Paul McCartney, Live at Yankee Stadium, July 16, 2011

Dead Man Walkin', Talkin', and Performin' Hits of His Long and Distinguished Career.

At this point, what needs to be said about seeing Paul McCartney live nowadays? That, at the age of 69, he still has energy and passion to perform songs and entertain an audience that consists mostly of older women who want to make sure he’s still got it? Or that the Beatles and Wings tunes still sound incredible, even with just a small backing band? There’s nothing anymore than needs to be said about Paul McCartney, other than that other critics should recognize just how special his music really is. Yes, it’s commercially viable stuff, and more light hearted than the angry John, spiritually enlightened George, or ‘gee-he’s-just-trying-his-best Ringo,’ who often gets better reviews than Paul. The fact is that the man still has a passion for all of his music, and appreciates putting it on for his fans, and even without going into a full recap, I will tell you that my mind was blown at how amazing he truly is.

But yes, a more thorough review is after the jump.

Though the show started with a string of hits, mixed between Beatles classics and Wings tunes (natch) that were performed with a sort of boredom associated with serving the people with what they want, Paul McCartney’s live act grows and stretches into incredible live versions of his work. He trudged through versions of “Jet” and “Drive My Car,” as well as the opener, an almost shaky “Magical Mystery Tour,” but once he ripped into the riff for “Let Me Roll It,” he was firing on all cylinders. In particular, “Let Me Roll It,” almost a footnote in Macca’s long string of hit tunes in his career, was played with such passion and aggression, that it began a de-aging process. From that moment on, he was no longer the Paul McCartney whose fame and legacy precede him, but rather an aggressive and diverse solo artist with the storytelling wisdom of a well-traveled vet. He followed it up with a jaunty, hip live version of “Paperback Writer,” and from there, it was hit after hit.

Not to say that it was a relentless assault of greatest hits minus the feeling. But the moments of emotional draw come from long-lost nostalgia, felt partially on his own behalf, but also drawing from a New York audience’s expectations — in particular, the half-maudlin, half-sincere “Here Today” was a tender moment eulogizing John Lennon (which was performed with the same sense of service over sentimentality).  Yet, his version of George Harrison’s “Something,” performed at first on ukelele before transitioning into performing with the full band behind him, drew tears (at least from me — then again, I’m biased, as I believe “Something” is the greatest love song ever written, with McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” being a very close second — and on that note, “Something” was performed with more gusto than his own “Maybe I’m Amazed,” much to my own surprise and disappointment).

An acoustic set yielded a predominantly “White Album”-oriented set, with “I Will” and “Blackbird” (and the ever-present “Yesterday” saved for one of his triple encores), which eventually led way to the main set’s closers: a fiery, almost KISS-like performance of “Live and Let Die” complete with fireworks and pyrotechnics, and the classic “Hey Jude,” performed back to back.

But it was during those encores than some of the biggest surprises emerged, particularly, that of Billy Joel (not that I care for the blowhard) showing up to back Paul on piano for “I Saw Her Standing There,” and an excellently Phil Specter-less version of the raw and rockin’ “Get Back” But for me, the true cap of the evening was when “Helter Skelter” finally emerged out his Paul’s bag o’tricks, and performed with as much messy aplomb as you would expect, minus the freak-out ending.

Finally, to cap what could really be called a ‘magical mystery tour,’ the show ended with his half of the famed Abbey Road medley, starting with “Golden Slumbers,” and continuing through with “The End,” with some excellent extended solos from his backing band who traded off riffs as masterfully as George Harrison and John Lennon would, while the drummer (unfortunately, I cannot find credits at this time)  took a sharp slightly-harder interpretation of Ringo’s lone drum solo. A fitting end to an excellent show.
Grade: B+. Yes, it was an excellent show, and Paul was in top form through the night, and the set list pleased fans of all stripes and colors. And it would be easy to mock his constant mugging, cheesy jokes, and need to take a bow after every song as if every one would be last — that’s really part of Macca’s charm.

But the fact remains is that Yankee Stadium is a really shitty place to see a concert. The venue, so up it’s own ass about the Yankee’s legacy, ruins anything you could possibly enjoy about a live rock show, and even Paul seemed to allude to this when he commented on the boards that print out everything he said — spoken or sung. And often, those boards, which are not only delayed by a solid 10 seconds, but clearly operated by a speech-to-text program (Paul: “I love these boards because they’re the only way I could remember my own lyrics.” Boards: “I love these boys.” Paul: “No, I said boards. BOARDS. I love these boards.” Boards: “No, I said boards.” etc. It was really bad during “Hey Jude,” when at least twice, the boards believed the lyrics were “Hey Jewed”). Not to mention that the seating is arranged in such a way to replicate that Yankees-money class division, where unless you pay top dollar, you’re sitting in the stands and not the field, which was just before the stage, but only went back so far as there was a giant patch of land (read: the infield diamond, complete with Yankee insignia) that separated everyone by how much they paid. Just shit, utter shit.

That, and $12 for a plastic cup full of Bud Light?! You can go to hell!

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