« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Paul McCartney's fab night at Coachella

Macagain Much ado was made the minute Coachella Music & Arts Festival chief Paul Tollett announced that Paul McCartney would be one of the 2009 headliners. He’s too old, some griped. Coachella’s for Gen X and Y, not the dreaded Boomers, others sniped. He’s too populist...he’ll dull Coachella’s hip factor.

The verdict from his Coachella debut on Friday? Never underestimate the power of a Beatle.

Perhaps some fans stayed away because a member of the world’s most popular rock band showed up, but for the ones who didn’t, the night belonged to Paul.

Pity the poor acts who had to go on opposite him while 95% of those still on hand for the conclusion of Friday’s opening show packed themselves like so many sardines as close to the big Coachella stage as they could. The Crystal Method still drew a few thousand dance-minded fans into the Sahara Tent, but thrash rock band Genghis Tron only landed 100 or so for its evening closing show, while Gustavo Santoalalla’s scintillating group Bajofondo pulled in 700 or 800.

Many on hand for McCartney couldn’t get any nearer than a quarter mile away, and they were grateful for video screens about 40 feet tall on either side of the stage magnifying that still-cherubic smile for all to see.

McCartney in turn delivered a two-hour-plus show in as strong a voice as he’s exhibited in his Southland stops in recent years, and one with a goodly number of surprise choices that took the set well beyond the Beatles/Wings greatest hits run-through he easily could have fallen back on.

He opened with “Jet,” from his 1975 album “Band on the Run,”  rocking hard at the outset as if to counter those who consider him an overly sentimental pop romantic. Which he is, but he used Coachella to exploit the visceral energy of early rock that so strongly influenced him, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, especially in his rendition of Big Joe Turner’s raucous “Honey Hush.”

“Let Me Roll It,” a soul-rock shouter, found him as gritty as one can get who has so powerful an attraction to pop melody and fetching harmonies. He included a couple from his more experimentalist side project "The Fireman," along with individual tributes to his wife Linda, who died 11 years ago to the day on Friday, Lennon and Harrison.

“It’s an emotional day for me,” McCartney, 66, said as though he were chatting with a few friends in his living room rather than tens of thousands of cheering fans. “But that’s OK. That’s good.”

Even when it seemed he couldn’t top himself after a fireworks-laden rendition of his James Bond movie theme “Live and Let Die,” after which he led a monumental singalong on “Hey Jude,” out came three more Beatles barnstomers: “Birthday,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Lady Madonna.”

Hip comes and hip goes, but McCartney proved once again, a great pop song lasts forever.

--Randy Lewis

Photo by Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (19)

long live the beatles!

I realize this guy puts on a good show. It is just that I do not like him very much. He is a talented musician, no doubt. But is he really THAT good, or is a lot of this just an aversion to criticizing the Beattles, to realizing that their era is gone, and that Paul McCartney is really not that good a person? www.dimequecrees.com

I saw Paul on the Wings Over America tour and was surprised even then how he could carry a show and rock. I'm much more of a Beatles/John and George fan. George's Dark Horse Tour lacked the depth and impact Paul brought to the stage ( I love George ). Paul can and will surprise you with these shows because he has the depth and the tunes to make you both happy to be alive and happy to cry to a lovely tune you heard as a young person on the dance floor. We always played Hey Jude at dances. And it's an amazing song. So nice to read your story and see he can still do this to people even today. thank you.

The best remain the best.

I am a sixteen year old die hard Macca fan and I was there last night. I never in my wildest dreams expected to get the chance to see him live. It was an experience like no other. I was fairly close to the stage(about 70 feet away) and I screamed IM YOUR BIGGEST FAN in between almost every song and belted out every lyric . I doubt Paul heard me, but I think I amused the people around me. It was a concert I will never forget as long as I live.

I saw the Beatles perform two times as a child, and I've seen Sir Paul in concert twice as a soloist. I've seen Love, Rain, Beatlemania -- yep, I'm one of THOSE. The Beatles are that rare phenomenon where you can be talking to anyone, of any age or ethnicity, and you will always have a love of them in common. There is nothing like what the Beatles brought to a performance -- nothing. You can see this on YouTube. In future generations, scientists will study the electricity that's generated by their music, and by their physical presence. Even at 65, Sir Paul still brings it, and I am so grateful that he does.

I didn't get a chance to see him last night, but I have seen him three times before (including the Amoeba show). Paul always puts on a phenomenal show. He's still one of the best and he's 66. Simply amazing.

Paul McCartney could be 66 or 106 and he will still rock any one out of the water! I'm a fervent Coachella fan and he is welcomed to Coachella any time! The only dissapointing thing about the concert was the lack of passion and excitement shown by the public. They were as stiff as a stick and as mute as a library hall. PM deserves better than that because he gave it his all and the people didn't give anything back despite the fact they obviously liked it. I'm sick of people not even letting go of their emotions during a historical moment as when a Beatle played. If that can't ignite fire under your ass nothing will. Most of the public in this concert was emotionally dead and numb. If this concert was played anywhere else in the world people would be jumping up and down ,but only here in the States where every one wants to appear "cool" can they really bring down the concert. Just as we now have schools of rock we also need schools of fans!

I'm with Christina the 16-year-old above. I'm 38, figured I'd never see a beatle perform live, because it's like thinking someday you're gonna finally get those flying cars we've been promised. Would be nice, but probably never gonna happen. Then I got a last-minute chance to go to coachella last night, and...wow. Having heard the Beatles covered at weddings and bar mitzvah parties my whole life ad infinitum... the songs are so burnt into my/our consciousness I had to keep myself aware of three things-- ONE-- this is the guy who WROTE these songs-. TWO-- holy crap he sounds great..(...and he's playing Foxy Lady?!!) and THREE-- what sixty-six year old man have I ever met who can jump around a stage with the energy of a 15 year old?! Maybe the drummer, who had the biggest, happiest sh1t-eating grin on his face the whole concert- I bet he still has that delirious expression up on stage in 2045-- "YES! I got to play w/Paul McCartney!"

Some kid in the crowd standing next to me, maybe 22, turned to his friend and said, "we're gonna tell our kids about this in 20 years..."

Yup. You will, kid.

Okay enough fawning. It was good.

Age is a state of mind & 66 is actually in an eye blink still young, as every age is in fact that & talent is an acquired skill that surely took allot of practice. Sir Paul most likely enjoys performing the songs that he does & keeping the memory of the Beatles alive & well for those who enjoy listening. They certainly deserve the honor & recognition for their accomplished musical tunes. All I can say is that those who were there at the life performance surely have had a time to remember. Perhaps I will be able one day see Sir Paul McCartney on stage, as I had Elvis Presley in Oakland decades ago & that would be nice! Everyone out there please remember to help making it a better world starting with you! Sincerely, Gabriele

I was there that night!! Paul McCartney was amazing. Don't listen to people who whine that he's "too old." He's still got it!

I'm in my twenties, so I'm a fairly young fan, and I was so glad to see there were other young people at Coachella who enjoyed his show too. They were rocking out and screaming to his set. It was really, really awesome; something I'll never forget. I'm so glad I got to experience this firsthand. Thank you, Paul!!!!!

I was there last night. Literally mind blowing. I never experienced anything like it. Paul is Rock God and I didnt want it to stop. I sang Hey Jude with him...I can die happy.

I wish I could have been there! I saw Paul just before Coachella, in NY at the David Lynch TM Benefit Concert. It took 3 hours of other performances to get to him finally and wow was it worth it! He gave an amazing 40 min performance. His patter was better than usual (usually he says inane stuff that makes me cringe, though I love him dearly). I've seen him live 5 times now. Only other advice I would give him if I could: change up the song lists a bit. There's a huge Beatle/Paul number of songs out there. You don't always have to do Jet, Live and Let Die, Hey Jude, and Blackbird. Mix it up, Paul. Love you!

Awesome. unfortunately, I wasn't even able to watch the Coachella webcast when Paul was on. I HAVE to see him perform someday! I, an 18-year-old, would have fit the demographic at Coachella and although a lot of the attendees appeared at the festival to see The Killers...or My Bloody Valentine, many of them are more than willing to hear Paul McCartney, a legend, perform. Good music appeals to all age groups and Paul is definitely no exception!

I was there; there with my 26 year old son who is in to NIN, Radiohead etc. He cheered and clapped and sang along just as i did. I was actually pretty cynical about seeing Paul, thinking I might sneak over to the Sahara for Crystal Method instead. But when you are confronted with an artist who can still provide spot-on renditions of the songs we all love/d, and when there are so many of them, it's all over. I noticed a change in the crowds feelings part way through the show, perhaps it was after he talked about Linda's anniversary, when the cool/hip/ skeptical vibe gave way. We joined Paul and his great band on a journey through his life and , for many of us our lives, remembering John and George and all the great music they have given us. It was an astounding and emotional performance. And, "yes we have no bananas?"-only older Brits like me would get the reference

I was at Coachella to hear Paul. According to my accounting Paul started at 10:20 and didn't take his final exit until 12:50. That was 2 1/2 hours of great music and a great emotional journey. I am a boomer and actually saw the Beatles perform around 1965. This was a far greater experience.

I am in my 30s and have seen Beatles' archives. Oh, how I wish I could have been alive in the 60s to have seen and experienced them live! On Friday at Coachella I got the closest chance to see the Beatles I will likely ever get. And I have to say, it was miraculous. Paul gave a show beyond my wildest imagination. It was full of emotion, talent, passion and FUN! It is an experience I will never forget. Thank you Paul!

I came all the way from Brazil just to see Paul @ Coachella. Having waited for 15 years so he could come to Brazil, I gave up and chased him instead. I was afraid it would be like a 40 min concert so the 2 1/2 hours were a real treat for me.

Best night of my 27 years life, no doubt about it.

Now I agree with someone up there - whats up with the stifness of the fans? That was truly the only downside. I was going CRAZY up in the 4th ~row~ and people even looked at me weirdly. I mean COME ON. And some of them were wearing Beatles tshirts and standing there since noon just like me. I don´t get it. :P

I was there and yes, IT WAS AMAZING!


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: