Paul McCartney @ nib Stadium
Saturday, December 2, 2017
It’s as simple as this: I haven’t heard more of the greatest songs ever written at one concert, ever.
Paul McCartney is the greatest living songwriter this side of Bob Dylan. And he certainly plays the more crowd pleasing sets of the two. Sure, a fair share of newer tunes and oddities kept things fresh on Saturday night, as Macca took three hours to deliver 40 tracks to a rapturous audience, but it’s hard to imagine anyone left disappointed.
He did it without a single cover too, if you don’t count Beatles songs by other members. He opened with A Hard Day’s Day’s Night, a song mainly written by John Lennon, while two Sgt Peppers‘ numbers in Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! and the timeless A Day in the Life are also largely attributed to his former songwriting partner.
Using a ukulele given to him by George Harrison, he performed the late lead guitarist’s Something – a highlight when the rest of the band kicked in to transform it into the winsome epic we’re more accustomed to. It was a breathless moment.
The elements seemed against McCartney early; nib Stadium is a horrible venue to get into and anyone who navigated the triple threat queues to pick up their ticket, enter the venue and get a drink within an hour can count themselves lucky. For a crowd of 23,000 – surprisingly modest compared to some concerts in recent times – it seemed there was a huge line at every turn. And the bizarre seating arrangement made it impossible for those toward the side to see the visuals at the back of the stage at all, leaving a lot for the screens side of stage (which were showing different vision anyway) to make up for.
It’s testament to what a wonderful show this was that McCartney and his band of just four incredible musicians were able to rise above it with perfect sound and their frontman’s charisma. The latter was particularly engaging and Macca had a terrific sense of humour all night. He shook his backside, mouthed cheeky questions to the audience, called us Perthians, and most endearingly, fist pumped and frequently sang “woo hoo” or quirky melodies into the microphone between tracks.
Can’t Buy Me Love and All My Loving were highlights early, while Let Me Roll It looked like it had a speccy visual show (for those that could see). The segue into Foxy Lady led to a fun Jimi Hendrix tale (Macca called him a “great, humble guy”) and the stories became a highlight of the night. Fifth Beatle and producer George Martin (Love Me Do), wife Nancy (My Valentine), first wife Linda (Maybe I’m Amazed), The Quarrymen (In Spite of All the Danger), The Rolling Stones (I’m Gonna Be Your Man – a McCartney song that became the Stones’ first hit) and even America’s civil rights movement of the 60s (Blackbird, solo on an acoustic guitar) scored a mention, the latter performed atop a mini-stage that rose up above the crowd in one of the night’s most spectacular moments.
McCartney also used this opportunity on high, with the crowd transfixed, to talk about airing your grievances while you can, saying he wrote Here Today “after my dear friend John died”. It was a touching, important part of the show.
There were new songs (“We know, when we do a Beatles song your phones light up like a galaxy… and when we do a new song it’s like a black hole,” he said, adding “But we don’t care”), while early highlights included the underrated I’ve Got a Feeling, and Rubber Soul fave You Won’t See Me.
But the gig was turned on its head 20 songs in – exactly halfway into the 40 song set – when Lady Madonna turned up the heat.
From there it was simply unforgettable. Eleanor Rigby‘s mix of synth strings and rapid acoustic guitar was superb, Band on the Run was suitably epic, Back in the U.S.S.R. featured pretty stunning visuals as best we could tell… even the maligned Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Mull of Kintyre (the latter with the the WA Police Pipe Band onstage) were great live.
The pinnacle came at the end of the main set when the trio of Let It Be on grand piano, Bond theme Live and Let Die (complete with spectacular fireworks display), and the mass-singalong to Hey Jude brought the crowd to their feet once and for all. The feeling in the air was nothing short of ecstatic as the night’s climax transformed the show from a once in a lifetime opportunity into one of the greatest concerts ever staged in Perth.
Still, the 75-year old had more to give, running back onto stage with the Australian, UK and rainbow flags – indicating solidarity with our recent “yes” vote – before performing Yesterday. The hectic, electric classic Helter Skelter proceeded an onstage marriage proposal (love was in the air and she said yes, obviously) while Birthday was another White Album treat.
Ending the show with a three-song section from one of his greatest achievements, the second half of Abbey Road, made for a grand finale. Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End joined together to bring the night to a close, with McCartney saying “All that’s left to say is we’ll see you next time,” and we can only hope this living treasure makes it back again.
Until then, then, we have this unforgettable evening to remember him by.
Photos by Adrian Thompson