What a difference a half century can make.
It may have been 20 years ago today (when) Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play, but it was 50 years ago when the Beatles performed live before a deafening crowd of pubescent fans at New York’s Shea Stadium in 1965.
The four lads from Liverpool had been touring for three years as Beatlemania raged on across the world. This concert broke records for attendance.
There were 55,000 adoring fans on that hot summer night.
The summer concert lasted 30 minutes and the playlist consisted of 12 songs, including Can’t Buy Me Love.
I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright…
Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love…
Simple and to the point. However, the four lads could have been reciting the phone book and no one would have noticed.
The fans, mostly female, screamed, cried and fainted. Nobody could hear the music let alone John, Paul, George and Ringo who were unable to hear a note they were singing. The fans were awash in a hormonal, hysterical frenzy, oblivious to the fact that history was being made.
I remember when the Beatles were booked to perform at Empire Stadium in Vancouver. I didn’t go, partly because I didn’t have the money to buy a ticket, but mostly I knew from a pragmatic point of view, my youthful exuberance notwithstanding, that their performance would be drowned out by the mindless rowdy and raucous crowd.
I was right. It barely lasted 10 minutes.
Such a pity, as Lennon and McCartney penned some of the greatest love songs in music history.
Watching the concert last month on YouTube to commemorate this iconic performance, I realize how much music concerts have changed. And so have the lyrics. And the fans.
Fast forward to today, when the British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran played London’s Wembley stadium this month to a crowd of more than 200,000 fans. There were three performances over three days.
Ed Sheeran, with his mop of unkempt red hair and casual attire looks like a cross between Prince Harry and Kurt Cobain.
When he sings Thinking Out Loud, he has his audience in his intimate embrace despite the massive size of the venue.
When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks…
A scruffy, unpretentious, young man of 24 with just a guitar and thousands of devoted listeners in the palm of his hand. They mouth the words of all of his songs and listen intently with joy and emotion. Couples gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes, convinced Sheeran is singing directly to them.
Love is in the air. There is no inane screaming or ear-piercing shrieking.
Fans are there to listen to this talented musician and to crawl into the depths of his quirky and poetic lyrics. They are delighted to be a part of the experience as they fill the arena with a blanket of cellphone lights which illuminates their silent devotion to this talented lad.
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are.
I am thinking out loud that the Beatles would have envied Ed Sheeran.
Maybe he is John Lennon reincarnated.
Time will tell.
April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.