It may not be going out on too great a limb to predict that Paul McCartney’s concert Wednesday night at Amoeba Music in Hollywood may be remembered as the Greatest In-Store of All Time. For one thing, there probably won’t be many record stores left in a few years to hold any title-stealing events; the “in-store” of the future will likely entail squinting to see a performance streaming in a little corner of your iTunes window. (Or somebody taking over an abandoned brick-and-mortar outlet as a performance space — see last week’s White Stripes show at the former Tower Sunset site.) But for now, we had the man who by almost any measure was the most successful singer/songwriter of the 20th century blissfully slumming on a stage that usually has local indie bands playing to audiences of mostly uninterested shoppers. Call it a blue-light special (or maybe we should say, given his undiminished Little Richard-style yowling, a house-of-blue-light special).
I figured it might be good luck to plant myself right next to the Paul McCartney bin in the used vinyl section, which fortuitously happened to be near the stage. Talk about rock history and zero degrees of separation: There, I found myself watching a Macca show right between Cybill Shepherd, who once dated Elvis, and Rosanna Arquette, who once dated Toto. A couple of aisles back was the A-list section, where shameless line-skippers Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, Olivia Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Barbara Orbison, Woody Harrelson, and Joe Walsh were herded in at the last minute. (Sorry, no Yoko sightings, even though she’d sat with Paul, Ringo, and Olivia for a hilariously disjointed Larry King interview in Las Vegas the previous night.)
Many Fab Four mentions ensued from the stage. Though he didn’t sing “She Loves You,” McCartney felt prompted to tell the story of how he and John Lennon wrote the song in his father’s house and proudly took it to him, only to have Macca Sr. say, “Son, there’s enough of the Americanisms around. Couldn’t you sing ‘Yes, yes, yes’?” He played his 1982 ballad “Here Today,” a song about John, and teared up — afterward blaming a woman in the crowd he’d spotted doing the same. (“We don’t care! We’re grown up! We can cry if we wanna.”) But for Beatlemaniacs, probably the niftiest moment was right after he sang “That Was Me,” a terrific shuffle from the new album that alludes to the Cavern Club and other seminal pre-moptop moments. “That was me!” he repeated after finishing the song, as if still objectively observing his good fortune from a distance. Then, looking out at Ringo, as an aside: “That was you, too.”
“Drive My Car”
“Only Mama Knows”
“The Long and Winding Road”
“I’ll Follow the Sun”
“That Was Me”
“Back in the U.S.S.R.”
“Nod Your Head”
“House of Wax”
“I’ve Got a Feeling”
“Matchbox” (the Carl Perkins song, sung by Ringo in the Beatles years)
“Baby Face” (yes, the 1926 standard)
“Let It Be”
“I Saw Her Standing There”
This was similar to McCartney’s recent arena tour set listsin its near-total emphasis on late ’60s Beatles material and a fewbrand new tracks, to the general exclusion of 37 years of great stuffin-between. Just one song each from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, versus 11Beatles tunes, nine of which were from the obviously rather productive1968-69 period. (For obscurities, we mostly had to rely on the DJ setthat preceded McCartney’s appearance, which included remixes of great,surely never-to-be-revived solo gems like “Temporary Secretary” — anelectronica trifle that, tragically, has been constantly loopingthrough my head ever since it came out in 1980.) This is probably apreview of the set for his (not yet announced) next arena tour, butmost of the Paul intelligentsia that’d camped out for tickets wouldrather have heard “Hi, Hi, Hi” than “Hey Jude” again. Not that therewas much looking of gift horses in mouths going on at this corner shop.And it’s a sign of the commercial popularity and critical success of Memory Almost Full, his well-reviewed new album, that he did five songs from it, versus the three Chaos and Creation in the Backyardtunes he did at the arenas in ‘05. The crowd, I dare say, wouldn’t havebalked at seven or eight. It’s a long-standing joke that when acts likeMcCartney or the Stones say “And here’s one from our new album” at ashow, it’s a cue for a full-scale run for the concession stand — butthis one has so revitalized Macca in the public consciousness, I’mhard-pressed to imagine a mass potty break during “Dance Tonight” or”Only Mama Knows.”
“Nod Your Head,” the silliest song off the new record, and my favorite,was predictably a number that demanded audience participation. “Don’tcome to me for the whiplash thing,” he warned, surely mindful of themany barristers who’d pulled in favors for wristbands. I can reportfrom my aisle that Rosanna Arquette, a true rock chick, engaged infull-on head-banging for the song’s minute and 55 seconds, whereasCybill just did a gentle noggin bob a few times (but when you’ve dated Elvis, as I may have mentioned, how deferential do you have to be to Paul McCartney?).
The only other time that Paul demanded some participation, it was a bitless successful. “This has got to be the most surreal gig ever,” hesaid, early on — and, later, looking out at the brightly lit storefulof 700 fans, he expounded: “It does look like something out of a film —Village of the Damned or something.” (This was the 1960 English-chiller equivalent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers,for you non-cinephiles, featuring scores of emotionless blonde lads.)He had an idea: “If you all just stood there looking like people out ofVillage of the Damned… I’ll do it, too…” He affected a dullstare. After a few moments, he expressed his disappointment. “Too manypeople smiling,” he sighed. Well, we tried, Sir Paul — I’m sure we allreally tried.