The ordinariness of fame

December 08, 2017

Paul McCartney is thrilling audiences while on tour in Australia. Picture: AAP

When Sir Paul McCartney walked on stage at AAMI Stadium on Tuesday night for his first Melbourne appearance in 24 years, everyone stood up.

Everyone that is, except for some old folks behind me who remained seated.

Poor buggers, they looked about 75 — the same age as Sir Paul.

Sir Paul had not said or done anything except wave, but people stood anyway. It wasn’t for a better view, because he and his band remained tiny pinpricks for the entire concert.

People stood to break the release of anticipation. The man was actually here. He said he would come in 2002, but he cancelled, citing the Bali bombings. He did not get a lot of sympathy for that.

But here he was and people were ready to listen and maybe be amazed.

There was no support band — just a DJ who played a mash of Beatles covers to a revolving backdrop of surreal images tracking the incredible life of a man born when German planes were flattening factories and houses all across Britain and nobody knew about Auschwitz or Hiroshima.

Sir Paul comes from a time before television, space rockets, and social media. He also comes from a time before stadium rock when there was no such thing as the ‘‘rock industry’’.

When The Beatles played Shea Stadium in 1965 it was the start of the nightmare of stadium rock where people pay ridiculous money to sit in hard seats, buy T-shirts and watch their heroes perform badly half a kilometre away.

Today, the sound is better, but your view is blighted by the bragging rights of others on mobile phones.

This is not the same experience you get when listening to these people in your lounge or kitchen with a glass of Spateburgunder.

But here I was, standing in front of my plastic seat at AAMI staring at the back of a man with a head the size of a cement bucket trying to get a glimpse of another man who has been inside my head for 54 of my 64 years.

Thankfully, stadium rock has moved on since 1965 and I spent the concert watching Sir Paul and his band from two 30m-high screens on either side of the stage.

He opened with a John Lennon song born from a Ringo quote — Hard Day’s Night.

The opening chord is a definitively eternal Beatles sound — packed with excitement, promise and mystery — is it a G11sus 4 or a or a dominant 9th of F in the key of C or is it just a bloody a***-kicking start to a piece of magic that is about to propel you into the future?

Who cares?

Everyone at AAMI danced — the mums in black leggings and dads in striped shirts, the rock chicks with tattoos, the blokes with Ned beards and the school children with day-glo face paint.

Even the old folk behind me danced. I turned around to check.

Meanwhile, Sir Paul gyrated and gave thumbs up and peace signs and delivered all the promise — a lot of Beatles, a bit of Wings, and a sprinkling of new stuff.

He changed from acoustic to electric guitar and to mandolin and raced up two flights of stage risers for his piano songs.

At 75, he was a convincing advertisement for the vegetarian diet.

Highlights were the fireside chats about Jimi Hendrix and Keith and Mick and his gentle insights on how he writes songs.

He seemed like a bloke you would want to just hang out with. That’s the McCartney magic — the ordinariness of fame.

The concert ended the only way it could — with the final uplifting medley from Abbey Road ‘‘and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make’’.

Which was a useful thought to take with you into the rush of the night.

John Lewis is The News’ chief of staff.

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