Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Stanley Johnson
“See, I told you we’d have a bit of fun,” Paul McCartney told the crowd after “Lady Madonna,” the 20th song of his sprawling three-hour non-stop concert at Albany’s Times Union Center on Saturday. And he was only half-way through the show…
The day after America celebrated its independence from the British, Paul McCartney returned to the stage after a two-month hiatus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion. And if you somehow missed the Independence Day fireworks, Sir Paul served up plenty of ’em during “Live and Let Die,” along with flames and fireballs and lots of laser lights. It was a bit surprising to see Sir Paul succumb to the arena-rock cliches, but it certainly was effective nonetheless.
Showing no adverse effects from the viral infection that sidelined him in May, the still-boyishly cute McCartney turned in a marathon performance. Shifting from bass to piano to guitar (including a seriously scorching solo during the Hendrix tribute that he tacked on the end of “Let Me Roll It,” the heaviest song of the night) and back around the horn again, he served up a career retrospective from “All My Loving” to five songs from his New album.
He dutifully paid homage to his fallen comrades – bandmates John (a solo rendition of “Here Today”) and George (a ukulele strum through “Something”; wife and Wings-mate Linda (a raw-throated howl through “Maybe I’m Amazed”); and producer Phil Ramone (“Another Day”) – as well as his current wife Nancy (“My Valentine”).
Clips from “A Hard Day’s Night” (slated for a one-night-only screening at the Spectrum 8 Theatres in Albany at 7pm on Thursday) accompanied “All My Loving” on the video screens, while photos of Richard Prince paintings and Jeff Koons sculptures visually buttressed “Paperback Writer” and “Lovely Rita,” respectively.
We didn’t get to hear “Silly Love Songs,” but McCartney didn’t skimp on his other love songs, most notably a sweet samba treatment of “And I Love Her” with bongos and claves gently percolating through the rhythm.
His voice has aged remarkably well over the years (although his upper register was a bit ragged during the early part of the show), and he’s surrounded himself with a crack band – bassist-guitarist Brian Ray, guitarist Rusty Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. and keyboardist Wix Wickens – but it’s somewhat startling to realize that McCartney’s been with those same four musicians longer than he was in either the Beatles or Wings.
I’ve got to admit that there are a whole lot of Beatles’ songs that I never need to hear again. It’s not that I’m not a fan or that they aren’t great songs. It’s just that I’ve heard them soooo many times that they’re permanently ingrained in my brain. But hearing them performed live by McCartney – yes, it was my first time seeing McCartney in concert – songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Hey Jude” and especially a solo rendition of “Blackbird” sounded surprisingly fresh.
For those of you keeping score, here’s the final tally of songs: Beatles – 25; solo career – 9; Wings – 6.
David Bauder’s review at the Associated Press
Timothy Mack’s review and more of Stan Johnson’s photographs at Nippertown
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “‘When I’m 64’ passed years ago, but Paul McCartney, 72 in June, loudly and proudly celebrated his Beatles songbook and the best second act in pop history on Saturday at the Times Union Center… Springsteen-trim, younger-looking than Mick or Keith and healed to impressive vigor from a virus that postponed weeks of shows before his delayed tour opened in Albany, McCartney and crew powered through more than 40 songs, featuring two encores but no breaks, including ‘When I’m 64’ sung by a fan onstage in a marriage proposal. McCartney had to help the kneeling guy back to his feet but moved around easily, playing trademark violin-shaped Hofner bass, guitar and piano, and playing face to face at times with drummer Abe Laboriel. He sang well; little rasp or strain on the high notes, as the band all harmonized. Keyboardist Wix Wickens filled in the most heavily arranged tunes: strings in ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ horns in ‘The Long and Winding Road,’ for example.”
PAUL McCARTNEY SET LIST
Eight Days a Week
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face
On My Way to Work
We Can Work It Out
And I Love Her
Here Today (solo)
New Queenie Eye
All Together Now
Everybody Out There
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Band On the Run
Back in the USSR
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hi, Hi, Hi
Carry That Weight