Usually when I write show previews, I imagine my audience as curious music fans who don't know a ton about a great up-and-coming artist, or who are maybe just on the fence whether they want to go out and see a show that week. When I do these, I like to lay out an artist's history, tell you why they're good, and encourage you to check out their show if they sound like something you're into.
But this is Paul Freakin' McCartney, perhaps the most famous still-active musician in the world. He's part of the most mythologized band in music history, a group whose story we all know by the time we're 10. He's still a bucket-list concert for probably millions of people, and his tours still command national attention, but if for some reason you hadn't heard, McCartney plays Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 21. Yeah, that's right — he's just going to pop into the lovely dump that is soon-to-be-former Red Wings arena on a weeknight and grace it with his legendary presence.
Beyond just the songs, McCartney still does these big shows and draws incredible interest because he's always been a crowd pleaser. Whereas George got deep into religion and John tried to sell himself as an avant-garde peacenik, Paul's most ubiquitous solo tunes are a James Bond theme, a whimsical tale of a band on the run, and a song that says the phrase "Simply having a wonderful Christmastime" like 50 times in a row. He's partial to the big saccharine ballads, the deceptively simple love songs, and the down-to-earth narratives of everyday life.
That said, it's not like this is The Monkees we're talking about. Though both made beautiful pop music, he also has a nice little experimental body of work that's worth checking out if you're a fan who wants to dig a little deeper. There's the electronic records he did as The Fireman, proto-punk Beatles stuff like "Helter Skelter," and you can even hear him whistling on Kanye West's abrasive, cutting-edge hip-hop track, "All Day." McCartney's done an amazing job of staying in the spotlight all these years. Sure, he's still playing songs that are mostly 40 or 50 years old at this point, but he's done just enough to make sure he still has credibility beyond just those prime years.
So, to be honest, you probably knew whether you wanted to go to McCartney the second you heard that he was coming, but hear me out real quick if you don't want to go. Some people (myself included) kind of hate on McCartney, sometimes for having some lame solo songs and for being an all-around goof, but it's living history every time he performs. Too soon, we'll only be able to know the kind of impact these songs had by watching old videos or reading history books, but for at least one more time, we can experience the creator of some of the most touching, universally beloved songs in the world give fans another opportunity to remember how they fell in love with this music and try to wrap their heads around how it's so magical. McCartney's up there with the greats not just because he wrote brilliant songs, but because he has truly had an impact on millions of lives. Be in that crowd on Wednesday night, and you're guaranteed to catch at least a flutter of that rapturous quality.
Go see Paul McCartney at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 21; Show starts at 8 p.m.; Tickets range from $26.50 to $250.00.