Memories. Their recollection and creation were at the center of Paul McCartney’s sold-out Wells Fargo show last night. Pulling on the legacy of The Beatles and Wings, as well as some of his more recent solo work, McCartney displayed his dazzling showmanship for nearly three hours.
Utterly genuine and joyous throughout, he waved, smiled and took every ounce of applause in. At 73, he shows the musical prowess and desire that only a handful of his contemporaries still have.
Opening with the early Beatles’ number “Eight Days a Week,” McCartney set the stage for musical time travel. There were The Beatles’ works that any fan would simply want to hear no matter what: “Blackbird,” sung on an elevated platform; “Hey Jude” with its glorious sing along to end the main set; “Yesterday” in its beautiful glory; “Helter Skelter” oozing with its proto-punk energy. McCartney paid mini tributes to both John Lennon and George Harrison that were touching, with the song he wrote for the former after his passing (“Here Today”) and a ukulele version of the latter’s (“Something”).
Then there was the new. McCartney showed a great sense of history for the show, as he frequently would say if a song had not been played before in Philadelphia or on any tour until this one. Among these songs, the extremely peculiar “Temporary Secretary” from McCartney II was a fascinating nugget while “Hope for the Future” from the Destiny video game soundtrack was a connector to the younger audience members.
The storyteller in McCartney provided a brilliant anecdote as well. At the end of “Let Me Roll It,” McCartney played a bit of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” on guitar. McCartney then shared how Hendrix had performed the title track to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band live only three days after it was released and how in a later show Hendrix called on Eric Clapton to help with tuning his guitar.
To those uninitiated with the McCartney solo experience, like myself, another startling moment is “Live and Let Die.” Pyrotechnics abound, it is a spectacular evocation of the James Bond theme song and shows the degree to which McCartney cares about theatrics.
And it is with the thought of theatricality that I briefly call into question the show’s limitations. Having the previous night seen The Rolling Stones in Pittsburgh have a full backing band to pull off the cinematic “Gimme Shelter” among other numbers, it is odd that McCartney relies on a small core group and synthesized orchestration for such pieces as “Eleanor Rigby.” At the end of the day, the song’s essence is there, pure and powerful, but a greater richness could be achieved.
Though one must remember this is just Paul McCartney, not an assemblage of individuals to recreate The Beatles’ and Wings’ numbers. And when looked at through that most essential lens, Paul McCartney delivered a knockout show.
Eight Days a Week
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
We Can Work It Out
Hope for the Future
And I Love Her
All Together Now
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hi, Hi, Hi
Can’t Buy Me Love
Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End
best of 2015, Paul McCartney, Wells Fargo Center