There are some things you grow up wishing they would come true – but somewhere deep down you heart, you know that they are next to impossible. And you come to accept that you were just born a few years too late – and you just missed the possibility of an event like that happening.
People who know me a bit, will know that i am a music buff. Specially old school classic rock n roll. And i love live performances. There is nothing quite like a rock concert. Thousands of like minded people, awesome music, a great band – and just the overall energy that all of this together gets – is just awesome. And living in Abu Dhabi has allowed me to be part of such evenings regularly. Being an Indian, born and brought up in India, it was a very very difficult proposition to see my rock gods live. I did manage to see the likes of Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Satriani, Knopfler etc live – but they were small venues.. the music was great – but something was always incomplete.
The Yas Arena in Abu Dhabi is probably one of the uniquest and most awesome concert venues in the world (not that i have been to many) – right next to the north grandstand of the Formula 1 track and in between two prongs of the amoeba shaped roof of Ferrari world – i guess it has a capacity for 70k+ people – and yes.. you do get booze during concerts! I have been able to witness a lot of awesome music at the Yas Arena over the last 2 years i have been here – Aerosmith, Clapton, GnR, Prince, Linkin Park to name a few. Until last month i believed Prince to be the most ‘awesome’ concert i had ever been to.
And then, Metallica happened. Now i am not a big fan of metallica. I do know nothing else matters though. But, it was a sellout gig. I was lucky to be in the fan pit, and boy, did Metallica rock. On a rating scale – if prince was 10/10 – metallica was probably 9.6.
And then, there was Paul McCartney.
Now i do know quite a few songs of the beatles. I mean, who doesnt? I had always heard about the beatles concerts and how ‘awesome’ they used to be. Those four boys in their suits defining the future of music on stage, with thousands of women and men screaming away. But this was one of those things i mentioned – i knew, i could never experience that. Primarily because Harrison and Lennon were long dead – and i never thought McCartney / Ringo would ever tour as i believed they were too old.
But then, it was announced that McCartney would be performing for the finale of this years F1 concerts. I was lucky, i had bought my tickets.
I went without expectations. I mean, what do you expect from a 69 year old man? Without three members of his band?
9pm, McCartney walked on stage – with his signature Hofner Bass. A black suit – and a cheeky smile. Greetings in arabic followed – which he was trying hard to read of a paper on the floor. He came prepared.
Hello, Goodbye – he started. Immediately, we knew, this was not going to be an ordinary gig. This man, was ready to rock some serious shit that night. Some more beers were acquired.
Juniors farm and All my loving followed. The voice was getting better. The energy in the crowd was surely increasing. The younger generation was coming to terms with an old man doing better than they expected. The jacket of the suit came off. ‘This is going to be the only wardrobe change you see all night’ he said. Everyone laughed – probably because they had witnessed a certain ms. spears change clothes 20 times two nights before.
Jet, Drive my car, Sing the changes were next – by this time i was considerably high, on music, and booze. Not in every concert i can really drink. I need good music to digest booze. And Sir Paul was giving us plenty. And then another thing happened. I started dancing. Probably inspired by a friend i was with. Because she couldnt stop dancing. Now me dancing doesnt happen very often. Sir Paul, was producing some magic.
The evening continued with Paperback writer, Long and winding road, I will, Blackbird, and the awesome Dance tonight – with Abe Jr. on the drums doing a cheeky dance while Sir Paul sang and played the ukelele. It was emotional – these were songs i had grown up with – being sung by the man who had created them – and i was seeing him, right in front of me. Even i couldnt believe it.
Then came a series of Beatles songs – Ob-la-di, Back in the USSR, Ive got a feeling, Give Peace a chance – the dancing continued – with almost everyone joining in. Let it be was played with everyone singing to it and Live and let die came next – with some awesome pyrotechnics on stage and some brilliant fireworks going of in the sky to the amazement of close to 50k people in the arena.
And then, came Hey Jude. The moment the first ‘Hey’ came out from Sir Paul, i felt a lump in my throat. I had been waiting for this. And when the coda came, i had tears flowing down my cheeks – while i screamed ‘na na na nananaaa…’. It was like a dream fulfilled. Emotional. Completely. Here is one of the better videos i found of this –
He walked of stage after this, only to come back for the encore. Carrying flags of UAE and UK. Lady Madonna, Day Tripper and Get Back were performed… and you couldnt tell that the man performing these songs was a 69 year old knight. The voice was still brilliant – the bass and piano playing just fantastic.
And yes, there was another encore. ‘You guys do have to go back home. You realise that right?’ is what he said when he came back. Yesterday was played. 50k people sang. Helter Skelter was belted out. 50k people rocked. And finally a medley of Golden Slumber, Carry the weight and The end finished the night. It was epic. It was midnight. Prince, sorry to say, but McCartney just got a score of 15. And i know you wouldnt mind.
I have always believed that artists of the generation before MTV came into being are the ones who know what a live concert is all about. Its not just about belting out your music – but its about the crowd – about the thousands who have come to witness you ‘perform’. Its about interaction – its about being involved – being one with the crowd. Unfortunately, modern musicians have it easy – cheesy lyrics and videos make sure they become popular – however short lived the popularity might be – but it is the old timers who know how to perform. Because that was the only way they could become popular in their day.
Prince proved the above. So did Jethro tull a few years back. And now sir Paul. It has really become a routine every year during the Formula 1 races – where for the first two days some younger musicians come and try to perform – and then some old school band comes up on the final day, and shows them who is daddy.
Anyways, those three hours were just brilliant. I dont think i will be seeing a concert that good in the near future. Unless of course The Who decides to come to AUH. But they too, will have a tough task.
Sir Paul, hats off. You were fantastic – everything i had imagined of the Beatles – and more. I can die in peace.