Paul McCartney – Dodger Stadium, August 10, 2014
By Roy Trakin
Beneath a luminous supermoon on a balmy summer’s night, the 72-year-old “cute Beatle,” looking as rakishly charming and fit as ever, launched into “Eight Days a Week” to a screaming, all-ages crowd, some 48 years since his last appearance there on August 28, 1966, the Fab Four’s second-to-last live performance ever.
“Let me drink this in,” he said a couple of songs in, milking the audience approval, a little less shrill this time around, but no less ardent.
Yes, this latest “Out There” tour is pretty much intact from 2002, when McCartney reinvented himself as the caretaker of the Beatles’ (and Wings’) legacy with a band – as heretical as it sounds – which may be the best live outfit he’s ever had. Macca’s already been with guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and multi-instrumentalist/keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens longer than he was with ex-mates John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and it shows.
There’s an easy camaraderie, and fluidity to the arrangements, as close to the recorded versions as possible, though with enough variations that they don’t sound like the world’s greatest Beatles cover band – which, in a sense, they are. Laboriel, in particular, is a marvel, a muscular percussionist who provides not just a solid backbeat, but an array of back-up harmonies, while Anderson mostly does the impossible, echoing many of Harrison’s greatest leads.
Four songs in, McCartney doffs his jacket, promising “that’s the only wardrobe change of the evening,” leaving him with a white shirt, blue trimming along the shoulders and down the front, and suede Beatle boots. He’s in a jocular mood, finishing up “Let Me Roll It” by playing a coda of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” then recalling how the guitarist performed “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in London the Sunday after the record came out on Friday, beckoning Eric Clapton from the audience to help him tune his instrument.
What drives McCartney to keep going at this pace – with no signs of his recent bout of the flu which forced the postponement of an Asian leg of the tour – isn’t clear until you read behind the lines. He pulls out what he calls the same Epiphone Casino guitar (thanks to THR’s Chris Willman for the reference) he played on “Paperback Writer” to show it was he, not George, providing the twang, while later on, pulling out “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” a psychedelic calliope song credited to Lennon, but one that Paul has recently insisted was partially his.
Switching off between two different pianos, guitar and his natural bass, McCartney proved a consummate musician, and a still-powerful singer, pulling out all the stops on “Maybe I’m Amazed” (“I wrote this one for Linda,” he says, and we all nod in sympathy), with a vocal that recalls his Little Richard obsession. He even turns around and shakes his tush for the crowd on the Latin-flavored “And I Love Her,” offering a cheeky “muchas gracias” at the close.
The Beatles songs, of course, strike the most emotional chords, but even the New stuff from his last album comes across, including the title track and “Queenie Eye,” which he explains is from a childhood game he used to play in the streets of Liverpool growing up, before seamlessly segueing into “Lady Madonna,” pounding the colorful Peter Max-meets-Magical Mystery Tour psychedelic stand-up keyboard.
Sure, some of the stage patter is corny and repetitive: do we really have to hear one more time how Macca wrote “Blackbird” for the American Civil Rights struggle? But there are some unexpected surprises, too. The Yellow Submarine piffle, “All Together Now,” is a great excuse for an audience sing-along, while Paul introduces new selection “Lovely Rita,” as “one from Sgt. Pepper,” complete with Wickens wheezing along on kazoo. Paul offers his by-now standard tributes to departed bandmates Harrison (playing ukulele on “Something,” leading into Anderson’s tour de force guitar solo) and Lennon (his posthumous “conversation” with his ex-mate, “Here Today”), along with the climactic fireworks-and-laser display of “Live and Let Die,” as McCartney wobbles around on-stage pointing to his ears, pretending to be deaf from the noisy explosions.
Other highlights included the cell phone-lit “Let It Be,” the everybody- join-in “na na-na na-na-na-na” finale of “Hey Jude,” and an on-stage visit from a mother and daughter who held up a sign, “Will you be my mom’s only tattoo?,” which prompted McCartney to sign her arm, then shoo them both off-stage when they dawdled.
The approximately 40-song, almost three-hour set came to a close with a solo acoustic “Yesterday,” an eye-popping, vertigo-inducing roller-coaster “Helter Skelter” and the three-part Abbey Road finale of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End,” which essentially capped The Beatles’ recorded career. “The love you take/Is equal to the love you make.” It makes you grateful that Paul survived all those barefoot death rumors to be the one left to carry that weight.
McCartney truly is this generation’s greatest all-around entertainer – could you picture Sinatra at a similar age performing before a crowd this huge? — and it’s hard to imagine his late partner John would’ve been this forthcoming and public a figure if he had survived this long, though sadly, we will never know that. Paul is the one left standing there, so how could we dance with another? The Baby Boomer generation may be nearing its final curtain, but they’re not going out without at least one more encore.