Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Far From Dead

I am not as maniacal as others in my generation, but I have enough of their LPs and CDs to hold my own when discussing the oeuvre. What's astonishing is how many of our children and grandchildren have succumbed to Beatlemania. Maybe not so astonishing, on second thought. The ear, like the heart, wants what it wants.

Two weekends ago on a cool and breezy Saturday night Sir Paul McCartney returned to San Francisco, nearly 44 years after the Beatles' last concert at Candlestick Park. Paul is a marvel. Looking like a man half his age (“an absolute whirlwind”), he skipped and hopped across the stage, donning and doffing various instruments like comfortable slippers. He segued from hard rock to ballads and belted out top-100 standards, all the while joshing with the crowd in his inimitable understated manner.

There were 21st-century pyrotechnics and formidable technical skill displayed by his youthful band, who had perhaps even more technical proficiency than the original Fab Four. But for my money ($150 a pop) the most magical moments consisted of just the man and his guitar or piano, unaccompanied, crooning to a rapt, intimate audience of 40,000 people in the voice that we’ve heard thousands of times before.

Beatles tunes alternated with post-1960’s compositions through the program. With nary a pause the band accelerated into the final hour with hit after hit; being a mega-rockstar appears to be the key to eternal energy, if not eternal life. When the second and final encore rung down (“The End” track from Sgt. Pepper), a happy and mostly sated crowd filed out of the ballpark.

It was standing room only on the late train down the Peninsula, but no one minded. Melodies from our youth played back in our heads, and we were young again. © 2010 Stephen Yuen

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