Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Let Me Roll It" / Paul McCartney & Wings

I myself can't believe I've waited this long to write about the Paul McCartney concert at CitiField last Tuesday night. I guess I was just hoping to tuck it under my pillow for a few more nights. Okay, we were several rows back -- but still on the floor! -- and rain kept falling intermittently. But it was a fabulous concert, with Paul singing and playing for nearly three hours, without even taking a drink of water. No flitting off stage to change shirts, either (at one point, when he took off his black jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt, he grinned and said, "Time for a costume change -- and that'll be the only one tonight.") We're talking old school. Except for the brilliant videos playing on the backdrop, and an impressive set of fireworks on "Live and Let Die," this was just Macca and his band, playing nonstop rock and roll.

Just Macca and his band. Ha!

I have to give our Paulie credit, he has the confidence to bracket himself between two hot young guitarists (the one on his left looking eerily like my old friend Tom Gallagher), knowing full well that all eyes would still be riveted on himself. What a kick-ass band he's assembled! Check out these clips here.

My only quarrel -- and it seems churlish even to mention this -- is that he only played the hits. And sheesh, when you've got a catalog like Paul McCartney's, there are so many hits to choose from. I call this "the Lola Syndrome," derived from the fact that my heart always drops a little when Ray Davies launches into "Lola" -- knowing that most of the audience expects it -- while we hard-corers at the front of the house are rooting instead for "This Time Tomorrow" or "Sitting In My Hotel," which I have yet to hear live, Ray, godammit. Screw "Lola." Really, Paul, I promise you, I wouldn't have gone away disappointed if you hadn't sung "The Long and Winding Road" or "Yesterday." Seriously. But "Magneto and Titanium Man"? "Cafe on the Left Bank"? "Single Pigeon"? Man, one of those would have been fun for a change.

(I make it sound as if I've seen McCartney live so many times I've lost count. No way -- this is only the second time. Already jaded? Please.)

Well, he had to spread the love around -- a handful of Beatle classics, some Wings stuff, some solo tracks, even a song off his recent Fireman album Electric Arguments. (Personally my favorite thing he's done recently, even more than Chaos and Creation or Memory Almost Full.) But he did dwell a bit extra on Band On the Run, probably his most successful post-Beatles LP. Why not? It's a brilliant record, and I was thrilled when he launched into "Let Me Roll It."

Let's remember, Paul McCartney is a bassist, and the slow lunging funk of this track puts the bass front and center. Oh, yes, there are those delicious curlicue guitar licks punctuating each line, but that bass line carries the song. God knows the lyrics aren't much -- "You gave me something / I understand / You gave me lovin' in the palm of my hand" -- it's hardly literary stuff. But hey, you don't go to Paul McCartney for lyrics. You know me, I'm usually a lyrics girl, and even I don't go to Paul McCartney for the lyrics. "I can't tell you how I feel / My heart is like a wheel / Let me roll it / Let me roll it / Let me roll it to you." Oh, how profound.

What I do go to Paul McCartney for is much more visceral. This song reminds me a lot of "Helter Skelter" in the way it translate physical movement into musical phrases and textures. The tension between that lounging bass line and those spasmodic quivers of guitar is incredibly sexy, especially when those whacking drums are added in, and the long slow exhale of the organ. Paul's vocal wanders through, a little tinny and distant, searching vaguely for words, erupting into glissandos of ecstasy. This singer is not in control of the song -- only the bass line is, that prodding pulse marching the song inexorably along to its, er, climax.

I remember sitting by my little fold-up stereo in my college dorm room, listening to this album over and over, usually in the dark, and being thrilled by this song in ways I still couldn't fathom. But to hear it live? To hear it live played by Paul himself? The song simply washed over me, overwhelmed me. There I was in CitiField with tens of thousands of other fans, and I was completely transported just by the bass line on this song. Who needs fireworks or costume changes when you can work that kind of magic?

Let Me Roll It sample


Alex said...

I think the ironic part of this post is that "Let Me Roll It" wasn't really a hit (and probably got as much radio play as "Magneto & Titanium Man")...

Holly A Hughes said...

Yeah, who knows why he pulled this one out of the drawer -- I'm just glad he did this instead of "Silly Love Songs."

Alex said...

That's for sure... although I'd love to hear him do something like "Monkberry Moon Delight" or "Junior's Farm."

I guess there are worse things in life than having an amazing back catalogue of songs to choose from!

wwolfe said...

My memory of seeing Paul on the Wings Over America tour is still one of my happiest.

For a very fond review of this same show, try this write-up from Tom Watson:

Anonymous said...

I was there too, and was so disapointed. A nearly identical setlist to the last time I saw him, and unbelievable exactly the same banter in exactly the same parts of the show, in between exactly the same songs. It's like he's on autopilot - the same show repeated 3 years apart.

Holly A Hughes said...

Interesting, Anonymous. Although I'm guessing he didn't do the song from Memory Almost Full ("Dance Tonight") and the Electric Arguments track ("Highway") 3 years ago.

He didn't feel to me like he was on autopilot, though. I know, I've seen videos of some of these same songs, and when I saw him at that benefit in the spring, he performed a few of these same numbers as well. But he seemed loose and happy on stage in a way that, for example, the Rolling Stones don't,IMO.

I don't know, 3 years from now I'd be happy to have this same experience again...