James McCartney is touring the country, playing intimate venues in support of his first full-length album, Me. While the 35-year-old son of former Beatle Paul McCartney has been on stage before with his father’s band, this time he is traveling solo, performing alone. On May 31, 2013, he performed a sold-out show at the small but popular Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta.
McCartney waited a long time to embrace his own musical journey. By first releasing two digital-only EPs and now promoting the CD in this low-key way, he is taking a slow and cautious approach to embracing public life on his own.
On stage, he seems a bit uncomfortable. He is very low key, speaking quietly even when he tells the audience, “You rock.” He is slightly overweight. This and his receding hairline blur the still very apparent resemblance to his father. He dressed extremely conservatively in dark pants and a plain shirt. Nothing at all about him suggests “star.” No photographs were allowed during the show, even by the press. It seems obvious that this McCartney is eager for his music to be heard but not completely ready to be in the limelight.
Nevertheless, he comes off as very likeable and his music is good. In concert, the songs were, of course, restricted to McCartney’s own guitar and piano work. Therefore the sound was less full than one imagines it is on the CD, with drums and other musicians. Nevertheless, much of the music was beautiful, the lyrics thoughtful and heartfelt, and the guitar playing quite competent. McCartney’s voice is much like his father’s on some songs. On others he sounds quite a lot like John Lennon, which surprised this reviewer at first, but after all, he did grow up listening to The Beatles’ music.
He also did one song which was not an original, Neil Young’s “Old Man.” The version was not spectacular but it was competent. He claimed that Neil Young influenced his music a lot, but the main influences obvious to my ear were his father, the other Beatles, and his mother as well. One particular song, “Bluebell,” was very touching. McCartney said, “This song is about my mom, and other things.” In interviews he has said that he and his father had a bit of a rough time after his mother’s death and that seems to be the story behind the song, “You and Me Individually.”
Other songs that were particularly impressive in concert were the poetic “Butterfly,” “Wisteria,” and “Snow.” “Strong as You,” “Thinking About Rock and Roll,” and “Life’s a Pill” also showed promise but would probably benefit from at least one more guitar.
McCartney got a very warm reception from the audience and did two songs as an encore. He seemed a bit surprised and quietly pleased by the response. It will be interesting to see at the end of this tour if he gains more confidence in himself. Perhaps he will become more comfortable on the stage, advance to bigger venues, and add a few additional musicians. It was a pleasure to get to see him at the start of his career. It is clear he has the talent to do well, although it seems unlikely he either wants or could achieve real superstar status.