Paul McCartney - Birmingham NIA - 13.4.03

Avid Merrion would probably describe Paul McCartney as "smooth like a velvet touch" and then ask to shake the hand and kiss the face. I'm just happy to be in the same building as thousands in the presence of a genuine legend.

After what can only be described as some bizarre performance art circus troupe, Macca's silhouette appears to deliver a mammoth guitar crunch. It's true what they say about there being no real stars today because his presence alone creates the sort of adrenaline rush which for me personally has only been matched by Bowie, the Pistols, Joe Strummer and Dr John. There's only really one song he could start with that is "Hello Goodbye" which for much of tonight's audience is the first time they'd have heard a Beatles song live. There's a genuine feeling of this being a real event rather than just another gig and with the Sheffield gig postponed a week previously due to ill health it's a clear indicator that this could be the last time we get to see a Beatle on stage unless Ringo decides to come out of retirement for the new millennium production of Thomas The Tank Engine on Ice.

Despite the plethora of hits it's those sentimental moments which really touch you. An imaginary conversation between Paul and John forms the basis on "Here Today" which was written shortly after John's death. Late wife Linda ("My Love") and his second wife Heather ("Your Loving Flame") are also rocks in Paul's life, but it's clearly George Harrisson which is everyone's minds and despite Macca's scouse wit and tales of George's love of Formby and the Ukulele it would take a hard heart to be left untouched by ""Something" even with the jaunty arrangement.

"She's Leaving Home" is an eerie experience for me purely because I realize just how much I massacred it back in the first year of high school. A wise music teacher thought the best way to get the kids into music was to murder classics with recorders and cheap casio keyboards. At this point I start to worry though because sat directly behind us is Stuart Maconie and with all this reminiscing it was just too bizarre to have the king of nostalgic anecdotes peering over you. It's hard though not to get nostalgic when you're literally hearing your childhood revisited (or in my case parents record collection revisited) with a soundtrack of "Getting Better", "We Can Work It Out", "Eleanor Rigby", "Band On The Run" and "Can't Buy Me Love". It's a hit to the senses every time and when it comes to an arena singalong of "Hey Jude" all the worries of whether Bush is going to bring on Armageddon are flushed away (although if you want to help the kids of Iraq by the Hope album which features a new version of "Calico Skies").

After "Hey Jude" most of the audience would have simply been happy to walk away on the ultimate high, but when you can follow it with the quintet of "The Long and Winding Road", "Lady Madonna", "I Saw Her Standing There", "Yesterday" and "Sgt Pepper" and still have songs left over it would be rude not to. When we walked into the venue tonight there were questions that remained unanswered and over the process of the set we discovered that although Macca doesn't write them like he used to it's irrelevant because he's contributed more to the world of music than any contemporary artist could ever dream of.

Alex McCann

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