Former Beatles bassist rocks the Bell Centre
MONTREAL - As with so many Paul McCartney concerts witnessed and recorded in recent years, Thursday night's sold-out show at the Bell Centre really began with The Roar.
Loud outbursts for the entrances of performers at the arena are, of course, standard. But the otherworldly, deafening explosion of devotion that consistently greets McCartney when he first takes the stage seems to give a voice to something bigger than fan enthusiasm. As The Roar washed over him before the well-chosen set opener Venus and Mars/ Rockshow, nearly a half-century of collective emotion bound up with the Beatle legacy - singular in popular music - found noisy and joyful release. And it was reprised by the 17,000 in attendance countless times.
McCartney is, let's face it, the sole carrier of the Fab legacy now - fun though Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band can be. And his every live note suggests he feels a responsibility to honour that body of work. In Thursday night's masterful marathon performance, with more than half its songs coming from the Beatles era, he lived up to that responsibility over and over again, assisted by the stellar band that has played more than 200 shows with him.
It was a wonderfully generous, perfectly-paced and relentlessly energetic night of classics, delivered with 100 per-cent loud rock muscle as required - special credit goes to powerhouse drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. - and melodic sensitivity at every turn. It was a show with no flab and no missteps.
To Sir Paul's obvious delight, many of his post-Beatle hits drew some of the most ecstatic reaction. Band on the Run, for example, seemed to yield more excitement than Paperback Writer. Live and Let Die, with blinding indoor fireworks and bursts of flame you could feel, drove the fans into delirium. The crazily infectious Mrs. Vandebilt was also an unexpected highlight, Letting Go was a Wings gem rediscovered and both Highway and Sing the Changes, from his 2008 Electric Arguments album as The Fireman, were received with vocal enthusiasm - something you rarely see when veteran rockers play recent material.
The Beatle moments were, as expected, the ones packed with the most emotion.
It started early, with a note-perfect rendition of All My Loving and scenes from A Hard Day's Night projected behind the band. The set list also included a bouncing I've Just Seen a Face, a tender And I Love Her, a raucous singalong on Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Blackbird, with McCartney explaining its inspiration by the civil rights unrest of the '60s, Montreal, it seems, got a special treat with Michelle and the rarely-done post-Fab beauty Ram On.
McCartney spoke movingly of his fallen bandmates, introducing the beautiful Here Today as "a conversation I never had with John," and using John Lennon's anthem Give Peace a Chance as the coda to a goosebump-inducing A Day In the Life. Playing a ukulele George Harrison gave him, he also sang Harrison's Something.
In the end, what sticks in the mind - apart, obviously, from the strongest body of work in pop history - is the sight of an arena full of people, young and old, with smiles stuck on their faces as they sang along for three hours. You can't find that kind of positive energy in too many places anymore.Last Updated: 08/13/10 09:02