After the last fireworks lit up the sky to close out Paul McCartney's second encore (which ended with a medley of the closing tunes of Abbey Road
), a shirtless man with a Santa Claus beard in his late 50s named Steve turned to me and said, "I'm never going to another concert again." Although I assume his prediction won't come true, this proclamation from a leathery-skinned stranger was the perfect summation of the set we had just witnessed. Paul McCartney will be turning 71 years old on the 18th of June, and although the man certainly looks his age, he owned the What Stage of Bonnaroo like it was 1966 and he was playing Shea Stadium. To say that man has set a high bar for the rest of my Bonnaroo experience (or any future concerts period) would likely be the understatement of my lifetime.
Before I dig into the nitty gritty of what made McCartney's set so special (and left virtually every festival-goer I talked to afterward in a state of euphoric shock), I want to make sure that people are aware of the other excellent acts I caught yesterday. I started the day off with Athens, GA, freak rockers Reptar. With their dedicated brass section and high-octane energy, Reptar was a fun way to kick-off Friday. With plenty of tracks from Body Faucet
(including the fantastic "Sebastian"), Reptar incorporated the same psychedelic overtones of their music into their stage performance, and by the end, their keyboardist was in a blue lycra one-piece suit.
What I did not expect from Friday was the insane crowd reaction for British starlet Charli XCX. True Romance
remains one of the most unabashedly fun records of the year, and the subversive pop undertones translate extraordinarily well live. Favorites like "Nuclear Seasons," "You - Ha Ha Ha," and "What I Like" killed with the audience, and Charli's stage presence is outstanding. The only word to use to describe the way Charli presents herself on stage is "badass." Performing upbeat (but also dark) pop music while thrashing around on stage like Kim Gordon, Charli made sure everybody knew she owned the stage. She even managed to turn a Backstreet Boys number ("I Want It That Way") into a legitimately fun tune live, and when she performed "I Love It" by Icona Pop (which she wrote), the crowd went absolutely ape shit.
Watch Charli XCX in Concert on Baeblemusic
I also shot Of Monsters and Men and Passion Pit but I wasn't able to stay in a reasonable viewing area after I left the pit so I only got to see three songs of their sets. Wilco played for an hour and a half and although the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
numbers hit the right notes, Wilco slipped into one too many extended jams. Although you have to feel bad for any band who plays right before Paul McCartney. He's up against insane expectations.
Of Monsters and Men
Watch Of Monsters and Men's Coachella Session on Baeblemusic
Watch Passion Pit in Concert on Baeblemusic
But, as I've said, the Paul McCartney set was sublime. I've covered my fair share of shows over the last year and a half, but McCartney's set was one of those moments that makes you think, "Damn, maybe my parents were right when they say that rock and roll isn't what it used to be." I worship at the house of Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and the Shins, but having seen three out of four of those acts live, they can't hold a candle to the show Paul McCartney put on.
Drawing from 50 years of performing and songwriting, McCartney's depth of material is simply nuts. It takes most of my willpower to not describe his set in a series of increasingly absurd curse words and epithets. Whether it was "Let It Be," "Helter Skelter," "Something," "Eleanor Rigby," or "Band on the Run," the entire set was just 80,000 people - young and old - screaming along because his music has transcended any generational divides. The sing along for "Hey Jude" (one of my least favorite Beatles songs) was a magical, nearly spiritual experience. It was the coming together and emotional outpouring of a massive throng of people in a moment of shared human experience that only happens a couple of times in any person's life.
Sir Paul McCartney
If Paul McCartney comes to your area, do not allow yourself to come up with any excuse to miss his show. Whether it's money, work, children, whatever, don't let that stop you. A Paul McCartney concert is something no music fan can afford to miss. I feel like I probably speak for nearly everyone that attended the festival when I say that show justified your price of admission.
Watch Reptar in Concert on Baeblemusic