It was nearly fifty years ago that four mop-topped lads from Liverpool invaded the U.S. shores for the first time, as John Lennon famously quipped, by “taking a left at Greenland.” From the opening guitar lick of ‘Day Tripper’ to the urgent piano chords of ‘Let it Be,’ the Beatles captured the hearts and minds of the globe and secured their place as the greatest rock group in history.
Tragedy and time took their toll on the Fab Four, but Ringo and Paul have been doing their damndest to carry that weight since George’s death in 2001; and if McCartney’s performance on Saturday night is any indication, he’s perfectly content doing the heavy lifting.
Sir Paul ripped through a marathon three-hour set, impressive for a musician of any age – let alone 70 – that spanned the catalogue of his career, from Beatles standards like ‘Lovely Rita’ to Wings classics such as ‘Live and Let Die.’ As he played hit after hit, it became increasingly apparent that not only was I witnessing a terrific performance, but a living legend still at the top of his game. McCartney is one of the last true trailblazers that defined music as we understand it today, and in a celebrity environment that’s prone to quick flameouts, that kind of longevity is the exception – not the rule.
Which got me thinking.
What is it about certain individuals that give them that enduring edge to withstand the test of time? Is it something intrinsically wired within the strands of their DNA that turns them into a special breed of ageless super humans?
There’s no Ray Bradbury sci-fi storyline here, the formula is simple enough: create a quality product and constantly refine, rehearse and commit yourself to it.
No one could’ve predicted that when McCartney and Co. emerged from their humble beginnings playing smoky clubs in Hamburg that they would transform the musical landscape forever. Nor could anyone have predicted the Beatles’ evolution from the radio-friendly Rickenbacker strums of ‘Love Me Do’ to the complex psychedelic meanderings of ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.’ Change is inevitable throughout any longstanding career; retaining your audience boils down to consistent execution of your craft, regardless of any thematic or structural shift.
What Paul McCartney embodies is nearly sixty years of professionalism, tireless effort and superb songwriting. The vast array of this accumulated skillset was on display Saturday evening, when not a single soul could remain seated or resist belting out the anthemic chorus of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.’ McCartney is the perfect illustration of career longevity, and a sparkling testament to the possibilities that abound when you create something organic, original and impassioned.