Seeing Paul McCartney is a joy, but not the ultimate Beatles experience

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You don't need to be in Paul McCartney's presence to feel the power of the greatest band in history.

Seeing Paul McCartney perform live on his current Australian tour was a joy and a privilege.

For three hours he played a string of the greatest songs ever committed to record (as well as a couple of Wings songs, ha ha ha).

He told charming, engrossing, often quirky stories that shed new light on his life, rather than the tired old tales every British classic rock magazine has tattled out about him over the years.

And he galivanted around the stage with more finesse than any 75-year-old ought to be able to muster, like a living, breathing, dancing advertisement for vegetarianism.

It was a brilliant show and one of many amazing points in my life where the power of The Beatles overwhelms everything else.

But I can’t in good faith claim it brought me any closer to The Beatles than ever before.

 

The Beatles are my favourite band of all time. That’s a boring thing to say, but it’s true. Some have argued, perhaps fairly, that it’s not fair to claim them as your favourite band as they exist on some kind of higher plain.

As such, my life has been punctuated with dozens of moments where The Beatles have had a kind of transcendent power. Where hearing their music has provoked a physical and emotional response that is so completely overwhelming that its rush doesn’t even compare to any other experience.

These moments include, but are not limited to:

  • Buying my first ever CD at nine years of age, and endlessly playing and replaying it, listening to the charged up rock’n’roll and screeching audience, in awe of the power this band wielded.
  • Forcing friends to listen to ‘Revolution 9’ in a dark room as a teenager.
  • Bursting into tears at the intro to Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show Love a decade ago.
  • Dancing to ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ at 1am in a bar in Fortitude Valley on one otherwise uneventful Saturday night a few years back.
  • Seeing a cover band called ‘The Beatles’ (such a great name) perform at Osaka’s Cavern Club with nine elderly Japanese people last month.
  • And, if there had to be a most powerful moment, there’s that pivotal night where I, at 12-years-old, first truly listened to – not merely heard – The White Album, and knew nothing would ever be the same again.
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It's no Paul McCartney, but it was still very special.

These were moments of sheer euphoria. Moments that I hold dearly as some of the greatest in my life. Moments that no other band has been able to provide and probably never will.

Paul McCartney’s performance last week is now a part of this list of wonderful Beatles-related experiences. But it won’t necessarily sit any higher, or hold any more power, than some of those other moments.

That’s surprising to me and, truthfully, a little disappointing. I had anticipated seeing Paul McCartney would be some kind of ultimate Beatles experience. An life-changing, epiphany-inducing moment. A show that would bring me even closer in my devotion to the greatest band of all time. A night that would change the way I felt about the music I've loved my whole life.

It was not any of those things. It was just a whole lot of fun.

Perhaps, had I not had these formative experiences in the past, being in the presence of such greatness would have overwhelmed me more. Was this the price I paid for being so obsessed? Or was McCartney’s tasteful but generally pretty safe renditions of his hits just not enough to floor me?

I don’t write this as a complaint. If anything, I’d love this to be a consolation to the many Beatles devotees who couldn’t be with Paul McCartney over these past few weeks.

Perhaps you couldn’t afford a ticket, maybe you couldn’t get to a venue where he was playing, or the thought of navigating a stadium of 40,000 people might have just been too intimidating. Yes, of course you missed a wonderful show, but I can’t in good faith promise that you missed a life-changing experience.

I’m heartened to hear the overwhelming positivity that fans of all ages have expressed in the wake of this extraordinary tour. Just remember, The Beatles are so powerful that you don’t need to be in McCartney’s presence to have your ultimate Beatles experience.

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