Review: Sir Paul McCartney @ Suncorp Stadium (Brisbane)

Sir Paul McCartney played Suncorp Stadium (Brisbane) on 1 November, 2023.
Harry is a musician, producer, and visual artist, making psych pop and glitch art under the name Elder Children.

It's perplexing to consider the number of people who've been inspired, moved, and even transformed, by The Beatles.

The intensity of epiphanies had, the volume of tears shed, the magnitude of hips swung, and the millions of children raised on their music, is impossible to grasp. There's no explaining this inimitable phenomenon.

However, at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium (1 November), Sir Paul McCartney shed light on the why, and the how, this all came to be.

Kicking off with 'Can't Buy Me Love', the band smacked an entire seated arena springing up to its feet. Commencing the evening's rock odyssey, this 1964 #1 hit reminded that The Beatles' most important messages were always there, from the very beginning. "I don't care too much for money – money can't buy me love."

McCartney's longevity extends not only to his music, but evidently to his physical health. It's impressive to see anyone throwing kicks above their own head, let alone an 81-year-old man. But Paul McCartney is no ordinary man, and his 39-song marathon set list made that abundantly clear.

'Got To Get You into My Life', the defiantly idealistic hit from 1966's 'Revolver', saw the introduction of a three-piece horn section – performing off stage, from within the crowd.

Wings classic 'Let Me Roll It' nailed the stumbling, lovestruck beauty of its 1973 recording. As with much of Paul's finest material from the '70s, the song is at once a proclamation of the reciprocal nature of love, and a direct message John Lennon. "You gave me something. I understand. You gave me loving in the palm of my hand. I can't tell you how I feel, my heart is like a wheel – let me roll it to you."

The song is a soulful offering of peace, often cited as a humbled and sincere response to Lennon's diss track, 'How Do You Sleep?'. Incidentally, the title of the tune was lifted from George Harrison's 'I'd Have You Anytime', co-written by Bob Dylan, and opener to Harrison's masterpiece 'All Things Must Pass' album.

The connections certainly don't end there with McCartney, which he illustrated by transitioning 'Let Me Roll It' into a roaring rendition of Jimi Hendrix's riff masterpiece, 'Foxy Lady'. As Paul affectionately told his crowd, 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' had been released 26 May 1967. Just a few days later, Hendrix himself had learned and opened his set with the tune at London's Saville Theatre, to a crowd including Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, and Paul McCartney himself.

From the beginning of their career, The Beatles championed civil rights movements, being early advocates for women's liberation, racial equality, gay rights, and environmentalism. They used their global platform at the height of Beatlemania to champion the music of the black artists they adored, such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, at a time when not even Elvis had advocated for his own influences.

This was all before 1965, when local and state laws still prevented African Americans from voting in certain areas. As Paul earnestly explained at Suncorp Stadium, The Beatles were shocked to be told that their 1964 Jacksonville, USA, show was to be performed before a racially segregated audience. Five days prior to the event, the group published a statement, stating that they would play to an unsegregated audience, or they wouldn't play at all. The gig went on – unsegregated.

It were these steadfast principles and revolutionary attitudes that inspired McCartney's 'Blackbird'. Now elevated on a podium high above the crowd, Sir Paul tugged deftly at the heart strings, singing a lullaby fit to hearten even the sullenest souls. "Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise."

Where The Beatles' influence extended deep into culture and social liberation movements, it was also one of extreme controversy. There are few who've walked the earth to leave as many Wikipedia pages dedicated to their own offhand remarks as John Lennon.

From the infamously misquoted "...we're more popular than Jesus," line, to inspiring conspiracy theories by linking 'I Am the Walrus' to 'Glass Onion' with the lyric '...well here's another clue for you all – the walrus was Paul,' Lennon had a knack for generating absurd levels of chaotic amusement.

In musical terms, 'Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!' demonstrated Lennon's more anarchic, Dadaist proclivities. As McCartney told it before the song, John had acquired a 19th century Pablo Fanque circus poster, the names and events on which they used to craft the lyrics. "The band begins at ten to six, when Mr. K. performs his tricks – without a sound."

Live, the music and visuals perfectly imbued the song's baroque psychedelia, providing a twirling kaleidoscope of laser lights which gloriously intertwined with the circus rock tune.

Where Lennon preferred to fan the flames, Paul was often the sensible, strategic, and level-headed Beatle. As the story goes, the Fab Four performed in 1963 at a Royal Variety Performance for the Queen of England – among many other members of the British aristocracy.

Here, a young John Lennon had insisted upon introducing their monumental version of 'Twist And Shout' with the following: "For our last number, I'd like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you – if you'll just rattle your jewellery." John had also intended, daringly, to drop an f-bomb for the Royal Family – but was talked out of it by Paul (now the knighted Sir Paul) and their manager, Brian Epstein. This is just one of hundreds of tales that illustrates the perfectly contradictory dichotomy shared between the partnership of Lennon and McCartney.

Taking a moment to read from the many signs in the crowd, Paul remarked upon a particularly special one, which read: 'Paul, please sign my bum!'. To this, he jokingly responded: "Alright. . . well, let's see it then."

McCartney went on to remark that the band can tell people really prefer the old songs in their set, because they see a galaxy of camera lights for those tunes – and not so much for the new. What a way to introduce 2013's shimmering 'New', which is a swirling blend of classic Paul songwriting with modern production, courtesy of Mark Ronson and Giles Martin.

Giles is the son of the late George Martin, the producer who glued Beatles records together like nobody else could. Martin played no small part in sculpting the band's most memorable moments, including the construction of the Abbey Road medley from disparate song parts.

Being 1 November, McCartney performed the day prior to the release of 'Now And Then', which has been dubbed '...the final Beatles song'. The tune was left on a cassette labelled 'For Paul' before Lennon's untimely passing, and later discovered by Yoko Ono.

As it was a particularly rough demo, George Harrison voted to leave it off their 'Anthology' series in 1995 – but not before recording some guitars. Thankfully, these tracks have now made it to the finishing line. McCartney and Giles Martin produced their farewell song, alongside Lennon's original vocal takes, which have been restored courtesy of technology developed in association with director Peter Jackson.

This same technology was used to clarify and extract the audio from the footage in the three-part 'Get Back' documentary. With this, they were able to isolate audio from their iconic and final rooftop performance, allowing Paul to duet 'I've Got A Feeling' with John Lennon live onstage. "I've got a feeling (everybody had a good year), a feeling I can't hide (everybody let their hair down)."

For many, the music of The Beatles is not just a catalogue of pop hits – it's a tome of spiritual, philosophical, and creative prosperity. It is a fountain of love that springs out in an endless spout, one that's there to provide solace whenever you should need. This was clearly the sentiment felt during 'Let It Be', which saw phone lights swaying in the open air, illuminating a galaxy for Paul and his band to behold. "When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comforts me."

For the bombastic 'Live And Let Die', recorded by Wings in 1973 for the Bond film of the same name, Paul brought out the pyrotechnics. Shocking flashes of white-hot flame spat from the stage, building up to a colossal plateau of fireworks and steam. "But if this ever-changin' world in which we’re living makes you give in and cry – say live and let die."

Culturally, The Beatles' impact knows no bounds. Their songs and spirit carved the shape of history, irrevocably woven into the fabric of human culture for the rest of measured time. They popularised the music video. The sitar. The moustache. And this trend doesn't even end on the human spectrum. 'Across The Universe' was transmitted by NASA as an interstellar radio message in 2008 – a beacon for alien life.

Back on earth, thunder cracked the skies. Just when you thought the show couldn't take you any higher, McCartney tore into 'Helter Skelter' like unlubricated lightning, taking the song that started heavy metal for a fat gallivant.

Picking up where things left off earlier with 'You Never Give Me Your Money' and 'She Came In Through the Bathroom Window', the band broke back into the remaining passages of the Abbey Road medley. The group soared from 'Golden Slumbers' through to 'The End', trading guitar and drum solos fit to bring a tear to the eye.

With the final line of the evening Paul scanned the crowd, openhandedly seeking the eyes and ears of any who'd care to draw upon his wisdom. "...and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

This is a man who has whole-heartedly devoted his life to spreading peace and love to the planet. There are endless things to be said of The Beatles' impact, and the scope of Paul McCartney's legacy is impossible to condense. The only thing left to do, is to listen.

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