PAUL ISN'T DEAD
Paul isn't dead. In fact, he is far from it! And I know because I had the privilege of being in the same room with him for almost three hours last night (8:30 to 11:30) while he played an incredible concert, so good it verged on the improbable! He had a five-member band, including himself; he mostly played his Hofner bass but he also played a sunburst-finish Les Paul guitar and a Yamaha concert grand piano. His guitar players were young and energetic, great musicians who had good voices. One of them played bass when Paul switched from bass to another instrument. The keyboardist provided string and brass effects as well as piano and organ, and he also had a good voice. The drummer sang too, and he was a real character. Paul was in great voice for a guy his age, and he performed with loads of energy. The show was just about three hours in length, with no breaks other than the few minutes prior to the first and second encores.
The show took place at Portland's Rose Garden, the arena where the NBA's Portland Trailblazers play (when they aren't in trouble with the law). Thus, being the kind of facility it is, the Rose Garden has fairly lousy acoustics, but the sound was better than that of some shows I've seen in gyms. Our $85 seats were of the nosebleed variety, and they were such that we were looking at the right hand end of the stage from slightly behind it, from WAY up. Not to worry, there was a video screen facing our way, and it showed us what the people out front were seeing. It was actually kind of cool because we got to see the show from two angles this way... and besides, we had our binoculars. I had forgotten Paul plays left-handed, so right away I got confused when I was trying to figure out how he was playing some of his bass lines and guitar licks...
Paul seemed to be in great physical shape, and he didn't seem to tire until late in the show. He wore a sweater or jacket (I don't remember just which) early in the show, removed that and wore the long-sleeve light blue shirt underneath, and then word a red "No More Landmines" t-shirt for the encores. I was wondering if he would ever break a sweat, and he finally did during the final 8-10 songs. He very much enjoys being in front of a crowd and being a showman. He told little stories about a number of the songs, and was constantly making amusing faces, making gestures, and generally being animated.
Here are at least some of the songs Paul and his band did, in no particular order:
Jet - I never liked this song a whole lot, but it sounded GREAT live. Paul on bass.
Live and Let Die - complete with explosions, jets of fire on stage, fireworks, etc. Pure pop bombast! Paul on bass.
Let Me Roll It - One of my favorite Wings numbers, and it sounded fantastic. Paul can still belt it! He played guitar on this one, doing the song's signature lick.
Too Many People - Another Wings favorite of mine! Paul on bass.
Band On The Run - This sounded amazingly close to the way it sounds on the record... great lighting and stage effects. Paul on bass.
They did about a minute of Hendrix' 'Foxy Lady' as an instrumental, with Paul playing some surprisingly hairy licks on the guitar!
From Paul's SOLO material:
Maybe I’m Amazed - I came to hear this one, and he played it just for me (and everyone else!) It's one of my favorite songs ever. Full band, Paul on piano. A few minutes of sheer ecstasy!
Flaming Pie - I hadn't paid much attention to the album from which this song came, but it is a nice tune.
4 songs from his new CD, including English Tea (Paul on piano), Follow Me (great anthemic tune, with Paul on bass), Fine Line (Paul on piano) and Jenny Wren (spare, acoustic tune with Paul on guitar). The new stuff is good. My friend Dave has been enjoying the new album, and it has received favorable reviews... I may have to check it out!
Magical Mystery Tour - This was the show's opening number. When the band started playing this one, I could tell they were a tight unit and that the evening was going to be very special! Paul on bass.
Please, Please Me - Paul was the only Beatle on stage, but when they did this song, I was listening to the Beatles. Paul on bass.
Follow The Sun (with five different endings!) - Another great Beatles tune, Paul on bass again. They stopped at the end, waited about five seconds, played the last lines of the song again, stopped again, etc. The crowd was having a blast, and so was the band.
Blackbird - Paul all alone on the acoustic guitar. Another song I came to hear!
Yesterday - I came to hear this one too, and he did it on the acoustic with the keyboardist providing string effects. It was his first encore number.
Fixing a Hole - Paul did a nice solo version of this on the piano.
Eleanor Rigby - Paul on piano, keyboardist doing the cello and string stuff. I'm not sure just why, but I find Eleanor Rigby to be one of the funniest songs ever written. It's so full of despair and gloom that it's unreal! Kind of like an Edward Gorey thing come to life... It sounded SO good!
Drive My Car - I nearly passed out when they did this song. Another one of my all-time favorites. Paul on bass.
Penny Lane - I was so ecstatic I thought I would faint. Whimsical psychedelic sunshine at its finest. Paul on bass.
For No One - Paul on piano, with assists from the keyboardist. Beautiful song.
I’ll Get You - The keyboardist is also a harmonica player, and he helped this song sound like we were all there together in the early 60's. Paul on bass.
Good Day Sunshine - Paul on piano, fantastically replicated song.
Got To Get You Into My Life - Paul on bass, and singing it with all the high notes. This one was a real crowd-pleaser. If I recall correctly, this one got into the charts a couple of times, one time being after the Beatles broke up.
I’ve Got a Feeling - This one sounded GREAT, with a big beautiful wall of guitar sound. Paul stretched his voice out on this one, and one of his guitarists sang the Lennon lines perfectly.
The Long and Winding Road - Paul on piano, nice arrangement. Some people thought this song was sappy, but I always found it very moving.
Till There Was You - A surprise from the Beatles' early early years. Paul on bass.
I Will - Solo acoustic guitar piece by Paul. Another one I came to hear!
Back In The USSR - The band was pretty loose on this one, but hey, it was another one I was hoping they would do, and it was GREAT. Paul on bass.
Hey Jude - Paul on piano, about seven minutes worth like on the record, but with lots of call-and-response stuff with the crowd. What a showman Paul is... !
Get Back - I came to hear it, and they did it! Such a fantastic song... I MUST see if I can get the guys in our band to do this one. Paul on bass.
Helter Skelter - Of all the songs I came to hear, I was most pleased that they did this one. It is one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs. I like stuff that's dark and noisy, and Helter Skelter is both. Paul on bass, and lots of faithful work from his guitarists. I didn't want them to finish this one...
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window - The crowd loved this one! Paul was on bass again.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (reprise)/The End - These last two ended the show, and they were done as a medley. The keyboardist provided the bass part, and Paul traded lots of lead licks with the other guitarists during an extended jam on the middle part of The End.
Kit and the girls and I had a wonderful, wonderful time. We will remember this as one of the best shows we have ever seen! We went to see one of the remaining Beatles, just because... and we wound up seeing a guy who can still sing and play extremely well, and who still knows how to make himself, his material and his crowd come alive, all in ways that inspire.