The Zen of Macca
Many years ago, I interviewed Dinosaur Jr frontman, J Mascis. He said he was just back from a Frank Sinatra gig somewhere and was going to see the Rolling Stones somewhere else the following week. “You got to see these …
Many years ago, I interviewed Dinosaur Jr frontman, J Mascis. He said he was just back from a Frank Sinatra gig somewhere and was going to see the Rolling Stones somewhere else the following week. “You got to see these people when they’re still around”, mumbled Mascis.
A lot of those who were in Dublin 4 for the Paul McCartney show on Saturday night would agree with him. You really do have to see these boyos when they’re still around, don’t you? They’re not making these heritage acts any more, you know. And everyone has to see a Beatle at least once in their lifetime, right?
Such a desire to see the stars who wowed us in their (and our) youth is the main reason why heritage acts still have a career. We go along to the shows, we sit through any new material they wish to foist on us (and the new material is never as good as what we want to hear) and we hope to God they won’t make a hames of the classics. We want them to remind us of better days and, for one glorious night, reacquaint us with how we were back then. We’ll twist and shout and dance all our troubles away. It should be, as the radio ads put it, an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The problem, though, is that such once-in-a-lifetime experiences are now anything but thanks to how gigonomics have changed. Look at Macca, for instance. This was his third time playing Dublin in seven years, his second time in the city in the space of six months. Tickets were still on sale for this show on the day and the radio ads were as ubiquitous as those barmy vuvuzelas in South Africa. People reckon he’ll be back again and there will be another chance to see him. They’ll pass on the experience this time because it’s two weeks since payday, there’s football on the TV or the money is needed to pay for the groceries. Even the overwhelmingly positive word-of-mouth from his O2 show at Christmas wasn’t enough to persuade the masses to become daytrippers in Ballsbridge. Sure, they need him for their scrapbooks, but there will be another time. Look at Lenny, they’ll say. Sure, he’s here every week.
I’d say Macca was fully aware of all of this. Looking out from the stage at the RDS, an astute perfomer like him would be able to see the gaps in the crowd and add things up in his own head. He wasn’t doing that when he was playing Shea Stadium with his fellow mopheads back in the day. Back then, you couldn’t hear yourself think over the screams of the crowd. Did someone mention vuvuzelas? There was a buzz in the RDS, but it was a more sedate, mature, well-oiled one.
Macca, though, still delivers. This is what he does – stand there on a stage surrounded by a shit-hot band and play the hits. Even a non-fan like me cannot deny the lure of classics. For most of the set – it seemed to sag a little in the middle and lack energy and focus before moving onto surer ground towards the end – it was McCartney’s top trumps all the way. You know these tunes like the back of your hand: “Blackbird”, “Get Back”, “Back In the USSR”, “Band on the Run”, “Jet”, “All My Lovin’”, “Helter Skelter”, “Hey Jude”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Lady Madonna”, “Paperback Writer”, “A Day In the Life”, “Sergeant Pepper”. He may not have written anything to rival that run in decades (“The Frog Chorus” does not count), but he earned his stripes before much of this audience were even born. He made his bones back in Liverpool and Hamburg, side by side with his fellow Beatles when it was just them against the world and no-one could predict what was going to happen.
If you missed it, don’t fret because chances are he’ll be back for more again before too long. That’s how it works if you’re in the heritage market: you tour and you tour and you tour some more. He’ll be back again for another once-in-a-lifetime experience and many of those who saw him on Saturday night will flock along again. They may have the Macca ticket-stub for their collection, but the thrill – and yes, it was a thrill – of hearing those classics in all their pomp and glory will never get old.