April 18, 2016

Here Today: McCartney "One on One" in Portland

Paul McCartney
Moda Center, Portland
April 15, 2016
In the hierarchy of living rock and roll legends, there's a strong argument that Paul McCartney sits at the top. Ample evidence of the ex-Beatle's primacy was on full display in Portland, as he delivered a spirited, 38-song extravaganza that not only did justice to his career, but also shined a light on the dustier, sometimes eccentric corners of his catalog. 

Channeling Jimi: Sir Paul on guitar (photos by  Mary Layton)
This latest jaunt, officially titled the "One on One" tour, could just be called "Paul Things to Paul People." The setlist was wide-ranging, and the structure of the show was enhanced by a seven-song acoustic segment. Suffice to say, there was something for everyone. Hardcore Beatles fanatic? Well, boom, here's "Hard Day's Night" to open the show, not played in 51 years and never during McCartney's solo era. Fab Four scholar? Here's a reading of The Quarrymen's "In Spite of All the Danger." Dig the weird stuff? How does McCartney II's electronic-pop bleeper "Temporary Secretary" work for you? Avid Wings fan? The bouncy piano escapade "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" has you covered. You once asked on social media, "Who's Paul McCartney?" Here's the Rihanna-Kanye-McCartney wildin'-out ditty, "FourFiveSeconds." You're just here to sing along to Beatles tunes? Here's 23 of those, from "We Can Work it Out" to "Back in the U.S.S.R." to "Love Me Do." Still want more? Here are three punchy selections from Macca's admirable 2013 album New.

As with the Beatles and Wings, McCartney doesn't do all this alone; he's got a stable foundation in his versatile touring band of the past 14 years, Brian Ray (guitar, bass), Rusty Anderson (guitar), Abe Laboriel Jr. (drums), and Paul "Wix" Wickens (keyboards). They've got it all covered: harmony vocals, switching to bass so Paul can peel off Hendrixian guitar squeals at the end of "Let Me Roll It," or just banging a tambourine. Laboriel Jr. cuts perhaps the most striking figure, perched atop his drum riser as a vortex of swinging arms and drumsticks. While Sir Paul is the default focal point, these other parts of his well-oiled machine also deserve attention, whether it's Anderson tearing up a solo, or Ray strumming the spectral acoustic transition of "Band on the Run." 

Rock icons can often get a pass for just showing up. And McCartney could somewhat phone it in, but there's never any sense of that; his professionalism, respect for his audience, and spare-no-expense production value tactics are irrefutable. And at 73, with a bit of sandpaper in his voice now and again, he has to realize that time is finite. He's out there playing every city he can, whether it's a major market like Seattle, or neglected, smaller locales like Fresno and Cleveland. As gratifying and emotionally impactful as this concert was, as much as it projected vitality, there was a nagging feeling that Portland, which hadn't welcomed Sir Paul in 11 years, was witnessing something akin to a comet. The rareness of this night, you know? The sheer ephemerality of it all. Mortality is tough to bear, yet was noticeably underlined by the moments where McCartney paid tribute to two departed Georges (Harrison and Martin), and dedicated the heartfelt "Here Today" to John Lennon.
"Something" for George
To live, though, is to carry that weight, persevere, and make the most of this thing called life. As Paul sang at the conclusion of this evening, "And in the end the love you take / Is equal to the love you make." On this night, the love felt incalculable.

Setlist (spoilers ahead...)

   A Hard Day's Night
   Save Us
   Can't Buy Me Love
   Letting Go
   Temporary Secretary
   Let Me Roll It
   I've Got a Feeling
   My Valentine
   Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
   Here, There and Everywhere
   Maybe I'm Amazed
Acoustic Set:
e Can Work It Out
  In Spite of All the Danger
  You Won't See Me
  Love Me Do
  And I Love Her
  Here Today
Queenie Eye
   The Fool on the Hill
   Lady Madonna
   Eleanor Rigby
   Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
   Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
   Band on the Run
   Back in the U.S.S.R.
   Let It Be
   Live and Let Die
   Hey Jude

    Hi, Hi, Hi
    Golden Slumbers
    Carry That Weight
    The End