Rock music legend Sir Paul McCartney makes his entrance onto the stage to start his show at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Tuesday. McCartney made his first visit to the Quad-Cities as a part of the Freshen Up Tour.
MOLINE – Paul McCartney is the polar opposite of a one-hit wonder. With a mind-blowing 60-year performing career under his belt, the near 77-year-old is, obviously, a wonder.
But choosing a set list for his live shows must be an exquisitely agonizing challenge. If the former Beatle unleashed even half of his hits over the decades, Tuesday night's historic concert at the TaxSlayer Center could have easily stretched well into Wednesday.
McCartney's first – and possibly last – show in the Quad-Cities offered a phenomenally generous catalog of old and newer classics, as well as a handful of sturdy, youthfully boisterous numbers from his most recent studio releases. But, as most of the packed Moline arena's crowd would likely have preferred, 22 of the three-hour evening's 38 songs were from his Beatles days – including a rare performance of the Quarrymen's first demo, 1958's “In Spite of All the Danger” (made with George Harrison and John Lennon).
There was something for everyone in the amazingly diverse, ecstatic concert. Though Paul started a bit later than the scheduled go time, the deafening standing ovation he got at the outset kept the appreciative audience on its feet virtually the entire night. The iconic opening chord for the first song, “A Hard Day's Night” set the pace, as it was one of many the crowd loved singing along with.
The heartstrings of nostalgia were expertly plucked, including video snippets of Beatlemania, accompanying “All My Loving.” As the frantic, joyous young girls screamed on screen, an older woman close to that age in 1964 screamed behind me, as if on cue.
I'm a newcomer to McCartney concerts, so I'm not sure if he's usually like this, but he definitely was in a chatty mood Tuesday, supplying many fond memories of stories behind some songs. For his “Who Cares,” from 2018's “Egypt Station,” he related he wrote it to ease the struggles of those who are bullied.
In one of several jaw-dropping moments during the show, Paul first explained how he wrote the Beatles' “Blackbird” in honor of African-Americans struggling for civil rights in the '60s. Alone with his acoustic guitar, McCartney literally flew way up high as most of the stage ascended and on a screen in front of that piece was displayed an image of the Earth with stars.
Up there, he also sang his touching 1982 tribute to Lennon (after his 1980 slaying), “Here Today,” imploring the audience not to wait to tell loved ones how they feel. In his lyrics was a conversation he said he never got to have with John.
The master of many instruments, Paul seamlessly switched among them throughout the intermission-less night – from his trademark bass, to acoustic guitar, to mandolin (for “Dance Tonight”), to ukulele (for Harrison's “Something”) to piano – on several standouts, including “Maybe I'm Amazed,” “Lady Madonna,” “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” and “Let It Be.”
His tight three-man horn section – saxophone, trumpet and trombone – was highlighted to wonderful effect on certain songs, including “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “Letting Go,” and “Let 'Em In.” During McCartney's lovely “My Valentine,” which he dedicated to his wife, Nancy, who he said was in the audience, a black-and-white video played of Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp signing the words, and the live video of Paul also was shown in black and white.
Technically, the spectacular lighting, video and other special effects were the most impressive of pretty much any show I've seen at the arena. The innovation, creativity and dazzling variety of the video and lighting were just awe-inspiring.
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The breathtaking highlight in that regard was “Live and Let Die,” the James Bond theme McCartney also sang from the piano. I've never seen KISS live, and I know they go all out in their stage show, but here there literally were fireworks over the stage in the uptempo, orchestral sections of the song, as well as explosions and flying flames. There are no words to do justice to the pyrotechnic wonders of that gonzo display.
Drummer "Abe" Laboriel Jr. was a consistently fun man to watch, as he was clearly having a blast during the whole show. “Dance Tonight” featured him hamming it up big time, as he did silly dances and mugged for the video camera.
As many McCartney fans have seen him many times, he mentioned at one point the frequency of people holding up signs, and Moline was no exception. He read a few, which included “Hi Paul, You Are Our Summer Vacation,” and “Will Trade My Mom for an Autograph.”
Among many full-throated singalongs, the best included “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and the beloved “Hey Jude,” both of which Paul carved out sections for the audience to sing by itself. In the latter, the big video screen panned over sections of the crowd, and people seemed in heaven, with big smiles.
Age certainly hasn't slowed or dimmed the ferocity of the cute Beatles' propensity for rocking, as he tore through blistering versions of “Save Us,” “Fuh You,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Birthday” and “Helter Skelter.” Even the Beatles' “I've Got a Feeling” had tremendous energy and drive. We know he's still got a sex drive, with 2018's come-hither “Come On To Me.”
Tuesday night was one for the memory books, and I'm certain Q-C music fans will treasure and recall it for years to come. Like “Hard Day's Night” exclaims, the things Paul did made us feel alright.
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