Ah sweet sunset…the field imperceptibly grew more dense as dusk creeped in, and suspense built. A collective breath was let out when the band emerged, dressed to the nines, and then a roar went up as Leonard Cohen emerged. He seemed momentarily taken aback by the response, but quickly fell back on his seemingly unending reservoir of grace and charm, and kicked off the set. Despite recent business misfortunes that put him back on the road in his mid 70’s, there was no bitterness or unwillingness in the performance.
It was the master at work, spinning out the classics in that barely there, but utterly commanding voice. An astringent reading of ‘The Future’ really seemed to touch a chord with the festival crowd, which by now had swelled out back to the food tents. It was with great regret that I tore myself away to achieve the proper positioning for St. Morrissey. The most impressive part of this set was the love shown on both sides, a soul connection, and a special moment.
Morrissey started out in vintage form, bringing verve & gusto to the lead off run through “This Charming Man”. Red flag went up a few songs in with a pre.emptory whine about the sound, (this would be the main stage that just had a kazillion $$ upgrade knowing mccartney was coming), and then further down the road layed out the soon to be legendary plaint: ‘I smell burning flesh, I hope it’s human’
and finding room to wah about the sound, and multiple whines about having to smell cooking meat! Vintage moz…leaned heavily on his new album, and seemed somewhat disengaged from the other Smiths songs he played…Good set overall, but mirroring his recent tours, and nothing special for this occasion.
After the last notes of Moz sounded, I made the trek towards the front of stage, angling in from the bottom left, stalling out right under the video screens. I took some time to ruminate on all the press coverage on McCartney’s impending visit, and stared at the crowd around me…seemed to have more of a show.me attitude than the blind devotion of Cohen’s audience, and the average age definitely skewed up from the rest of the day. I wondered how the folks who came specifically for Macca made out during the parched freakshow that must have been the rest of the day for them…was it worth it?
The time crept closer & we were serenaded with a dj mixing up beatles songs, falling back delightfully on heavy soul covers, i.e. Otis Redding (hard days night), Wilson Pickett, Booker T & MGs, Billy Preston, etc. Worked a lot better than it had a right to…
The smoke rose, and the crowd shuffled in place until finally the lights came up, and the band danced out, McCartney in particular not looking 60 something, lit into ‘Jet’, and it was like 1976 again…
He mixed and matched, interchanging Beatles, Wings, and solo work, bringing more energy than tightness to the proceedings, but not a complaint was to be heard. The band itself was very sharp, and Macca appeared to be having the time of his life, and seemed to relish the opportunity to win people over. His catalogue just can’t be denied, and he pushed on past the midnight curfew with not a second thought, pushing on an extra 51 minutes, (at a Grand a minute it should be pointed out…)
In the final consideration, I would say Mr. McCartney made his points for continued relevance with the gathered hipsters and faithful alike, turning in a powerful case for good old melodic rock & roll.