17. Judy and I in 217

We got out my program and look through it a little bit but the lights were very dim and it was a little bit difficult to see. Included in the program was a pair of cardboard red/blue 3-D glasses because some of the images in the program were 3-D. By the time you put on the 3-D glasses it was way too dark to see the images at all. That would have to wait until I got home.

We reached in my wheelchair bag to get out my camera so Judy could get familiar with it. We turned it on and something started blinking. I had her show it to me and just as I recognized it to be the low battery indicator, it shut itself off. We tried turning it on again and it would blink for a few seconds and shut down. Dad had just replaced the batteries before we left but one of them must of been bad or didn’t take a charge. I was going to have to rely on Anne to take photos for me. We told her over the cell phone that she was going to be our sole photographer for the event. I was so happy she was up close and had a really nice lens. She was going to get better pictures than I would’ve ever gotten.

Over the PA system they started playing music little bit louder than I would’ve liked for a preshow time period. It seemed that it was a variety of different artists doing covers of Beatles songs. I liked the music but it made it hard to talk before the show. Judy kept checking her watch and I kept asking the time as he got closer and closer to 8 PM.

Judy went out to get us something to drink. Unfortunately it was Pepsi set of Coke. I didn’t care. I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Precisely at 8 PM the lights dimmed slightly and images began projecting on two video screens to either side of the stage and a different track of music started playing. It was really starting to happen. The concert had begun!
To be continued…