My wife and I caught the Paul McCartney show in Seattle last Friday night. I’ve seen a lot of rock shows over the years; Sir Paul’s show was definitely in the top three if not the one. He played a long three hour set of thirty nine songs with passion and sincerity. He could have easily mailed it in but didn’t. Paul ended the show with two encores featuring members from Nirvana – it was muy cool.
But thinking about Paul’s career later it’s hard to ignore how many eras he’s seen as a working musician. One example: his infamous Rickenbacker 4001S bass guitar was given to him in 1964. Back then there were no digital processing systems for musicians to alter sound coming out of their guitars; or to control volume, tone, etc. You had to know how to play the instrument or get off the stage.
Yet Paul comfortably transitioned from an analog era with the Beatles into new digital tools with his next band Wings. You hear this listening to early Wings albums as synthesizers and digital guitar effects start showing up; clearly Paul was experimenting. And he went on to experiment with other digital tricks in later albums.
It was cool to see Paul come full circle at the Seattle show; opening the concert with a hip-hop DJ mashing up his songs while huge digital displays showed memories of his past. I wondered what it felt like for him to stand on stage watching thousands of fans holding up smartphones to capture the moment. Paul has gone from past to present; he’s still thriving in this future world. There’s a lot to learn from his career. He’s an evolutionary man.