Saturday, July 27, 2013

...The Power Of Scent Is Undeniable.

Over time I've learned that the sense of smell is a pretty powerful thing.  If you want to be pulled back into time, then there is nothing quite like scent to do it...unless you have a time machine, of course.

But for the rest of us who have to rely on riding the wings of nostalgia to get to the past, scent is an invaluable tool.  Whether you've just stepped into an old room you haven't seen in a decade and are transported back ten years, or whether you've stepped back into the kitchen where you just made a delicious dinner and are transported back ten minutes, it's all due to some aroma drifting up your nostrils and somewhere into your brain.  Since I'm an English major and not a scientist, I'm going to assume that's how it works.

A week ago I had a scent-y experience myself when I went to visit family in Connecticut.  The last time I had been there it has been the chilly month of January and I had been enamored with Les Misérables.  I had just seen the movie a few weeks prior, I had just finished my first full listen of the International recording earlier that morning, and I had just bought the enormous novel by Victor Hugo later that morning.  My entire world was filled with Les Misérables.  I heard the songs in my head all day and by night, I read the text.

Now, going back to my grandparents' house in July, quite a few things had changed.  It was beastly ninety degree weather, I had a new full time job, and I was in the process of buying a house with my boyfriend.  And while I still loved Les Misérables, it no longer occupied all of my waking thoughts.  I was, in fact, on an Abraham Lincoln learning kick.

Carrying my bags, the flush from the hot weather, and a Mary Todd Lincoln novel, I walked up the carpeted stairs to the third floor guest room I always stay in.  Halfway up the steps, I was hit with a blast of scent so enormous I could have sat on the stairs for the next hour and contemplated January.  Because the wonderful, familiar scent of the guest room where I had so diligently expanded my Les Misérables knowledge brought back roaring memories of January and that beautiful time when I learned of hope, redemption, and a wonderful man named Jean Valjean through Mr. Victor Hugo.

And so, next time you enter a building or room, take a moment to sniff the air.  You never know what moment you'll be brought back to.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

...Paul McCartney Doesn't Need To Be Young.

It started with an hour and a half of seated anticipation, followed by remixes of Paul McCartney songs and Beatles songs.  Next came the smoke and the soft purple lights.  And finally, the man himself!  Paul McCartney walked out onto the stage with his trademark bass guitar, waving to the audience, and immediately he and his band broke into "Eight Days A Week."

I reacted much as I did the first three times I saw Paul McCartney.  I screamed a bit, then couldn't seem to force any more sound from my mouth so I cried a little instead, and felt completely and undeniably happy (if ever there was a feeling where it felt like your heart had literally sprouted wings and flown off somewhere, I believe this would be it).

Now, in all of the times I've seen Sir Paul live, I've written to people about it, spoken about it, and thought about it, but I've never published something about it.  I believe it's time.  I took my literary mindset along for the musical journey and it sat on my shoulder the entire time, enhancing my experience.  Here we go.

First and foremost, Paul McCartney is seventy-one years old.  What do you think of when you think of a seventy-one year old man?  You may think senior citizen, possible owner of a cane, white hair, and frailty.  Paul McCartney looks awfully good for a seventy-one year old man.  Although wrinkles do line his famous face, his thick hair is a light brown and he has the physique of someone much younger.  I think it's completely safe to say he has much more energy than I, in the way he played nonstop for almost three hours, jumping and singing and moving and grooving.

When I first became a Beatles fan in 2003, I couldn't help but feel very sad that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were old.  I had fallen in love with the twenty-something versions of themselves and my thirteen-year old brain could not grasp the fact that they were grandfathers.  I regret to say I often wished them young again.

But on July 9, 2013, as Paul McCartney played and sang and pleased a crowd of thousands at Fenway Park, I forgot about his age.  Or rather, the years fell away from him.  The lines disappeared from his face, his voice sounded better than ever, and when he smiled it reminded me of the younger Paul who I had gotten to know first through CDs, books, and DVDs.  I will never wish Paul or Ringo young again.  While I may often wish myself back into the sixties to see them play then, I've found that I love them both now just as much as my thirteen-year old self loved the younger Liverpool lads.

And so while the years dropped away from Paul as he played, I thought maybe the years dropped away from me, too.  There is something so wonderful when music becomes so familiar to you that you know every word, every guitar lick in that lead guitar solo, and every sounding chord of the bass part.  It's magical to hear a great song for the first time, but even better when you know what's coming; when you know the way Paul's voice will rise an octave on the next chorus or the exact direction that the guitar solo will travel or the part where he will ask the audience to sing along.  They know it by heart, you know it by heart, and everyone just comes together.

At the risk of sounding slightly clique, I must say to see Paul McCartney live is magic.  He puts on such an amazing show and I believe his energy extends to other people.  Even the most shy people in the audience let loose and start to clap or sing or at least lip sync.  I don't sing in front of people and I don't dance in public.  But I do at a Paul McCartney concert.

One of the most memorable things about this specific concert of his "Out There" tour were the songs he played.  He did, of course, play fan favorites and familiar staples.  But there were a few songs that he pulled out that I would have never expected and he breathed new life into them.  For example, "Lovely Rita" and "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" had never been my favorite songs as a teenager.  Although I still loved those songs and would listen to them, they weren't favorites compared to say, "All My Lovin'" and "And Your Bird Can Sing."  But when Paul suddenly pulled them out of his sleeve that night (or rather, out of his band), I was excited.  They sounded phenomenal live.  They sounded brand new.  They deserved to be played just as much as the others.

Furthermore, Paul did two tribute songs; "Let's hear it for John Lennon!" he said before playing "Here Today," and saying the same before playing "Something" for George Harrison.  It has always made me sad to know I will never see John or George alive and so I cannot thank Paul enough for giving me the opportunity to give them each a standing ovation at his concert, although I will never be able to do so at their own concerts.

In closing, another absolutely amazing show by Paul that I feel so lucky to have attended.  I remember the huge banners welcoming him back to Boston, I remember how we got so close to seeing him get out of his arrival car, and I remember the music and the love.

And so, until next time, Sir Paul...