British legends show different paths for activism
Paul McCartney dedicated a Beatles ballad to the victims of the Charleston church massacre as he voiced hope for peace among races.
The former Beatle enjoyed a rapturous welcome by thousands Friday night as he played the Firefly Music Festival in the eastern U.S. state of Delaware, where another British music legend, Morrissey, offered his own, more provocative brand of on-stage activism.
Early in a two-and-a-half-hour set on a steamy night, McCartney played “The Long and Winding Road” — the melancholy 1970 song that spoke of The Beatles’ breakup — in tribute to the nine African-Americans gunned down at a historic Charleston, South Carolina church by a suspected white supremacist.
McCartney called on the momentarily hushed audience to “take a moment to pray for peace and harmony among the people of different colors.”
He returned to the theme with The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” with its call to “take these broken wings and learn to fly.”
McCartney recalled that he recorded “Blackbird” in 1968 as he looked at racial tensions engulfing the United States and added: “It has echoes today.”
But the rock icon was not exclusively somber, as he delighted the crowd with Beatles classics such as “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Helter Skelter” and “Live and Let Die,” electrified by pyrotechnics on stage and fireworks overhead.
McCartney also dedicated songs to his late bandmates John Lennon and George Harrison and played a cover of “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix, as he spoke fondly of his time with the late guitar visionary.
McCartney, sweaty but with unmistakable stamina, turned 73 on Thursday. He was starting the latest U.S. leg of his “Out There” global tour that opened more than two years ago.
Morrissey the Provocateur
Choosing a different path than the crowd-pleasing McCartney, Morrissey was characteristically unflinching in confronting the audience with his views.
Showing solidarity with the burgeoning U.S. protest movement against alleged police brutality, Morrissey sang underneath a video montage of officers roughing up citizens — including the notorious 1991 beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.
“They say, ‘ To protect and to serve’ / But what they really mean is / Get back to the ghetto,” Morrissey sang as he brought out his relatively obscure song “Gangland.”
But Morrissey faced the most emotive response as he showed grotesque images of the slaughter of animals, most writhing in pain, for “Meat is Murder,” the title track of his former band The Smiths’ cult classic 1985 album.
Musician Paul McCartney performs onstage during day 2 of the Firefly Music Festival on Friday, June 19.