An Editor’s Overview

Honest, Abe

by Michael Parillo

Last June, some friends invited my wife and me to see Paul McCartney at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Our seats were terrible— the last row of the arena, right against the wall, to the side of the stage and almost behind it. Didn’t matter. Beatle Paul was ridiculously charming and energetic, in fine voice and never leaving the crowd’s view over the nearly three-hour show, while his much younger band was able to take a break here and there during their leader’s solo spots.

For anyone who’s never caught McCartney live, hearing him sing and play “Blackbird” all by himself is alone enough to make the experience unforgettable. But Paul also has a wonderful band—and you know what its not-at-all-secret weapon is: Abe Laboriel Jr. Although I was an Abe admirer before the show, I admit I was slightly skeptical about how he might handle those many indelible songs of Paul’s, from the Beatles, Wings, and beyond. As the group took the stage and the chiming opening chords of “Eight Days a Week” rang out, I thought, Ooh, early Ringo—that’s a tough one!

Abe made it instantly clear that he could give you what you need of that Beatles spirit while remaining undeniably his own man. He didn’t play the song exactly the way Ringo did—his feel wasn’t the same; no one’s is—yet he brought it to life in an arena just right. That set the tone for the show. Laboriel had a drum sound that worked for all of the material, and it was his sound. Plus the guy was singing on everything. His backing vocals were a very important part of the whole.

Those are the marks of an all-around professional. But let’s forget that for a second and focus on another of Abe’s finest qualities: He shows you how fun it is to play the drums. He radiates joy and playfulness with every sweeping crash, every enormous flam. At the Barclays Center, I found that my high-and-wide seats actually gave me a good bird’s-eye view of Abe throwing himself fully into every stroke. He’s such a physical drummer that I’m grateful he gets to venture forth from the studio to hit the road with Paul and show his stuff to big audiences. If our instrument ever needed an ambassador, he’d be the perfect choice. (“Hey parents, give your kids a drumset and they might turn out like this!”) It was such a blast to see and hear him play McCartney’s songs that by the time the show was over, I was dying to go home and jump on the kit. I was an admirer before, but now I’m a fan.