The first time I saw what is now The Jewel of the Midlands, the performing arts space on the second floor of the Newberry Opera House, it was (figuratively) a pigeon coop.
The city had stabilized the windows so the pigeons had to roost elsewhere, but there were city offices on the first floor. The first step to making it a theater, again, was moving these to a vacated bank. Then, money was raised, then shows were booked. That all started in 1998.
Now, 25 years later, Pat and I are in the balcony for the Jan. 26 performance of The McCartney Project. It is a Christmas gift of our daughter, Dr. Victoria MacDonald (as a dad, I just love saying that!!). We loved the show, and then, Sunday morning, I went into a cabinet in the den and dug out Wings Over America on vinyl and dug it again.
“Sir Paul” in the Project is Tony Burlingame, and he is a totally interactive and charasmatic performer. He goes “into character” at times to talk about The Beatles and how “I used to know those guys,” even playing a vintage, left-handed bass for the encore.
A thought hit me during the show - what if The Beatles had THIS technology and THESE acoustics during their performing days? Their concert at Candelstick Park was their last because John Lennon was so disgusted by the lack of technical quality.
I was the first kid on my block in Greenville to get a transistor radio, and I have loved popular music ever since. Pat has gotten me into musicals, but I like nothing more than hard-driving rock music and beautfully crafted acoustic music (a Grammy for Bonnie Raitt!). Sir Paul McCartney has that, and a symphony to boot!
The McCartney Project is a 5-piece, while The Beatles were a 4-piece. But John, Paul, George and Ringo were always inviting others in. People say “they were together such a short time” - 1964-69 by popular myth - but John-Paul started in 1955 underground in Germany and they weren’t really through with each other until 1972. That’s a long time in the rock world, living the life they lived.
It was a great night hearing that sound, and others, re-imagined.
Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle. His favorite song is The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun.” In June, 2025, he will observe his 50th year in community journalism. Reach him at 864-833-1900.
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