It’s all Paul McCartney all week with the release of his deeply satisfying new live double-CD set, Back In the U.S. Live 2002, a DVD of the same name, an ABC special Wednesday night featuring highlights of the tour, and McCartney will be performing live onstage Friday with Ringo Starr for the first time since the Beatles broke up in a tribute to George Harrison at the Royal Albert Hall in London. A very touching and revealing interview with Paulie is up on NPR to coincide with all of this hoopla.
Over the years I have come to regard John Lennon as the soul of the Beatles – and that still holds – but McCartney has finally stopped fighting the ghost of the Beatles and dives into the world’s greatest song catalog with energetic good cheer and generosity of spirit.
The exercise seems to revitalize him: McCartney hasn’t sounded this young and vibrant in years. His voice is as clear and smooth as 1969, and his band – Rusty Anderson on guitars and vocals, Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums and vocals, Wix Wickens on keyboards and vocals, and Brian Ray on bass, guitar and vocals – sounds like a real band, not just a bunch of faceless backup musicians for the star.
It is truly extraordinary that the “Beatles” (in the form of McCartney) and the Stones are still so much in the public eye and musical imagination after 40 years. The McCartney collection is a deft blend of Beatles and Paul: highlights of the former include “Hello Goodbye,” “All My Loving,” “Blackbird,” an acoustic “We Can Work It Out,” a ukulele version of “Something” in tribute to George Harrison closes out disc 1. On the second disc “Eleanor Rigby,” “Back In the USSR,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and a spectacular run through “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Lady Madonna,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Yesterday,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s/The End” can’t help but draw a tear and a chuckle from all but the most hardened Beatle fan, that is to say virtually anyone alive in the ’60s with a shred of regard for popular music.
And Paul’s solo work holds up well against the Beatles classics: especially “Jet,” a jangly, funky “Coming Up,” the brooding, heavy “Let Me Roll It,” “Band On the Run” and a touching “My Love” that makes the memory of Linda McCartney palpable.
In addition to the interview, the NPR site has audio clips from the new album, a video clip of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” links to earlier interviews and sites of interest, a McCartney timeline, and his thoughts on missing John and George:
- “The minute I thought of George I thought of the ukulele because he was such a fan of the instrument,” McCartney says. He fondly remembers that the two of them played ukuleles together at Harrison’s home shortly before his death a year ago.
In another tribute, McCartney performs “Here Today,” a song he wrote for John Lennon after his murder in 1980. “Because we’re two guys, you don’t always say intimate things. In fact, you hardly ever do. You work together… I had this idea it would be nice to say stuff that I really wanted to say to him but somehow put it in a song, so I did this thing called ‘Here Today’ and it was ‘if you were here today, how would it be?…'”
Asked if it’s difficult to sing these songs on tour, McCartney replies: “It’s sometimes a little bit hard emotionally. You catch yourself and you hear what the lyric means and you suddenly identify with it and choke a bit. I know it’s very emotional for the audience, but I like that.
“I’m no longer ashamed of being emotional. When I was 18, that was like the biggest crime a guy could commit. ‘You cried?’ Well, now it’s like, ‘Yeah and why not?’ It’s pretty sad stuff… losing a friend like John or losing (McCartney’s first wife) Linda after all those years or George. So I’m comfortable (showing my emotions).”
Age has its benefits.
The Smoking Gun has some particulars regarding McCartney’s comfort issues on tour:
- Paul McCartney is “very fond of flowers,” won’t travel in a stretch limousine with leather seats, and will not stand for backstage furniture made of any animal skin or print (even if it’s of the artificial variety). Those are just a few of the unique provisions contained in the ex-Beatle’s concert rider for his 2002 World Tour, excerpts from which you’ll find on the following dozen pages. McCartney … also provides promoters with an amusing list of plant demands, one that concludes with this underlined admonition: “No trees please! We want plants that are just as full on the bottom as the top such as palm, bamboo, peace lilies, etc. No tree trunks!” And, of course, the rider requires a pre-show sweep by some bomb-sniffing dogs and it contains the expected vegan salvo: “There will be no meat, or meat by-products allowed to be served in the dressing rooms, production offices, or areas within the ‘backstage area.'”