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Steven Tyler Channels Paul McCartney at Kennedy Center Honors

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One of the biggest risks a performer can take is covering someone else’s work, particularly the work of an icon. The risk is that the audience will recoil from the interpretation and criticize the artist for daring to interfere with perfection. But in taking the risk, a potential reward also lurks. Those of us who caught the Kennedy Center Honors this past week saw what happens when someone takes the risk and reaps the reward.

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler stole the show and the audience’s heart with his rendition – in front of the composer, Paul McCartney, no less – of the spectacular Abbey Road medley “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “The End.” McCartney was being honored for “enriching, inspiring and elevating the cultural vibrancy of the nation and the world” at the annual event in Washington.

When the spotlight turned to Tyler and his scarf-laden microphone, I was already steeling myself for something I was sure would end in tears, and not the good kind. In seconds I was disabused of that notion as he proceeded to blow everyone’s mind for nearly four minutes. “Do it,” he commanded his band, and then made each component of the medley his own in a wild ride of unbridled enthusiasm for the material and for McCartney. He was a man in the zone; how could he fail?

Making it more special for the home and online viewing audience was seeing the reactions of the guests and McCartney himself throughout the performance. I believe in England they call it “gobsmacked.” I’ve long considered the concluding Abbey Road medley to be a highlight of that latter-day Beatles album, but it was an unexpected choice for the ceremony. Judging by the exultant faces in the audience and Paul’s look of pleasure, it was a sterling confirmation that “the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

 

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About Wendy Schweiger

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    That was one fabulous performance of the best of Paul by Tyler.

    Welcome to Blogcritics, Wendy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChuckJohnston Chuck

    Glad to see this, Wendy. How do you have time to do other things, like LIVE, for example?

  • Robin Baneth

    Thank you for the words. That is exactly as I perceived it. One living legend singing to another.

  • http://estivator.blogspot.com Wendy Schweiger

    What was even more shocking, to me, was how my whole perception of Steven Tyler changed. I have never been any kind of follower of Aerosmith’s music, but I may have to revisit that lapse. Not sure if this is true or not, but I read somewhere that Paul asked Steven to do this medley(or a song, not sure which) for the event. If that’s the case, he obviously saw something in him that was completely off my radar screen.

  • Gino De Lucia

    I thoroughly enjoyed Steven Tyler’s vocal tribute to Paul. Thank you Steven; you did an awesome job!

  • S. Michael Simms

    As a long time Aerosmith fan I have seen the best and worst of Steven Tyler and, thankfully, this stirring tribute to Sir Paul (which was indeed per his request) was the 62 year old blues-rocker at his best. He was tender where he needed to be, rocked out where appropriate, and passionate throughout. If it was any indication as to where he’s headed as an entertainer, I see nothing but good things ahead for him and Aerosmith. Long live the Demon of Screamin’!

  • http://estivator.blogspot.com Wendy Schweiger

    Nice! I will keep my eye on him for sure.

  • jeremy

    My only qualm is the with article, there’s no risk in covering a Beatles song, no matter how you interpret it. All you have to do is ROCK. The music is so good it plays itself.

  • H. Hogan

    Jeremy, that’s crazy. That medley didn’t play itself – never heard anything so ridiculous. Awesome backing band, AWESOME singer who really is one of rock’s great voices, all totally prepared. You could mess up the Beatles very easily. A big risk to cover it.

  • Derek

    Loved it can’t stop replaying it

  • Suncatcher

    Paul McCartney asked Steven Tyler to do him the honors at the Kennedy Center and Tyler NAILED it! He gave the performance of his life that they are still talking about! The standing ovation he got from McCartney and the audience was so very well deserved! Steven Tyler is such an elegant rocker! Well-written coverage, Wendy!

  • gadgets

    jeremy, that’s crazy. That medley didn’t play itself – never heard anything so ridiculous. Awesome backing band, AWESOME singer who really is one of rock’s great voices, all totally prepared.