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.

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