And Then There Were Two
United Center - Chicago
April 10, 2002
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2002, Volume 9, #5
Written by John Metzger
Sadly, the world is running out of Beatles. Last Fall, nearly twenty-one years after John Lennon was brutally murdered in front of his New York City home, George Harrison succumbed to a lengthy battle with cancer, leaving us with two. And the powers that be know it. Though pop music (and the world in general) needs The Beatles now more than ever, tickets for Paul McCartney’s first trek through the U.S. in nearly a decade topped out at $250, and reached nearly $300 after all the unnecessary surcharges and fees. Let me put that in perspective: For a couple earning $26,000 a year, it would cost them more than a week’s salary to see the concert. And that’s before parking, souvenirs, food, and beverages. So, when McCartney belted out his latest undeserving anthem Freedom, one can only assume he meant autonomy only for the very rich.
That said, McCartney’s April 10 concert at Chicago’s United Center was nearly a flawless performance. In fact, it was, occasionally, a tad too impeccable. The funk riff of Coming Up fizzled just as it was about to take off; the biting blues guitar that fed Let Me Roll It never fully ignited the song; and We Can Work It Out, Can’t Buy Me Love, and Lady Madonna were all delivered at a brisk pace. Not that any of these were bad versions — just clean, simple, and oh, so crowd-pleasing.
Yet, there was plenty more from which to choose as McCartney touched upon just about everything one might expect — and that’s saying something for a guy who wrote countless hits both with and without the rest of the Fab Four. There was the amphetamine-soaked I Saw Her Standing There, the perfectly timed surprise of Getting Better, and the tender, earthy touch of Mother Nature’s Son. There was the simple, yet elegant bass line that underscored All My Loving, the uncorked volley of guitars that bristled throughout Lonely Road, and the touching tributes to John Lennon (the tenderly acoustic Here Today) and George Harrison (the playful, ukelele-stoked Something). And, there was the burning passion that fueled Maybe I’m Amazed, the brilliant recasting of Here, There, and Everywhere with a European flair, and the revitalized reggae groove of C Moon.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the entire event unfolded from a bizarre bit of performance art as costume-clad characters wound their way through the audience. It was as if Chicago’s Art Institute had flung open its doors, out of which walked real-life replicas of its paintings. As the surreal processional made its way towards the stage, a circus ensued as strong men and contortionists pranced wildly in front of a high-resolution screen that portrayed realistic images of The Parthenon and the Taj Mahal. And just as dreamily as they appeared, the cast of the magical mystery tour once again vanished, leaving behind McCartney and his band.
So, if the concert wasn’t perfect, McCartney made it easy to forgive. There just simply was too much that was right, and anything that didn’t suit you quickly mutated into something that did. He even went so far as to mitigate the nationalistic fervor of Freedom by dragging it deeper into the frenetic darkness of Live and Let Die and then folding it gently into the spiritual Let It Be before finally laying it to rest in the most ebullient Hey Jude imaginable. Talk about taking a sad song (or even a bad one), and making it better.
Further cementing the "All You Need Is Love" theme of the concert was McCartney’s final encore. Here, he linked the quiet, reflectiveness of Yesterday with the rowdy reprise of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the blistering blaze of The End. And, by doing so, he allowed lyrics like "All my troubles seemed so far away/Now it looks as if they’re here to stay" to melt into the final lines the Beatles had recorded: "And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to the love/You make." In the process, the meaning behind them became something greater than even The Beatles had originally intended. And although only two remain on this earthly plane of existence — the souls of all four were once again reborn and reunited within the confines of the song. And given the current state of the world — it wasn’t a moment too soon. What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding, anyway? After all, all you need is love.
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Copyright © 2002 The Music Box