Paul McCartney on the Halifax Commons

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It was déjà vu, but it’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into.

When Paul McCartney’s Halifax concert was announced back in May, there was a bittersweet tinge to its timing for me. Here was a performer who’s been near the top of my Halifax concert wishlist for years, finally playing our city a mere three months after I’d traveled to California to the Coachella music festival where the headliner was…Paul McCartney.

Given how his performance was the talk of the festival, you’d think I’d be jumping at the chance to see the Beatle again. But unlike the Springsteen concert I saw on the same trip – which made me feel like I was part of a unique moment – Macca’s show felt like a perfectly-calculated experience, with each moment carefully planned for maximum impact. I presumed that McCartney was treating Coachella as a warmup for his summer tour and expected few – if any – changes to his routine. Was it worth $135 to repeat the same experience? I thought no.

I’d like to say that my change of heart was an intellectual decision; that I carefully decided that the opportunity cost of missing another (and likely, final) chance to see McCartney in concert was one I wasn’t willing to pay. But the real reasons are more shallow and selfish. For one, hearing my friends and coworkers get excited about the show made me feel a bit out of sorts, and I began to worry that I might be missing out on one of the major shared moments that our fair city will see this year (I wasn’t alone in that – 50,000 showed up to the Commons). For another, I was a bit too far away from the stage at Coachella to get photographs up to my usual standard, and I wanted a great shot or two of the Beatle for my collection. And finally, I held out hope that the one or two twists that McCartney would work into his setlist would be spectacular enough to warrant another go.

In the end, those changes were minimal. McCartney switched “Jet” and “Drive My Car” at the start, opening with the latter, and he dropped “Honey Hush” for the Beatles classic “All My Loving” (smart move), but otherwise the main set was exactly the same. The second encore was a note-for-note repeat as well. The only significant changes were to the first encore: instead of “Birthday” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” we got “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Daytripper,” which MaccaBlog reports was being performed by McCartney for the first time since the Beatles broke up (cool, eh?). Oh and we also got “Mull of Kintyre” with a local pipe band on support, which the Nova Scotians stereotypically geeked out for (I still think the song is a bit boring).

The rest of the experience was akin to watching a great movie for the second time: because you know what’s going to happen, the element of surprise is gone and the excitement level dips accordingly. That doesn’t mean, though, that one can’t appreciate the craft and artistry involved. McCartney’s set is impeccably constructed to allow him the freedom to be a bit self-indulgent – playing some tracks from his Fireman project, for example – but quickly bouncing back to the classics that everyone came to hear. He’s been playing with his band for most of this decade, and it shows in their flexibility whether they’re moulding themselves to sound like Wings, the Beatles or just plain ol’ Paul McCartney’s backing band.

But the show’s coup de grace – and the reason why Haligonians in attendance are still buzzing over 24 hours later – is the reverent treatment that McCartney and his band give to the Beatles material. I’ve been following Macca’s setlists for a few years now, and the amount of Beatles material he plays has grown and grown. It’s almost as if he’s realized that with George Harrison’s passing (and Ringo, well, being Ringo) that the responsibility for curating the band’s legacy rests with him and him alone, and he’s determined to make the most of it. Out of context, the idea of McCartney playing the other Beatles’ songs – Harrison’s “Something,” Lennon’s “A Day in the Life” and “Give Peace a Chance” – seems ludicrous, but it makes complete sense within the context of the show. He knows people are going to his concert first and foremost because he was a Beatle, and he’s not only okay with that – he embraces it.

(Also read: my reflections on my first Paul McCartney experience courtesy Dalnews)

After the break, the setlist and a collection of my photos of McCartney and opening acts Wintersleep and the Joel Plaskett Emergency, along with a couple of (not by me) videos.

Setlist

Drive My Car
Jet
Only Mama Knows
Flaming Pie
Got To Get You Into My Life
Let Me Roll It (w/ Foxy Lady outro)
Highway
All My Loving
The Long And Winding Road
My Love
Blackbird
Here Today
Dance Tonight
Calico Skies
Mrs. Vandebilt
Eleanor Rigby
Sing The Changes
Band On The Run
Back In The U.S.S.R.
Something
I’ve Got A Feeling
Paperback Writer
A Day In The Life/Give Peace A Chance
Let It Be
Live And Let Die
Hey Jude

Day Tripper
Lady Madonna
Mull Of Kintyre
I Saw Her Standing There

Yesterday
Helter Skelter
Get Back
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
The End

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Watch: “Drive My Car” (live at Halifax Common)

Watch: “Blackbird” (live at Halifax Common)

Watch: Paul McCartney invites young fan on stage who held up sign asking the Beatle to sign her arm for a tattoo. Adorable freak-outs and hugs ensue.

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9 responses to “Paul McCartney on the Halifax Commons

  1. You know, you come off as a spoiled little prig that thinks he knows everything. How can you possibly write an unbiased review article?
    I have waited 50 years to see the Beatles or one of the group and hear their music live. I never before have been in a geographical location nor had the finances to travel to a concert.How lucky you have been, and how unlucky you are to be so shallow concerning talent and greatness.
    I loved how Sir Paul’s eyes changed to the flirty appearance of the Beatles first time on the Ed Sullivan show and how the years dropped from his face and appearance. He lost years when he was doing the old favourits. He was not alone…many people around me, including myself, lost years listening to him and reverted to youthful individuals again, yelling, cheering, and only because of our age neglected to faint in the presence of those eyes, smile and love for the music and fans.
    For some of us it was an adventure of a lifetime, never to be repeated. Great pleasure was had by us ‘old’ fans to see boys and girls in their teens, 20’s and 30’s enjoying such a talent.Who except you would give a shit about what order the songs were played in or if the concert was similar to one in Cal.
    Mull Of Kintyre was performed with pride for our heritage. WE are after all New Scotland.
    Hope as you age you will learn appreciation for music and talent, not just for your opinion and preferences. Maybe then you will be able to write a review that has some intellect content.

  2. …wow, I never would have expected such a harsh comment for a review that has very few negative thing to say about the show. It’s not like I complain about the setlist being the same, since McCartney was repeating a show that I previously called “astonishingly comprehensive” and “brilliant.” Explaining the nuance of watching a great concert over again is hardly a slight against its greatness.

    Also, you might want to read my previous post, where I share my personal experiences with McCartney including describing (at length) how incredible it was to experience him for the first time. Might change your reaction against my review.

  3. I didn’t go to the concert, wasn’t interested, and only looked up this review when a co-worker mentioned the concert and I wanted to see how it went. The magnitude of harshness from your first comment there was just so out of line, I felt I had to post something to help counter-act any bad vibes :)

    Personally, I really liked the review. It’s a rarely-seen insight that treats the concert as a progression; providing the extra info about Coachella adds a lot, sort of like providing the dvd commentary to add some depth to the whole thing. I’m a huge Cure fan, and I love reading about their tours, which songs get switched out for other songs, encores, rarely-played songs, etc, even if I’m not at any of the shows. I can imagine there are a lot of McCartney fans who appreciate that added depth as well.

    So, keep on watching and writing, McNutt. And Barb, it’s truly wonderful that you enjoyed the concert so much and had a meaningful experience; try not to spoil that by treating other people so lowly, ok? ;)

    Give peace a chance,

    -Christian

  4. Wow McNutt, super harsh response from ‘ol Barb. I enjoyed your insight as always and your comparison to Coachella. Thanks!

  5. Pingback: Top Posts « WordPress.com·

  6. I’ve never thought of “A Day in the Life” as a Lennon song. I always firmly believed it was a true collaboration between Lennon and McCartney. That being said, I don’t know how that song can be authentically performed by just McCartney.

    I’m sad that I didn’t get to go to the concert, and I’m jealous that you got to see him TWICE this year. Screw Barb. You just got to have double the experience everyone else wanted, and you worked for it.

    Sigh.

  7. Todd Compton, in a well-researched article in the Journal of Popular Culture (1988) on the authorship of the Lennon-McCartney canon, presents strong evidence that McCartney was the major author of “In My Life.” Highest probability appears to be that Lennon wrote the words and McCartney at least the harmony and the middle eight but very likely the entire melody. If so, he has no less right to perform it than anyone else, and more than anyone accept John. The Compton article is probably the definitive piece on evidence-based attribution of authorship of Beatles songs. If anyone wants a copy, I can send it along. You can find my email on the web site of the University of Vermont; if you’d like a copy of the Compton piece, just ask. Cheers–Daniel Fogel

  8. The first comment also prompted me to reply, just to say that I am going to one of the concerts in Boston in August and was looking for a review and setlist from recent shows and found this review helpful and informational. Take care!

  9. Pingback: …in which McNutt gives some sober thought to the Halifax concert scandal hangover « McNutt Against the Music·

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