Back in junior high and high school The White Album was the Bible to my friend Mike Fish and I. It taught you everything you needed to know about life. It taught us how to make it in a marriage (sing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da), how to make it through a fight with someone you care about (see the love there that’s sleeping), how to be a good son (sing a song of love), how to fuck (do it in the road), how to fight for love (burst in stinking of gin), how to deal with the blues (remember you’re of the universe), and even how to have a revolution (free your mind instead).
Seeing Paul McCartney is a spiritual experience to those of us who spent less time kneeling before the alter at church (we did that too) and more time kneeling in front of cd and record players switching out The White Album with Abbey Road with Revolver with McCartney with Double Fantasy with The Concert for Bangladesh and okay, fine, maybe some Wings, if one of Mike’s older brothers was around and they took control of the sound system.
images | Paul McCartney
I believe that John Lennon had a little Jesus blood flowing through him; Paul was the cherub of love, a left-handed cupid riding a bass line to earth to give us the most important message delivered to the English speaking world in the last half century.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
Can I get an amen, Firefly, 2015!
A day before his 73rd birthday Sir Paul took the stage in Dover. He was preceded immediately by Morrissey, who has evolved into an animal rights activist in pop star pants, and Cage the Elephant, which plays like they’re trying to make weight before a big wrestling match and they’ve still got 5 pounds to sweat out. Morrissey still has the voice, and is still strikingly handsome, but boy oh boy is he ornery. If you ever wondered where your meat comes from, he was happy to show you, and then storm off the stage like us meat eating heathens had just lessened him with our very proximity to his vegan flesh.
Which was the perfect juxtaposition to Paul, who is also a vegan, animal activist, and PETA spokesperson. Yet, there was no melting flesh in Paul’s set, no screaming animal babies. Only Paul. Only love. Which almost gets to the point more directly. If you follow Paul at all, you know he’s vegan. And then you see him on stage, nearly 73-YEARS-OLD, dancing as he played himself “Birthday,” a song he first released 47-YEARS-AGO, and the message makes it through: live with compassion, live with love, and you’ll live pretty damn well.
It had been a wicked hot day. The paths between the stages at Firefly had turned to mud. A little less than 24 hours later storms would force the organizers to chase the campsites clear. But for Friday night there was not a bad singer in the house as Paul–voice still wonderful and crisp–and his capable, enthusiastic band worked through “Got to Get You into My Life” (somehow, someway!), “Paperback Writer,” and “The Long and Winding Road,” with some solo and Wings songs mixed in.
I had seen Paul two years ago when he headlined Bonnaroo. The set lists were not quite identical, but close enough, with the classic songs having the same video accompaniment, or close enough. I’m not going to stress that. You don’t nitpick the man who wrote “Let it Be.” He can sing that song 15 times every time he steps on stage and I’ll still cry every time. At Firefly he went “Let it Be,” “Live and Let Die,” then “Hey Jude” at one point, like wow.
<bows head. raises palms toward the stage in a posture of acceptance. evaporates into the movement on my shoulder.>
Paul makes the argument over and over that our time is better spent creating light than trying to convince the darkness; because, of course, there is no more effective way of fighting darkness than creating light. (Morrissey could stand to open for Paul for a year or two, taking it all in, and softening.) I hope that everyone sees their life as an epic quest for justice, an epic quest for community, an epic quest for love… the music of Paul McCartney and the Beatles and the best of the solo stuff and Wings are the trumpets that guide us to deliverance.
Midway through the set he played my favorite love song, “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which he wrote for his late, first wife, Linda. As another famous rocker once put it, she wasn’t quite a beauty, but she was alright—which may be crass to mention, but the fact that “Maybe I’m Amazed” is not about some Bond girl, but about the regular gal photographer Paul Height-of-His-Powers McCartney fell in love with, makes the words and the emotion ring all the more true. Love isn’t finding a person that can check all the boxes on some ideal partner worksheet we have in our minds. Love is this:
Maybe I’m amazed at the way you help me sing my song,
Right me when I’m wrong-
Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you.
The set ended the same way that Abbey Road does–minus the throwaway, “Her Majesty”–with “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry that Weight,” and “The End.” Life will never be easy. You’ve got to carry that weight a long time. But as long as we focus our energy on taking as much love as we can… by making as much love as we can, it’s all so, so worth it.
Never leave us, Paul, never stop playing! We need you more than ever!