Some people say that Paul McCartney’s voice has weakened, that natural wear and tear makes it impossible to fully enjoy his concerts.
Certainly, Sir James Paul McCartney, who turns 80 on June 18, can no longer hit the high notes as he used to. Still, his discography, showmanship and 60-plus-year influence didn’t stop the nearly 7,000 attendees from enjoying the rock polymath’s performance at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood last night.
As one participant noted, “When you can see a caption, you see a caption.”
One of those present was my father, a self-proclaimed ’60s hippie, who never saw McCartney in the flesh, although he constantly mentioned that he was at the Doors concert at Dinner Key Auditorium when Jim Morrison exposed himself.
Beginning fashionably late at 8:15 p.m., a breathless crescendo of “The End” rumbled from the loudspeakers as McCartney strutted onto the stage alongside his longtime backing band: Paul “Wix” Wickens (keyboards), Brian Ray (bass/guitar), Rusty Anderson (guitar) and Abe Laboriel, Jr. (drums).
His eyebrows raised and he kicked off a roughly two-and-a-half-hour set, starting with “Can’t Buy Me Love” while strumming his signature Hofner 500/1 violin bass encouraged by Vox amplifiers stacked like bricks.
my father, who new times when asked about his experience during Hurricane Irma, was, as they say, in the zone. He sang every word, gently slapping his hand on his knee, and felt overall loose — so much so that I thought I was getting in the way of his style by wearing earplugs and wrinkling my nose at the puff of weed that was blowing in my direction.
Just before the fourth song, “Got to Get You Into My Life”, McCartney stripped off his navy blue jacket, which understandably made the audience gobsmacked over the cute Beatle. “This will be the one and only wardrobe change of the night,” he joked. It wasn’t until the band’s instrumental cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” that McCartney began to embellish his performance with dialogue.
Like a parent telling you how they saw McCartney live for the first time, he explained how this cover finds its way into every setlist as a tribute to Hendrix, who often incorporated Beatles songs on his own shows – hilarious and out of tune, added Sir Paul.
The electric anthems throughout the Beatles and McCartney’s solo work are what the crowds came for, leaving the artist with no choice but to swap the bass for his custom Gibson Les Paul (left-handed, of course). ). But McCartney’s voice dominated the room with less.
His dark solo acoustic strumming on “Blackbird” left that voice exposed – bare, so to speak. He dazzled in the utter simplicity of the song; perhaps to add punch, McCartney was lifted about 20 feet below a massive LED screen. He played his 2007 song, “Dance Tonight,” with only mandolin accompaniment before a pounding drum kicked in with the second half.
Capturing the power of hollow bodies, he covered George Harrison’s “Something” with a ukulele and a story about how he went to Harrison’s house and played his songs on the instrument. “Let’s hear it for George,” McCartney said, speaking of his late companion as if the latter were still alive and well.
Watching a near-octogenarian play classic after classic with a little break in between engenders some public anxiety. The idea that someone could compress a six-decade catalog into a single extended set felt like a time warp.
“We know what you like: if you play old Beatles songs, all the phones ring,” McCartney told the crowd. “It’s like a galaxy of stars. But if we play new songs, it’s like a black hole. But who cares, we’ll play new stuff.”
McCartney clarified that the post-millennium selection was not going to be a Spotify-only listening experience. “Fuh You” confirmed his prediction as the phones seemed to go off.
Then, throwing the audience a bone, McCartney comically sighed, “OK,” and launched into a chestnut, 1968’s “Lady Madonna.”
Towards the end of the set, the band went heavy on the showstoppers. McCartney demanded that the crowd take over vocal duties to the catchy, infectious chorus of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and the audience happily responded (my seatmate included). Next is “You Never Give Me Your Money” – the first live performance of the song on this tour.
“Get Back”, “Band on the Run”, “Let It Be” and the pyrotechnic firestorm of “Live and Let Die” – each had their moment in the sun. Perhaps a little on the nose, McCartney closed with “Hey Jude” and asked the audience to sing the chorus, letting the men try it first, followed by the women, then all together in overtime. “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.” rang in the room.
The band bowed out, but the wool was over nobody as everyone returned to the stage, waving the Union Jack, Ukrainian, American and Pride flags, and even the Florida state flag.
A four-song encore follows: “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Birthday”, “Helter Skelter” and the seamless blend of “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight” and, true to the opening notes of the show, “The End.” Finally, the group bowed once more and McCartney said, “See you next time.”
Hearing these songs to my heart’s content every day of my life via my father left me jaded, but any trace of negative vibes dissipated in the middle of the marathon of more than 30 songs.
McCartney injected a lot of humor, visuals, lasers, and genuine intent to put on a good show, all of which combined to make up for years of strained listening. It was more than enough to carry my dad and me through the gig together.
When it was over when we got up to go, my dad didn’t say it was “groovy” or “far”. He just said the show was good and hummed the same old tune.
– “I can’t buy love”
– “The junior farm”
– “Let go”
– “I have to bring you into my life”
– “To come to me”
– “Let Me Roll It”
– “Get better”
– “Foxy Lady”
– “Let them in”
– “My Valentine”
– “One thousand nine hundred and eighty five”
– “I may be amazed”
– “I just saw a face”
– “Despite all the danger”
– “Love Me Do”
– “Dance Tonight”
– “Here today”
– “Fuh you”
– “Lady Madonna”
– “To be for the benefit of Mr. Kite!”
– “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
– “You never give me your money”
– “To come back”
– “Group on the run”
– “So be it”
– “Live and Let Die”
– “Hey Jude”
– “I have a feeling”
– “Helter Skelter”
– “Golden Slumbers”, “Carrying That Weight”, “The End”.