Sir Paul McCartney
American Airlines Arena 2005

by Todd McFliker

Baby-Boomers and their children gathered by the thousands to experience Paul McCartney’s 2005 premiere in Miami’s American Airlines Arena on Friday, September 16th. The icon is heading through North America in support of the critically acclaimed Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Paul’s 20th release, which hit stores in mid-September. His band, Wings, broke records for global ticket sales on their 1976 trek, and Paul’s last venture was the top-grossing tour of 2002, earning $103.3 million, with ticket prices now up to $245 each. Utilizing forty years worth of timeless material from the Quarrymen, the Beatles, Wings and his solo career, the concert was magnificent.

Rather than sharing a bill, Paul broadcasted a 10-minute opening documentary on his career to the sold-out stadium of 17,000. “McCartney doesn’t really do opening acts,” Paul’s lead guitarist, Rusty Anderson explained to me before the Miami engagement. “He’s had pre-show conceptual things, but never really rock bands playing.”

The best looking and greatest sounding 63-year-old I’ve ever seen dove straight into “Magical Mystery Tour.” Psychedelic light arrangements and one enormous TV monitor added color to the simple set design. Paul and his guitar stood center, while four other musicians surrounded the artist. He wore black slacks and a blazer over a skintight turquoise shirt. Miami’s humidity kicked in and the jacket was lost after third song, displaying the wet sweat spots on Paul’s torso. The “cute one” stood behind the mic, bobbing his head when he sang, recreating the matching-suit Beatles. “It’s really fantastic to be here in Miami on the opening night of our tour,” Paul expressed to his crowd.

The band performed Wings’ “Jet.” Throughout the 1970s, Paul did not appease his audiences with Beatles songs when he toured with his late wife, Linda. In the 80s, Michael Jackson outbid Paul on the ownership rights to the heavenly Beatles catalogue, and there was nothing he could say, say, say about it. But after the success of the Anthologies in the mid-90s, the classic material rocketed him to the richest cat in England. Perhaps now is the time to seek the rights. “You have to move forward as well as go back,” Paul explained in September 12th’s TIME magazine.

Paul recreated a few of the Pre-Beatles cabaret-type material from the Quarrymen. The Englishman explained that “Till There Was You” would get the band local gigs in Liverpool and was recorded in the small town of Kensington in 1958. As learned from following his 2002 Driving USA tour, Paul tells the same stories and one-liner jokes every single night of the tour to his die hard fans.  Sir Paul, the fellow who received a Knightship from the Queen of England in the fall of 1997, sang “Drive My Car,” the number seen at the Super Bowl this year. Following Chaos and Creation’s “Feel Fine,” Paul moved to a grand piano, center stage, where he remained for Wings’ “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and “Too Many People.” New trippy lights were projected for a few more Fab favorites, as “The Long And Winding Road” led into “I Will” and “Leaving Home.” Paul grabbed his ebony and ivory again to play “Fixing A Hole.” His acoustic thumbing during Chaos and Creations’ “Jenny Wren” reminded me of "Mother Nature's Son."

Then the show’s top-notch set-list got even better. Paul stood alone to play the first verse of “Yellow Submarine.” Miami heard “Follow The Sun” and the new record’s “Follow Me” before Paul told a tale of his teenage years with George, creating the ten seconds of classical guitar that “became the basis” for 2002’s tour’s opener, “Blackbird.” Mid-way through the White Album’s masterpiece, Paul messed up the song’s lyrics two different times. He and the crowd simply laughed at the faux pas. “At least you know it’s not on tape,” Paul confessed.
Abbey Road’s “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” was a personal highlight, as well as Wings’ multidimensional “Band On The Run.” The complex arrangement, as opposed to the band’s silly love songs, brought listeners back to the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record; convenient, considering that Paul followed the number with the “Sgt. Pepper’s” single.

“Here’s something I think you’ll wanna sing along with,” Paul explained, as he sat alone at the piano for the Beatles’ best-selling single, “Hey Jude.” Eight canons exploded onstage while disco lights orbited the complex James Bond theme, “Live and Let Die.” Other ageless songs performed consist of “Penny Lane,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Good Day Sunshine” and “Back In The USSR.”

There was a brief encore, not allowing any fan to stop applauding or grab a refill when Paul reappeared. He presented us with an acoustic rendition of “Yesterday,” and ordered the crowd to “get back to where” we once belonged. Here’s a song we never performed in America soil,” Paul explained as he stole back “Helter Skelter.” Another ridiculously quick encore followed, and Paul ended the evening with the mop-top Beatles’ “Please, Please Me,” and 1969’s “Let It Be.”

From 9 o’clock ‘till 11, Miami’s concert was filled with a sublime mix of both obscure and classic material, rather than an uninspiring set-list taken exclusively from the Beatles’ number 1 collection or Chaos and Creation. Paul’s concert will conquer the continent night after night, until the November 30th finale in Los Angeles. McCartney’s 2005 journey will not be the top grossing tour of the year, as its span is minuscule compared to this fall’s Ultimate Rock Stars, the Stones and U2. Regardless, Paul’s still got it and his revolutionary music will continue to shine on.