Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thoughts on last night

As expected, Paul's appearance on "Letterman" was terrific. From the start, the night was clearly all about him. Dave reiterated several times how thrilled he was that Paul would be joining him and how special it was that the former Beatle would once again be gracing the Ed Sullivan Theater. When he finally came out for the sit-down, Paul was charming, clever, and likable as always. Early in their chat, he lightly ribbed Dave by saying that he hadn't been on before because he didn't like the show. Later, when Dave asked him to sort of describe himself, Paul responded with: "Well I'm a boy. I like girls." It was very amusing.

Thankfully, though, he didn't try to have a laugh at every turn. Paul is indeed a zany character, but he's also someone with a natural facility for reflecting openly and thoughtfully on life. It's a critical part of what makes him (strongly appear to be) so genuine. This quality marked his discussion of The Beatles, Michael Jackson, etc. And throughout, Dave was unmistakably delighted. Across from him sat Paul McCartney, a legend whom he could praise without shame, a wit who could keep pace with his sly banter, and a first-rate human being. That's a superlative guest to have on your show.

From there, Paul stepped out onto the Theater's Marquee and played a televised two-song set that featured "Get Back" and the anthemic "Sing the Changes" off 2008's Electric Arguments. The performance was solid. Paul is 67 years old but still maintains the buoyant and energized stage presence of his younger self. He continued the mini-concert after the show was finished, belting out five more songs that included "Helter Skelter," "Band on the Run," and "Back in the U.S.S.R" (Rolling Stone has more here). The large crowd assembled in midtown Manhattan was surely grateful for all they were witnessing.

As was I. Though, to be honest, I found myself more interested in the interview portion of the show than the actual performance. Maybe it's because I've encountered Paul so often through the medium of music that he seems a touch less familiar and thus more interesting when he's simply talking to another individual. Perhaps this, combined with how enormously engaging he is on a personal level, was the reason. Happily, both the superstar and the more flesh-and-blood sides of Paul were available for consumption last night, and both made his first appearance on "Letterman" quite a treat to watch.

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