Paul McCartney - The US Tour 2005
18.10.2005, Chicago, IL; "United Center"
|McCartney's concert rests on his laurels|
|By Greg Kot|
On his trip to the United Center in 2002, Paul McCartney let his audience
have it right between the eyes. He had a young band and a terrific drummer
in Abe Laboriel kicking his tail, and one sensed that McCartney was
responding to them as much as to his fabled past. It was a thrilling
But the songwriter's return to the same arena for the first of two sold-out shows Tuesday was a different story.
This time, it was a more self-satisfied McCartney who ambled onstage after 30 minutes of puffery: a deejay blasted remixed versions of the former Beatles bassist's hits, then a self-important video biography played on the big screens. Even when McCartney took the stage, the preening continued.
In '02, it was the music that spoke loudest, and the cheers were earned. On this night, the sense of urgency wasn't there. McCartney and his four-piece backing band played some wonderful music, but their performances were lackluster. Laboriel, the band's linchpin, played behind the beat instead of pushing it as he had in the past. This worked well on the mid-tempo soul numbers, especially "Let Me Roll It," but rockers such as "Jet" and "Back in the U.S.S.R." lagged.
McCartney was at his casual best when he played solo. His banter, though similar to previous tour stops, was ingratiating and conversational, his acoustic fingerpicking graceful. He described and then demonstrated how a classical Bach chord progression inspired the riff in "Blackbird." He dug back for an early pre-Beatles rockabilly number called "In Spite of All the Danger." From the elegant concision of the Beatles' "I Will" to the lovely meditation "Jenny Wren," he played the genial genius, the understated troubadour. Unexpected choices such as "Flaming Pie," a surging "Too Many People" and a shambling garage-rocker, "I've Got a Feeling," spackled the 37-song, 21/2 hour set. But "The Long and Winding Road" still sounded mawkish, particularly with the keyboard-triggered string arrangement. Why didn't McCartney perform the less ornate version he supposedly preferred, as heard on the recent "Let it Be … Naked" album? And Meredith Wilson's "Till There Was You," which sounded cheesy when the Beatles performed it in the early '60s, has aged even less well.
plenty of hits spanning his Beatles and Wings careers, including uninspired
takes on "Hey Jude," "Live and Let Die" and "Yesterday,"
and limited the choices from his latest album, "Chaos and Creation
in the Backyard," to four songs. The audience ate it up. Fans
who had paid as much as $250 plus service fees were clearly happy
just to be in the same room with a legend. McCartney had nothing to
prove, and for the most part, he played like it.
Macca Mauls Chicago! No Survivors!
|Thu, 20 Oct 2005 Paul McCartney Mailinglist "McCartneyToo"|
got in from having my brains splattered all over the highway by the
unstoppable force of the Macca 2005 Tour Express (with Fabulous Trousers!)
Man, what a ride. I'll return with more specifics, but for now the once-over:
The pre-show: Don't understand what the fuss was about. I didn't think it was too loud or too long, but I did still see some of the "grays" squirming and cringing. This music was designed for hyper-volume and swirly light displays. It lasted about 20 minutes from what I could make out on my watch in the dark...but it probably could have used more visual interest. I did like the morphing video. Anyone spot the McSymbols? The squiggly watercolor marker designs from "Ram"? The spinning cogwheels from "Working Classical"? The chromium Wings logo?
The film: Short but informative, again I don't see what all the cries of "egomania" are about. Can I ever get enough footage of Paul striking faux-muscleman poses though?? Lots of cool rare pics, especially of the pre-Beatle Beatles that i hadn't seen before. The Macca family album yields more treasures.
The wardrobe: Hmm, there's a pattern here. No blue shirt tonight; rather he sported what must be his official "second night" ensemble of purple long sleeve t-shirt with white star and white on the bottom half and halfway up the sleeves, and the real star of tonight's show--the most amazing black cordurouy jeans, easily the coolest slacks I've seen on Macca since '64 or '65 at least. At certain angles on the big screen, when he still had on the dark, slim-cut jacket with shiny lapels, it was eerily close to being a recreation of February 1964 couture. Intentional? I don't know, but the effect pleased me greatly! I don't think I dropped the binoculars from that subject for the first ten minutes (at least) of the show. Good hair day as well, as long as I've seen it since '90 (but suspiciously less gray!). Good sideboards...and by the time he encored with "Yesterday," the McMop was all tussled and whipped about as though hurricane Katrina had made landfall again on his head. Bravo.
Hey, this gig was LOUD! Gave the impression of this being the rockingest
set of the modern Macca touring age (going back to '89), it had volume
you could feel as well as hear. He's truly aiming to wake everyone
usual string of bows and silly hand gestures amongst the band members
(they do seem rather like a cozy little boys club with their secret
handshake and all...wonder if they have their own treehouse backstage
as well?). Some stuff came flying up onstage for Paul to autograph
(LOTS of stuff actually..), but all I saw him sign were what looked
like some small postcards which really didn't travel well when he
threw them back in the audience. He did sign a "Help" album
cover though. He got a big bouquet of roses at the end too. Couldn't
make out many signs from where I was sitting (the signs had their
So another amazing
marathon show by this soon-to-be-pensioner. He really does have the
energy of several pink bunnies up there and if that's not the best
advertisement for veggie living then i don't know what is. The opening
film gave his birthdate at the beginning, but declined to mention
the year. No need for Paul to be so self-conscious because if I were
Paul's age achieving what he does everynight I would not only be telling
my age I'd be bragging about it! I clocked this show at 2 hours 40
minutes--that's just Paul's time in the spotlight, not counting the
30 minutes of pre-show and film. That's a hard day's
(from sec.106 behind the soundboard even!)
Review: At 62, McCartney still magical
By Paul Kaza
Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Ah, that we could all play -- and age -- this well.
Paul McCartney, who could have retired comfortably more than 30 years ago, is in the midst of a national tour that clearly suggests there is a tie between the two. Each one of us "plays" in different ways; for McCartney, playing music live before huge audiences seems to energize him beyond any reasonable expectation. His almost three-hour concert at the United Center in Chicago on Oct. 18 was staggering in every sense of the word.
For the capacity audience of predominantly 50-plus types, it was an emotional time machine in reverse. As hit after hit rolled out, you remembered where you were -- and what was happening in your life. For the younger members of the crowd (and there were many in the 18 to 30 category) it was a chance to see a legend likely introduced via Mom and Dad's vinyl album collection.
One song sent me back to the first time I saw McCartney, four decades ago in Portland, Ore., with The Beatles. "I'll Follow the Sun" was part of an all-too-short set lasting just 30 minutes after four preliminary acts. Forty years later, economies were cast to the wind as McCartney spared no expense in assembling a road show requiring the support of 140 people.
He has an extraordinary sense of orchestration, and not just from a musical perspective.
In the 45 minutes leading up to the posted start time of 8 p.m., we heard lush orchestral arrangements of Erik Satie scores and cathedral-based chorales, while original paintings by McCartney faded one into another on the screen monitor above the stage.
A massive curtain encased the stage, further building a sense of anticipation. At 8:20 p.m., a two-turntable disc jockey began spinning a wild mix of music laced with subtle nods to McCartney compositions. These were accompanied by Peter Max-type illustrations reminiscent of the "Yellow Submarine" movie. After 20 minutes, our hearts began to race as a siren blared out while black and white photos of World War II air raids were displayed. This took us into a brief autobiographical sketch narrated by McCartney from his childhood in the early '40s. While some may see this as great self-indulgence, I would disagree. My companion, a daughter just turned 20, was getting the roots of McCartney's remarkable legacy -- and so were all of the adults in the place.
You could practically cut the anticipation in the air with a knife when the curtains rolled up and McCartney rolled out "Magical Mystery Tour." As if to immediately connect with each age group, he launched into "Jet" from the early Wings days, and then dropped all the way back to "I'll Get You," one of just two songs (the other was "Please Please Me) that could arguably be called John Lennon tunes. Although Lennon and McCartney did not regularly collaborate in songwriting, they agreed to credit "Lennon-McCartney" on all of the music they released.
The multimedia nature of the show continued with "Drive My Car" as the film backdrop showed mid- '60s Cadillacs rolling off an assembly line. McCartney then seized a contemplative moment with the lovely " 'Til There Was You" from their debut album. In case you're wondering: yes, he can still hit the high notes. The bluesy "Let Me Roll It" set up one of the many breakthrough moments as McCartney lit into "Got to Get You Into My Life" from "Revolver." The astonishing aspect of this song was the excellent synthesized reproduction of a full horn section. Sure, we would have loved to see the real thing. But the compromise was minimal. McCartney's band, composed simply of two guitarists, a drummer and keyboardist, was spectacular.
"Fine Line" gave us a glimpse of McCartney's new album, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard." It is far from a stellar release; fortunately he did not dwell on promoting it with too many inclusions in the set. Continuing on the piano, McCartney drew a roar with "Baby I'm Amazed" and then hushed the crowd with "The Long and Winding Road." Playing alone accompanied by just his guitar, he did an unrecorded "smooching song" from The Beatles' cabaret days before "I Will" from the White album and "Jenny Wren," a new composition that has been compared to "Blackbird."
McCartney is masterful at mixing old and new material -- no small feat when you are drawing from 42 years of recordings. As the show passed the one hour mark, he featured music from "Revolver" (the lovely yet sad "For No One"), "Sgt. Pepper" (the whimsical "Fixin' a Hole"), and two tunes from the new album ("English Tea" and "Follow Me") sandwiched around "I'll Follow the Sun" from Beatles '65. The new stuff is musically sweet but the lyrics are dreadfully trite.
We didn't know it at the time, but the song list was only half complete. In all, McCartney would play 30 songs in the main set, three more in the first encore, and five more in the finale. "Blackbird" was easily the best solo acoustic guitar piece, and "Eleanor Rigby" delivered the haunting imagery of an expressionless woman whose face is kept "in a jar by the door" and Father McKenzie "wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave." "Too Many People" (which took a direct slug at Lennon with the lyric "that was your first mistake ... you took a lucky break, and broke it in two") seemed a little odd coming just two songs after McCartney had asked the crowd to honor his past bandmates George Harrison and Lennon. But, in McCartney's defense, the battles in the aftermath of The Beatles breakup are ancient history now. What is left are the songs -- and they sound even richer today than when they were released so many years ago.
"She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" preceded "Good Day Sunshine," "Band on the Run," "Penny Lane," and the rocking "I've Got a Feeling" from "Let it Be." "Back in the U.S.S.R." ratcheted things up further before McCartney led a singalong of "Let it Be" and sent flames screaming upward from the stage at the end of "Live and Let Die."
The first encore set was another example of McCartney's uncanny musical depth and breadth. First, "Yesterday," a simple love song that ranks as one of the most recorded ever by other artists. Second, "Get Back," just a fun little rocker that was one of the last Top 40 hits for The Beatles. And then, the biggest surprise of the evening: the wild musical chaos and dark lyrics supposedly inspired by the Charles Manson murders of the 60s in "Helter Skelter."
The song count was now at 33, but the crowd was not about to let McCartney go away. "Please Please Me" and "Let it Be" set the stage for the reprise version of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" which neatly segued into the solo jam at the end of the "Abby Road" record just prior to "The End" from the same album. We could not stop smiling -- and the smiles have kept returning every time a song or visual association of the McCartney concert comes to mind.
People often ask me. "What's the best concert you have ever seen?" My standard reply until now? "I couldn't name only one." Now I can.
'Chaos' aside, McCartney a treat
By Karen Sorensen
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Paul McCartney has always walked a fine line between pretension and charm, humility and self-congratulation.
Both sides of that split personality were on display Tuesday night at Chicago's United Center. Fortunately for the packed-to-the-rafters crowd, the charismatic side prevailed.
Like a modern-day Dorian Gray, McCartney doesn't bear the haggard, been-through-the-war looks of his rock contemporaries (think Keith Richards or Robert Plant). And when he tackles the right song, his voice belies his 63 years.
For better or worse, many of the best songs on display in the first of two sold-out shows hailed from his Beatles days. Some in particular — "Blackbird," "I Will," "I'll Follow the Sun" — were absolute gems.
It was when he ventured into material requiring a higher range that he got into trouble. It may be time, sigh, to retire "Got to Get You Into My Life" and "Fixing a Hole."
And while he's at it, he might banish his new work as well. Fortunately, his almost-three-hour set included only three songs from his latest release, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard."
Weirdly, these songs fit his voice the least. And they were utterly forgettable. Despite the positive reviews the album has received, it's unlikely anyone left the show humming "Jenny Wren" or "English Tea."
In fact, the latter might be best forgotten altogether. It's the rare song, rock or otherwise, that can get away with rhyming "croquet," "play," "gay" and "hip-hooray." Maybe Yoko Ono had a point with her snide "spoon-June" reference to Sir Paul's solo song-writing.
But, boy, when he got it right, what a treat. We'll never get to see the Beatles perform "Get Back" or "Drive My Car" in this lifetime, but surely this was the next best thing. His renditions of the always-beautiful "Maybe I'm Amazed" or even the stuck-in the-'70s "Jet" from his Wings days were great fun.
Clearly, McCartney remains in a nostalgic phase that started a few years back with the "Anthology" book and CDs.
But with that comes the pretension. Was there anyone in the room who didn't already know every fact in the unnecessary "biography" video that opened the show? Could we have lived without the "aren't I cool" story about NASA playing "Good Day Sunshine" to wake the astronauts during the most recent space mission?
But how cool was it that McCartney trotted out some real oldies, like "Please Please Me" and "I'll Get You," not to mention "In Spite of All the Danger," a song done by the Quarrymen (a band that preceded the Beatles and included McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison).
The key to the show's success, though, is the persona McCartney brings to the stage. Personable and relaxed, the Perry Como of the rock world, McCartney is a charming storyteller, recounting tales of stage accidents, joking about the distraction he sometimes feels as he reads signs in the audience while trying to remember tricky songs.
More importantly, though, he did his best to acknowledge all portions of the vast audience. At one point early on, the house lights went up so he could "take a moment to take this all in."
In return, the crowd bathed him in adulation. And you know what? Rightly so.