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October 05, 2017 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
Thursday, October 5, 2017 — 5


Paul McCartney gives live
music newfound meaning


Daily Arts Writer

My ideal concert venue is an

abandoned barn.

Hear me out: It’s surrounded

by empty fields, all quiet and
attentive to themselves. It’s dark,
but not frightening: you feel
welcome, you’ve only stopped
here for the night. The roof is
patchy, the windows and doors
open to the night air, the sky
wild and soft. A single ukulele is
strumming lightly, and all around
the countryside, the stars turn
and drizzle like rain.

The thing is, I didn’t even

know this was my ideal concert
venue until last night. I know now
because I experienced it — that
same barn, that same soft night —
inside a stadium full of thousands
of people. The countryside was
in the middle of Detroit, and the
person strumming the ukulele
was Paul McCartney.

This sounds cheesy, so I’ll

backpedal a little. This was my
second time seeing McCartney
live. Walking into the venues
(which are almost invariably
enormous), it’s not hard to get a
sense that the concert has already
started. Even if the lights are still
on and the artist is nowhere to
be seen, the other aspects that
give the concert value — the
hype, the variety, the feeling
of togetherness — are already


seats. Some of them are elderly,
some are teenagers and children.


The Beatles, Wings, even solo


through my rose-colored glasses,
is excited. Everyone is smiling.
The stranger in the seat next to
mine tells me he’s never seen
McCartney before, but he can’t
wait, he’s wanted this for so many

When McCartney comes out,

he does it with a bang. He waves
hello, and from his open-faced
smile, you’d never know he’d
played this exact same venue the
night before. You’d never know
that none of this was strange
to him — at least, one wouldn’t
expect for it to be. He slams
the opening chord of “A Hard
Day’s Night,” a chord that sends
everyone in the stadium into
instant cheers, and then he’s off.
We’re all off.

It quickly becomes clear that it

wasn’t just the opening song — the
entire concert is going to happen
with a bang. He reels through
fast-paced rockers like “Save Us,”
“I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Drive
My Car,” and classic seventies-
guitar songs like “Letting Go”
and “Let Me Roll It.” He launches
from the middle of “A Day in the
Life” straight into the refrain of
“Give Peace a Chance.” Stagelight
explores the far reaches of the
stadium, showering us in colors
that seem to shift with every
minute. Balls of fire and literal
fireworks explode onto the stage
multiple times during the chorus
of “Live and Let Die.” Later, when
he sprints back out for an encore,
confetti bursts from cannons,
and McCartney and the other
musicians run across the stage
with giant flags rippling behind
them (American, Union Jack
and rainbow). When the show
is finally over, he disappears

clouds of smoke and confetti that
will probably take at least half an
hour to disappear from the stage.

The special effect that remains

throughout the entire show is the
screen behind the stage. Every
song is complemented by some
sort of visual counterpart. There
are reanimated photographs of
Wings members during “Band
on the Run,” and of himself and
his baby daughter when he sings
“Maybe I’m Amazed” in honor
of the late Linda McCartney.
A montage-style video plays in
the background while he slams
through “Lady Madonna” on the
piano, showing photographs and
footage of working women and
mothers, all over the world and
from all different time periods,
dancing in unison, sprinting
across finish lines.

It’s maybe a third of the way

through the concert when the
old barn assembles itself on the
screen. The stars prop themselves
up one by one around the stadium
as people turn on the flashlights
on their phones and lift them
high. They’re closer than real
stars — tangible, the kind you
might actually risk a wish on.
McCartney tells us a story about
how he and The Quarrymen
recorded this song on their first
demo ever, and then he and his
fellow musicians play “In Spite of
All the Danger,” with harmonies
so fine-tuned you wouldn’t think
they were live, or coming from
live people. It’s a perfect moment
and it feels as though he’s singing
with all of us, as individuals.

There are plenty of loaded


concert, which is three hours
long and practically nonstop.
There are the tributes to George
Martin (“Love Me Do”), George

of course, John Lennon (“Here
Today”), which comes along
with a word of advice from Paul
to never wait to tell people you
love them, even if it feels silly,
because you never know when
it might be too late. There’s the

during which a platform slowly
raises McCartney up and digital
flowers appear blooming on the
new wall beneath him. There’s
“Hey Jude,” the last song before
the encore, which has the entire
stadium on our feet and singing
in total unison. He even brings
people up on stage: a father with
a daughter who gets her arm
signed by McCartney, and two
excited fans here all the way from

But later, when I bring myself

back to the present and look back,
the moment that has lasted with
me the most is the barn, with
the stars of strangers lighting up
all around. Maybe it’s because
I grew up in the Midwest,
driving through empty fields
and exploring old buildings and
making haphazard wishes. If you
ask someone else who went to
the same show, they’ll probably
have found home in a different
moment: maybe the pumping
singalong of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-
Da,” or the hardcore metal of
“Helter Skelter,” or the Abbey
Road medley that closed out the

But I think that’s one of the

things that makes McCartney’s
concerts so special: He wants
you to find a home in his work.
He’s one of the most famous and
enduring popular musicians of all
time; he could probably charge
the same amount of money for a
shorter concert with half as many
special effects. But he wants you
to find something that really
lands with you — or, at least, he
gives the genuine impression that
he does. And he wants to give
everybody a complete experience;

it’s like he doesn’t want to leave
you wishing for anything if he
can help it.

“We’re gonna play some old

songs, some new songs and some
in-between songs,” he said, right
before launching into “Can’t
Buy Me Love,” and so he did —
spanning all the way from the
oldest major song in his repertoire
(“In Spite of All the Danger”) to
the latest (“FourFiveSeconds”).
Whether you were one of those
fans who were here for The
Beatles or for Wings or just for
whatever McCartney felt like
playing, your bases were covered.

McCartney also made it clear

that he could easily tell which
songs we all liked, because the
stadium would “light up like a
galaxy” whenever he played an
old Beatles song, but when he
switched to something newer, it
would be “like a black hole.”

“But we don’t care!” he added.



And he did — he played “My

Valentine” on the piano for his
wife, Nancy, and ripped through
songs like “Queenie Eye” and
“New” with the same boundless
energy that would overtake him
during the popular Beatles songs.


confessional and heavy, the faster
ones lively. We swayed with
McCartney through “Let It Be”
and “Yesterday,” and we jumped
and pumped our fists with him
during “Nineteen Hundred and
Eighty-Five” and the reprise of
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts
Club Band.”

But it wasn’t just the music that

gave off the feeling that we were
experiencing all of them joined
with him; it was also deeply
ingrained in the way he spoke.
He told us stories about meeting
Keith Richards and Mick Jagger
on the streets of London and
giving them the “I Wanna Be Your
Man” single, and performing
“Back in the USSR” twice in one
concert at Red Square. When he
asked everyone who’d ever tried
to learn “Blackbird” on guitar
to raise their hands, he joked,
“And you all got it wrong,” before
thanking us and saying, “That
makes me feel really good.”

By the time the three hours

were up and we filed out of the
arena, back onto the streets of
Detroit and under the sprawl of
the faraway stars we’d known
before, it felt like the close of
a years-long journey. In a way,
maybe it was; many people wait
lifetimes to see the people they
most look up to in person, and
hearing these age-old anthems
felt like the most recent tying-off
of an experience that really began
ages ago, whenever it was that we
first heard them.

This is something I love about

this type of concert. Of course,
any concert can have energy,
can grip you, and I’ve had so

with live music that it seems
like a strange arena in which to
make any comparisons at all. All
I know is that it felt like magic
to live through that show, with
people of all different ages and
backgrounds — many of whom
have known this music longer
than they can even trace back, so
long that by this point it feels less
like something learned and more
like something intrinsic and felt.
To be alive at the same time as
someone you admire, out of all
the times you could possibly have
been alive, that is the feeling:
a moment of real consequence
joined, a home found, a wish

Recently, it was announced

that J.J. Abrams (“Super 8”)

Trevorrow (“Jurassic World”)
as the director of the upcoming
“Star Wars: Episode IX.” When
all is said and done, Abrams
will have directed four of the
six major “Star Wars” and
“Star Trek” releases made this
decade. “Star Wars” and “Star
Trek,” once forever at odds
with each other, have in this
nostalgia driven era of reboots,
somehow became the same,
appealing to the same part of
the audience and being guided
by the same director.

If you had told any major

“Trekkies” or “Wars Nerds” of
the last generation that one day
the same man would control
both franchises both groups
would probably have suspected
you of either being a member
of the Borg collective or a
Dark Lord of the Sith. To the

these two franchises may seem
pretty similar on the outside,
but to anyone with more than a
passing interest in the subject
it is clear that the two are in
fact anything but. Yes, both

feature spaceships and aliens,
but the themes and inherent
structures of the series could
not be more different. Since its
creation by Gene Roddenberry
in the late ’60s, “Star Trek” has
been about exploring the great
unknown, the final frontier,
and displaying a version of

beyond the problems of class
and race that plague us today.
It’s about big theological ideas
and hard sci-fi concepts. In
contrast, “Star Wars” is a



battles of good against evil.
Both franchises are storied
parts of our cultural history.
Both have inspired countless
imitators as well as each other.
To simplify the differences
down: “Star Trek” is for the
brain, “Star Wars” is for the
heart. Never should we have
gotten to a place where the
two are dangerously close to
becoming interchangeable.

Allowing one man to put

his defining stamp on both
of the great science fiction

giving one man far too much

situation is about to play out
with the impending release of
“Justice League” which, after
original director Zack Snyder
(“Batman v. Superman”) was
forced to step away due to
personal reasons, is now being
completed by Joss Whedon of
“Avengers” and “Buffy” fame.
Should one man really get to
shepherd both The Avengers
and The Justice League to the
big screen? Surely the point of
having both an Avengers and a
Justice League is to highlight

the differences between the
two? Why would we want to
watch two superhero teams
that are exactly the same?
Why, for that matter, is it okay
with us for the differences and
peculiarities of “Star Wars”
and “Star Trek” to become
muddled until even their own
fans can barely tell them apart?

The reboot “Trek” films,

while fun movies in their own
right, choose to leave behind
the introspective nature of
the franchise in favor of an
action adventure vibe more
similar to “Star Wars.” The
recent premiere of “Star Trek:
Discovery” has led to more
comparisons with “Star Wars”
and other big budget action
spectacles. The decision by
Lucasfilm to give Abrams his
second crack at a “Star Wars”
movie is a decision based
purely in the logic of safety.
It is a safe choice. It is a fine
choice. What it is not is an
inspired choice, and it will not
leave us with a modern day
“Star Wars” trilogy that pushes
the boundaries of cinema,

special-effects in the ways
that either the originals or the
often-maligned prequels did.
Turning “Star Wars” into a
repetitive retread of what has
come before and turning “Star
Trek” into an action-adventure
franchise ignores what made

remarkable to begin with.

Science fiction has long been

a place for experimentation,
a place for different kinds of
people with different voices
to challenge and dare us to
ask questions about each other
and ourselves that we might
not have otherwise. Letting

our major sci-fi franchises be
primarily controlled by one
person or simply one kind
of person severely limits the
types of questions that science
fiction can ask. All six of the

pictures of this era will end
up being directed by white
men who rose up through
the Hollywood system in an
eerily similar way, four of
those movies being directed by
exactly the same guy. Science
Fiction has always been a
place of narrative and creative
danger. We cannot allow it to
become one of safety.

In the face of a choice

between “Do or do not, there is
no try” “Star Wars” has chosen
“do not.” Afraid of taking risks,

“Star Trek” has stopped going
where no man has gone before
and has begun retreading all
the places we’ve already been.
These are our most beloved

Generations of people have

universes and the characters

decades “Star Wars” and “Star
Trek” fans have argued over
which franchise is superior.
If we allow these two sagas to
become interchangeable, there
will be no more arguments,
no more questions, no more
wars and no more treks. There
will just be stars like Abrams,
continuing to capitalize on
creative work that was done
years ago by somebody else.

J.J. Abrams’s

sci-fi stronghold




Science fiction
has long been

a place for


The reboot “Trek”

films, while fun
movies in their

own right, choose

to leave behind
the introspective

nature of the
franchise in

favor of an action
adventure vibe
more similar to

‘Star Wars’






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