Have you ever found yourself reviewing archives on your computer, miscellaneous threads on Reddit or random YouTube videos for hours at a time?
Yeah, me neither.
That said, I recently found myself exploring a long forgotten archive of files that led me to this essay, penned by yours truly on the 16th of May, 2002.
From what I can gather by viewing the document this essay was written as part of an assignment for my Art Education 160 class at The Ohio State University.
While I cannot say that I vividly remember the assignment (or even the concert in the essay) I do recall the class being one of my favorite college classes of all time. We studied art and music history of the 20th century. Thanks to this assignment, I’ll always have this memory of enjoying my first Paul McCartney concert with my parents and sister.
Art Education 160
May 16, 2002
Critical Essay One
There’s No Line at the Restroom
On April 29, 2002, I had the honor of spending an evening with Paul McCartney at the Gund Arena. The Gund Arena is located in the heart of Cleveland, OH, about two hours away from Columbus, and usually plays home to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. However, on this night, the arena was completely transformed into a huge Rock & Roll stage and only a hint of a basketball court could be seen.
From the moment I sat in my seat, I knew that this was going to be an unforgettable night. The stage was the first thing that I noticed, and it was beautiful. There were about 20 enormous flat screens above the stage, covering every inch of space. There was also a huge shroud type piece of cloth hanging from the rafters, which would soon be used in the opening act’s performance. The opening act was a speechless type of dancing and motioning that blended culture from all over the world. Men and women alike were painted and dressed up in a way that I had never seen before. After they finished their act, we all sat anxiously awaiting one of the greatest figures in Rock history. Around 8:30, it began. The drums could be heard but still no one was on stage. Then, behind the hanging shroud, a shadow of a man appeared with one hand above his head holding a bass guitar. The arena went nuts. Slowly, the shroud was rolled up into the rafters, unveiling McCartney standing in a great position, ready to rock. With the crowd still going crazy, he begins to play, and the emotions and excitement in the arena are thick enough to cut with a knife. Paul ended up jamming for over two and a half hours that night, and through every song, I could barely stay in my seat. The one thing that I noticed almost immediately was that there was something about this show that was different from any other show I’d ever seen…everyone around me was sitting on the edge their chair, just like me. No one was getting up to get food, and no one was going to the bathroom. I couldn’t believe it. Throughout the entire show, I can honestly say that I didn’t see one single person get up and leave their seat for any reason. No, the people there that night didn’t have super-human bladders, and no, I don’t think anyone peed in their pants; I just believe that Paul McCartney is that special. For anyone lucky enough to see him in person, it would be unthinkable to waste time just to go to the bathroom.
Throughout the night, McCartney played a huge variety of songs, including early Beatles works, late Beatles works, songs by Wings, and of course, songs from his solo career. Although each song was special and I could probably write a page about each one, there were a few that were particularly special to me that night, and I believe these songs stole the show. Live and Let Die besides being a personal favorite of mine was a show stopper. Before even seeing this song performed live, I was always a fan of it and I always believed that no one, including Guns N Roses, could do it better. The live performance this night proved me right, and then some. The songs started out with the spotlight on Paul while he was playing the piano. About 30 seconds into it, as the song starts to get faster, a loud BOOM could be heard, along with fireworks and a light show. As one could imagine, the Arena went nuts and for a moment, I thought that the venue wouldn’t be able to handle the crowd this pumped up! Each time the song slowed down, it was quickly brought back up with another BOOM and more fireworks and lights. Interpreting this song seems easy, but there are definitely many ways the words can be interpreted. To me, it seems as if McCartney is talking about youth and how they view things. He’s saying that instead of thinking “live and let live,” that it’s ok to think “live and let die.” He’s saying that the world is a crazy place and is not always predictable, and for that reason, you have to just accept things how they are and go on with life. Maybe he’s even talking about his own life experiences considering all that he’s been through. In particular, the line, “what does it matter to ya, when you got a job to do you got to do it well, you’ve got to give me all I’ve ever had” speaks volumes about his intentions for this song.
Another showstopper was a song that involved only McCartney standing on the front of a stage with a dim spotlight shining on him while he told a story. As he began to speak, a stagehand brought him out a strange instrument: a ukulele. The story goes, as told by Paul, that over 30 years ago, George Harrison gave that instrument to Paul as a gift. As Paul told the story, he began to strum on the ukulele very lightly, and then said that he’d like to play a song in memory of George and as a tribute to him. The arena was busting with excitement, and as we all began to get quiet so that we could hear what he was going to play. Something in the way she moves were the words out of Paul’s mouth, and before he even finished the first line, the arena erupted in applause as everyone began to realize that Paul was playing Something, a Beatles song written by George Harrison and a song considered by many to be one of the greatest songs of all time. As Paul played and we sang along, the giant television screens behind Paul on stage began showing pictures of Paul and George, and for many of us, that was all we needed to begin to tear. As a final tribute to his passed friend, Paul pointed up with ukulele in hand and motioned to the sky, to his friend. Something is a beautiful song. Written for Patti Boyd by George Harrison, Something is the ultimate love song. Harrison was writing about how words don’t necessarily need to be spoken to convey feelings, that there was just something about his lover that let him know she loved him. This song very well could have been the best of the night
The last showstopper I’ll mention, although there were more, was during the encore. After playing for over 2 hours, Paul briefly waved goodbye and headed off stage. As we sat eagerly awaiting more, the arena began to get anxious and loud. People were yelling for more, some people were dancing; others were still on the edge of their seat, almost mesmerized from what they’d just seen. Still though, no one was leaving. Then, after just a few minutes, McCartney reappeared and slowly made his way to the front of the stage. Given the level of excitement in the arena, almost everyone had to be assuming that Paul would play a loud, fast, rock song. However, we’d all forgotten about one classic that he didn’t play during his first set, and as the crowd came to a hush and Paul grasped onto his acoustic guitar, the song began. Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Those 8 words were enough to take the emotion that was in the arena during the break and triple it. As the excitement came to a peak, it seemed as if Paul was playing and singing and the rest of us in the crowd were his backup vocals. I’d never in my entire life seen so many people sing along with a song. Yesterday, besides being a Beatles classic and the most covered song of all time, is a sad love song. Paul is singing an ode to the past, to a time where he didn’t have the troubles that he has now. He is singing about losing someone he loved, and how he now longs to be back in a time that she was there.
Judging these three works almost seems unfair – unfair to Paul McCartney, not to me. Unfair to him that someone like myself, could possible critique some of the greatest music ever played. Paul McCartney has forgotten more about music that I’ll even know, so it’s almost funny that I’d attempt to judge him. But, on the flip side, my judgements are all good. In fact, they are great. Live and Let Die was spectacular. Besides the awesome rock music that didn’t miss a note, the sound and lighting show was fantastic. Something was the “tear-jerker” of the show and although Paul sang it wonderfully, the pictures of George Harrison really stole the performance. Finally, Yesterday was not only played to perfection, but it was probably the only song in the history of music that Paul could’ve played at that point of the show that would hold all of the emotion the crowd was carrying. And he did it brilliantly.
Looking back at the show, I can’t help but think of how unbelievable it was to be in the same room as one of the greatest musicians of all time. Throughout the night, I kept thinking to myself how lucky I was to be in his presence. No one single person has ever made me feel so small and insignificant. The show itself was a complete success, and I didn’t hear one negative thing about it as I was leaving. I feel that seeing this show has given me something to hold onto since I wasn’t born when the Beatles were around. Although I could have never seen the Beatles, I still was able to see one of them, and that’s good enough for me.