For about 20 years, Ray Keating wrote a weekly column - a short time with the New York City Tribune, more than 11 years with Newsday, another seven years with Long Island Business News, plus another year-and-a-half with As an economist, Keating also pens an assortment of analyses each week. With the Keating Files, he decided to expand his efforts with regular commentary touching on a broad range of issues, written by himself and an assortment of talented contributors and columnists. So, here goes...

Monday, June 6, 2022

Paul McCartney in Concert and “Top Gun: Maverick” – Much More Than Nostalgia

 by Ray Keating

The Keating Files – June 6, 2022


I don’t particularly like when people talk about “the good old days.” Were they really that good?


I’ve also become less of a fan of the word “nostalgia,” coming to see a sentimental longing for the past as kind of sad.


Yet, at the same time, I’m fascinated by the past, by history. Heck, I just published a piece of historical fiction – Cathedral: An Alliance of Saint Michael Novel – set in the early 1930s.

So, what’s the deal? Specifically, I love learning from the past; finding people, moments and things from history offering insights and value; and informing people today so that they too can learn and gain appreciation.


Having said this, rare moments occur when someone or something great from the past builds on those experiences to raise something current to a higher level in certain ways. I had that happen twice over the past week and a half. 


First, I saw Paul McCartney at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on May 28. While I was excited to see one of the true greats of rock ‘n’ roll, I didn’t really know what to expect with the “Got Back” tour. After all, the former Beatle is 79 years old. So, I lowered my expectations heading to the concert. No matter what, just seeing McCartney live in concert would be enough.


It turned out that I was completely blown away. The music was awesome largely because of McCartney’s abilities, again, at 79. His voice was strong. His guitar and piano playing were spot on. The entire show was a sensation. And then throw into the mix his history as a great songwriter and Beatle, as well as the fact that he skillfully sprinkled in some wonderful stories and bows to the likes of John Lennon and George Harrison. There also was a humbleness communicated from McCartney that was in no way contrived. 


This ranked as a celebration of McCartney’s entire career, a recognition of his past and current skills, and very much a top-notch concert (indeed, one of the best I’ve ever attended).


For all of my life, I’ve loved songs like “Junior’s Farm,” “Love Me Do,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and “Band on the Run.” And McCartney and his current band played those superbly, as they did with the rest of their lengthy playlist for more than two-and-half hours that night. 


And then there was the three-song close to their main setlist – a beautiful rendition of “Let It Be,” followed by a major shift of gears to “Live and Let Die” amidst fire and fireworks, and then cellphone lights filling the stadium to “Hey Jude.” Toss in an excellent encore, and this Paul McCartney concert was sublime.

Could there be more? A few nights later, I had a different, yet similar experience in a movie theater.


While I enjoyed Top Gun when it hit movie theaters in 1986, it was never a big favorite of mine. For some reason, however, the trailers for Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel coming 36 years later, captured my imagination, and my anticipation was only further fueled by what I had read about the film. 


Top Gun: Maverick wasn’t going to be a green screen, CGI escapade. This was going to be actors in the cockpits of jet fighters (along with actual pilots), real aircraft carriers, and so on. And it in no way disappointed. The flight scenes were nothing less than breathtaking. I’ve come to expect a great deal visually from a Tom Cruise movie in recent years, and this did more than deliver, it surpassed those expectations.


But, yes, there was still more. While this was first and foremost an action movie, it had real characters. It was evident that the director, Joseph Kosinski, writers and actors cared about the story. It had heart. It made sense (never a given today). And there was real weight to the decisions and actions taken by the characters. And it dealt with such values as honor and sacrifice.


Do you have to see Top Gun to fully appreciate Top Gun: Maverick? It certainly helps, but it isn’t a hard requirement. While taking much from that 1986 film, this new movie moves beyond it in most ways – from the characters to the action.


Tom Cruise, Kosinski and the rest of the cast and crew have achieved what few others have in Hollywood. They took something from the past that was beloved by many, and improved upon it. In fact, Top Gun: Maverick is an action movie that not only blows past many other recent action films, but it’s far superior to the original Top Gun.


Yeah, from Paul McCartney belting out “Get Back” to Tom Cruise skimming the treetops in jet fighter, this was far more than mere nostalgia, it was current-day greatness with a tip of the hat to the past.




Ray Keating is a columnist, novelist, economist, podcaster and entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?


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