By Dan Fitzpatrick
By Jove, I’ve done it. In just under seven years, I made two arduous pilgrimages to see Ringo and Sir Paul play live, which ostensibly means that my Beatles super-fan crusade has ended. Unless you are a Pete Best loyalist or a Paul is Dead conspirator, I have come as close as humanly possible to seeing the Fab Four in concert. My life is complete; now it’s just a matter of settling my financial affairs and making an appointment with the Dr. Kevorkian memorial clinic (after all, happiness is a warm gun).
Fortunately for you all, I will devote my final moments to the only meaningful question left in my pitiful existence–which concert was superior? To settle this heated debate, I will borrow the format of the television show Deadliest Warrior, which uses an advanced computer program to simulate battle between two legendary warriors. Accordingly, I will break down the pros and cons of every factor in the respective concerts and then run the data through my high school graphing calculator to determine the winner. Let’s get started:
The Frontmen: Paul vs. Ringo
Vocals: Powerful and varied, covering loud rockers and mellow ballads; voice has not changed since the 60’s
Instruments: Masterfully plays the ukelele, two different pianos, and bass, acoustic, and electric guitars
Stage Presence: Gravitas of a serious artist combined with an entertainer’s flair; artfully replaces original lyrics with a plethora of “Woos” and “Yeah-yeahs”
Greatest Honor: Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997
*May actually be Billy Shears, a Canadian police officer secretly brought in to act as Paul’s double following his untimely death in a 1967 auto accident. The clues are all there, man.
Vocals: Provides a little too much time to think about what you would do if he sang out of tune; voice has not changed since the 60’s
Instruments: Makes up for lack of time spent drumming with ample amount of cowbell; tambourine virtuoso
Stage Presence: Awkward dance moves (I thought drummers were supposed to have rhythm?); Wins crowd over with witty banter until his pills wear off, leaving him unable to mutter anything beyond “peace and love, peace, love, peace and love”
Greatest Honor: Starred as The Conductor on Thomas the Tank Engine from 1984-86.
The Edge: Paul McCartney. How could anyone ever compete with that?
2. The Venues: Wachovia Center vs. The State Theatre
Details: Located in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex; seats 19,500 people
My Seat: Off to far right of stage, and unfortunately behind two drunk middle-aged women who would not sit down and stop dancing–your gyrations during “Eleanor Rigby” seemed unnecessary, Ma’am
Strength: Possibly the best arena rock experience you could ask for
Drawback: The unanticipated, pants-soiling pyrotechnics during “Live and Let Die”
Details: Located in Easton, PA; seats 1,500 people
My Seat: Front row, orchestra section
Strength: An all-around fun concert in an intimate setting
Drawback: Uncomfortable periods of eye contact with the band
The Edge: Ringo in the State Theatre. He didn’t ruin a perfectly good pair of pants there.
3. The Bands: Paul’s Backing Band vs. The All-Starr Band
Background: Relatively unknown, but great, session musicians
Personnel: Paul “Wix” Wickens (keyboard, accordion, bass), Brian Ray (bass, guitar), Rusty Anderson (guitar), Abe Laboriel, Jr. (drums)
Verdict: Maybe call it Paul’s inability to share the spotlight, but this handpicked group turns each show into a powerhouse performance
THE ALL-STARR BAND
Background: A rotating lineup of famous musicians who each play a few of their own hits
Personnel: Todd Rundgren (guitar, vocals, percussion), Steve Lukather of Toto (guitar, vocals), Gregg Rolie of Santana and Journey (keyboard, organ, vocals), Richard Page of Mr. Mister (bass, vocals), Mark Rivera (saxophone, keyboard, percussion, vocals), and Gregg Bissonette (drums)
Verdict: A far cry from the disorganization and cacophony typical of many supergroups, this band has a really tight sound and provides a welcome relief from some of Ringo’s less enjoyable numbers; he can certainly use a little help from his friends
The Edge: This one is a tie. Disregard any fear of this being a contest between the nobodies and the wash-ups, both bands rock the house.
4. The Setlists
General Description: This Fabulous live catalogue covers Beatles’ staples spanning their entire career (everything from Can’t Buy Me Love to Get Back), Wings/solo hits (e.g. Band on the Run), and newer releases (Fine Line); a concert with absolutely no filler
Length: Well over 3 hours, more than making up for the 1/2 hour late start
Sing-Along Climax: “Na na na na na na na, na na na na, hey Jude!”
General Description: As the Starr (!pun alert!) of the show, Ringo performs many of his old Beatles standards (With a Little Help from My Friends), respectable past solo releases (It Don’t Come Easy), and a few of his cringe-inducing new songwriting attempts (Anthem); the backing band’s songs are definitely the higher quality numbers (think of Black Magic Woman, Africa, and even Bang the Drum All Day)
“Ringo wrote a song? I’ll put it right here on the refrigerator, then we’ll get to see it everyday!”
Length: Just under 2 hours, a good length for a setlist that focuses more on fun than artistry
Sing-Along Climax: “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine”
The Edge: Paul. Ringo’s songs cannot match the consistent quality and depth of McCartney’s setlist.
The Final Verdict:
Using the collected data and a top-secret combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division (turns out nobody can divide by zero), I have determined the winner. While both men are formidable figures, only one could walk away with the trophy and the title of America’s Next Top Model. And the victor is:
Although both concerts were great, Paul’s talent and pedigree set him a notch above Ringo. It was an unforgettable evening that surpassed all possible expectations. Few shows can match Paul’s, and I highly recommend catching a glimpse of this legend live while he still graces the Earth in good health.
Much like the glorious occasion in which I impersonated an esteemed family councillor, I have managed to resolve all existing disputes with a rare combination of pure science, pizzazz, and shadow puppetry. Paul wins the mantle of Best Live Living Beatle (or does he, Mr. Shears?); the matter is settled. Maybe I’m Amazed at the result in The End, but opposing sides should just Come Together and Let It Be. I Feel Fine about the conclusion of this contest, which was really just a Birthday gift From Me to You. Glass Onion.