There are many ways to reconnect with your own past, and one of them can be to buy bits of it on eBay. Partly in anticipation of last Thursday's Paul McCartney show, I recently bought a couple used copies of magazines I worked for in another life. Among them was a cover story on McCartney, whom I had the extreme good fortune to interview back in 2001. I still haven't re-read the story — we ran the piece awfully long, as you might imagine — but after watching him at the Pepsi Center nearly a decade later, I know it will mean even more to me now.
I mean, Christ, the 68-year-old former Beatle looks better than any of us do at 30, and sounds better than any of us will — ever.
Opening with Wings' "Jet," immediately followed by the Beatles' "All My Loving" and "Got to Get You Into My Life," the show proved that McCartney and his band have gone far beyond where they were when I saw them on their first tour nearly 10 years — some 200 shows — ago.
With a musical legacy that's touched more lives than virtually any other living musician, McCartney remains a consummate showman who clearly knows which songs will bring packed stadiums to their feet and keep them there. But last Thursday he also mixed in a couple surprises, including a song from the Fireman, his ongoing indie project with Killing Joke bassist/producer Youth. At mid-show, he grabbed a mandolin for "Dance Tonight," the lead track off Memory Almost Full, an album that helped me through one of the worst periods in my life. I'm guessing most everyone in the crowd had at least one moment where they were fighting back tears; that was mine.
Live, McCartney's band (guitarist Rusty Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., bassist/guitarist Brian Ray and keyboardist Paul Wickens) was at least as tight as Wings and, based on existing documentation, that other band he was in as well.
So yeah, maybe I was amazed, and plenty of times. Near show's end, during "Live and Let Die," explosive jets of flame roared up from the front of the stage. It was the scariest display of onstage pyrotechnics I've witnessed since seeing Einstürzende Neubauten in a small club, where they repeatedly showered cascades of sparks over the front half of the audience by intermittently applying a circular saw to sheets of metal.
McCartney also thanked his soundman and lighting crew by name, which is one of the classier things I've ever seen a performer do.
On the way out of the show, I bought the souvenir program, something I never do. Just making conversation after handing over the money, I asked the guy selling them if it was well-written.
"Yeah, it's not a load of shit," he said in a heavy working-class British accent.
At one point in the show, watching McCartney on the two 30-foot-high screens during a rendition of the Beatles' "Paperback Writer," it occurred to me that, like The Picture of Dorian Gray in reverse, he seemed to get younger as the show went on. Maybe we all did.