The concert of a lifetime.
An epic 3 hour saturation of some of the best songs ever written in the history of music that I’m actually at a loss for words. I’m so overwhelmed to try and write after a night out with the man himself, that I have to stop myself getting all choked up as I still cannot believe we finally got him back over here. Like many fans Australia wide, I have waited my whole life for last night’s Sydney concert at Qudos Bank Arena and my story also goes way back to as young as I can remember. Beginning with my oldest sister and her Magical Mystery Tour and White Album vinyls. Sitting on the floor, spinning the tunes but re-reading the liner notes and attempting to learn the lyrics as quickly as possible. Being drawn into the trippy layering of music and voice. It was such a profound interest at such a young age that just went deeper as the years progressed. Vivid memories of buying my Beatles Rock ‘n Roll Volume compilation vinyl at about 9 or 10 years old, with begged–for pocket money, I thought I was the bees knees with that in my room. Blaring ‘Taxman’, ‘Birthday’ and ‘Helter Skelter’. And then recording any Beatles footage from the TV, borrowing anything Beatles from the library and illegally dubbing it onto my TDK cassette tapes until I was old enough to buy everything. It was a constant theme and every Beatles tragic would do the same, which was, do anything to get your hands on more.
Such a vast and versatile catalogue that there’s a song for every mood. A time for love, rocking out, reflecting and yes.. lots of day dreaming and tripping out. You knew you would get the whole package here and even after listening to a song a hundred times, you would discover something new on the ‘hundred and first’ listen. The Beatles were also a bonding band with new friends. From talking about their songs in primary school, to the 7th grade, after just starting high school, we would sing Beatles songs on the way to our ‘bean gardens’ at our agricultural high school. Wearing gum boots and carrying our gardening hoes, now that’s a vision for you, singing the Beatles while learning how to grow beans. One thing that binds, and you have friends forever. A legacy that transcends music and with tentacles that reach even further into every aspect of your life, touching millions of humans by just doing what fate would have you do. How fortunate that we still get to hear this music live and in many different forms eg The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil. A blessing of the highest order.
The energy was palpable in and around Qudos. Throngs of people arriving early after battling the Sydney traffic and soaking in as much as they could of this ‘event’. I didn’t check any interstate set lists as I wanted to be totally surprised and going in like this was so exciting that I could barely contain myself watching the pre concert footage montage. Multiple generations of families and friends waving to each other from different seating locations, and smiling like Cheshire cats, was what I noticed across the venue. The meaning of what we were all about to witness may be unique and personal to each and every fan, but we were all ‘one’ here last night. Joined together by absolute joy and decades of memories and affection for McCartney, and his Beatles, and Wings, and all the wonderful music he’s created. Then the moment had finally arrived and the arena just erupted. As Paul and his sensational band launched into ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, it was time to let go and see where he decided to take you along this glorious path of musical masterpieces. The waves of emotion were difficult to control. Some Wings ‘Jet’ then some ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘Temporary Secretary’ and ‘Drive My Car’. Like an out-of-body experience, I felt like I needed a big slap to be brought back to Earth. I knew it was going to be impossible to not let some happy tears flow. Continuing with ‘Let Me Roll It’ , ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’ and a beautiful dedication to his wife Nancy with ‘My Valentine’. Changing guitars and moving onto piano, I just wanted to dive in and digest every morsel of music, lyric , voice and between-song stories. You just couldn’t keep up, and looking so fab for a man in his 70’s, Paul would put many a youngin’ to shame. Tracks like ‘Nineteen Hundred and Eighty- Five’, the mesmerising tribute to Linda McCartney with ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ and then ‘We Can Work It Out’ before some old school Quarrymen and early Beatles ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’. Just hearing the stories and how long ago they all occurred, it was surreal to imagine Paul back in those times, as he looks too young to have experienced it all. Are we sure this wasn’t some Paul McCartney doppelganger on stage??
A 40 song set list… So easy when you’ve got hundreds of tunes to choose from and with so many personal favourites, everything was a treat. I wonder if a little eenie miney mo doesn’t come into play when trying to work out which songs make the grade for that evening’s performance. ‘Love Me Do’ carried on the onslaught and a stunning ‘And I Love Her’. Then ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Here Today’, an emotional song written for Lennon after he was prematurely taken away from this world. Those waves becoming more robust as we think about how that loss, not just how we felt, would have been for everyone close to him and more so for McCartney. That famed partnership of McCartney/Lennon and Lennon/McCartney, the most celebrated song writing duo in history. Fate indeed and divine intervention, undeservedly being tinged with pain. It really was a very emotional tribute. But then to shake us out of our reflective state we had songs like ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘FourFive Seconds’ pumping through the speakers. I cannot even begin to cover every track, this was a monster gig, but I did elegantly meltdown once I heard ‘Eleanor Rigby’, then ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ and the deliciously trippy ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’. Swirls of colour and patterns moving around the stage, a carnival for all the senses. Oh to be able to bottle this up and keep it hidden away for your own personal viewing and listening pleasure. I only wish that were possible.
For our next track, the ukulele appeared on stage, a gift from George to Paul, and then Paul began George’s famed ‘Something’ while regaling us with another great story. It was once again time to embrace and reflect the contribution and loss of another Beatles legend. When I heard the beginning of the next song, I had to stop myself from punching the air, ‘A Day In The Life’ … the memories of first hearing something so otherworldly come flooding back. This would happen with most of the songs being played, a deep-seeded memory attached. You could just cry from extreme happiness, I forgot how many times I had to wipe my eyes as the concert worked its way through gem after gem. ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ , and yet another obsession when ‘Band On The Run’ started. This was one of the ‘borrowed from the library when young’ albums and I barely held it together by the time we got to ‘Back In The USSR’ and ‘Let It Be’. Thank God those ‘Live and Let Die’ pyrotechnics brought you back into your current zone, it was just too easy to be taken away at every moment. I needed to remind myself we were in a venue with thousands of other people. McCarney’s ability to make you all feel at home, while showing his humour and empathy was beguiling. Yes, he’s had many years of practice, but some have a facade that is clearly noticeable. No facade here, just genuine love and care, with a sharp wit. I could have listened to him chat for many hours, not just the snippets we had in between songs, and the many ovations throughout the evening proved the loyalty of the numberless faithful.
The Qudos sing-a-long to ‘Hey Jude’ was gorgeous Sydney, which was our first finale. I was then told by another fan “This encore will be a long one, get ready!” and it was. More phones lighting up the arena as ‘Yesterday’.. started. Wiping eyes again. Hoping not to get into the blubbering tissue stage. Then it was back to dancing in the aisles as ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ brought the house down. Another moment, building on top of yet another moment, ‘Mull of Kintyre’, wow, a stunning rendition with some wonderful Sydney bagpipers. It was a case of, “what else is going to happen?”. Some ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ mixed in and then it came.. whoah, I didn’t think I would get this one but when I heard the ferocious guitars/vocals and drums of ‘Helter Skelter’ start, it was like being a kid again. Trying not to knock my own head off while head banging. Heavenly. Influencing so many people, in so many different ways. Just the multitude of concepts is mind-boggling. By the time we got to ‘Golden Slumbers’, ‘Carry That Weight’ and ‘The End’, we were exhausted but if Paul was able to go past 3 hours, we would have persevered. I put it out of my mind that I had to pull up for work the next morning and just kept absorbing, even watching the trucks load up all the equipment outside as the crammed car park took an hour to empty. And I wasn’t the only one, I spied many others doing exactly the same thing, peering over the ledges. I’m pretty sure many dreams came true last night, not just mine.
The magical world of McCartney. Everything has already been written tenfold over the years that all I can say is thank you for one of the best nights of my life and for all the decades of aural and visual pleasure. I feel quite ‘complete’ in a sense, after your brilliant giga concert and please, please ‘do a Bruce’ and come back for an encore tour next year. Australia would want nothing more than to walk down this magnificent journey with you once again. This is one life-time event worth saving and spending your pennies on, and I feel very grateful to have finally added these new precious moments into my already overflowing McCartney memory bank. As I heard many a fellow and lady yell out last night ‘WE LOVE YOU PAUL’.. yes we do, and please do come back…