Paul McCartney, just the name evokes a whirlwind of emotions, memories, and timeless melodies.
It’s fortunate that the octogenarian and his exceptionally tight live band were rocking at Marvel Stadium, as we needed a forceful live presence to overcome the tirade of childhood memories that came with virtually every Beatles song – of which there were a whopping 22 all up, working their way seamlessly throughout a three-hour performance.
The show, with captivating lighting but an otherwise restrained and refined set, was a fitting retrospective of McCartney’s career. He started with 1964’s Can’t Buy Me Love – a lively and infectious track that the years have not wearied.
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He quickly jumped forward 10 years into the country-rock, twangy guitars and catchy melody of Junior’s Farm, a song that provides the perfect introduction to McCartney’s signature vocals and clever lyricism. The versatility of McCartney’s songwriting was on full display – She’s A Woman and Got to Get You Into My Life are both classic Beatles love songs, in totally different musical approaches, that McCartney wrote less than two years apart.
As he progressed into some of Wings’ greatest hits, there were touchpoints to McCartney’s less-spoken about evolution as an artist post-Beatles. The forceful stadium presence was reminiscent of the edgy rock element that Wings had given McCartney after the experimentalism of their first album (read: the Foxy Lady outro on Let Me Roll With It).
Let ‘Em In, for example, was notable as a track primarily recorded by Wings as a whole rather than McCartney alone, hence the title and lyrical themes throughout. Soon followed Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five, with its lush orchestration and horn section (The Horny Boys). There is so much more to McCartney than the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership and in case any of the 50,000+ in presence needed a reminder, this performance was a tour-de-force education.
It’s worth noting that at 81-years-old, McCartney just sold out Marvel Stadium when six years ago, he was billed at AAMI Park. That substantial growth speaks volumes of how the evolution of the music industry is only holding the greats in even higher stead as time goes on. As the set went on, there were constant interludes of McCartney’s more recent work, Fuh You a particular highlight, although there was no space for FourFiveSeconds – a dad-rock rendition of a joint Kanye / Rihanna track perhaps wisely not on the agenda.
It’s impossible not to mention the large-scale onscreen tribute to John Lennon with Here Today and the ukelele tribute to George Harrison on Something.
Our personal highlight – bar the seven straight Beatles tracks to end the monumental performance with a rapturous encore – was Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, which really set the stage just past the halfway point. This track is fascinating McCartney – it’s wonderfully upbeat, experimental, leaning on his exploration of different cultures and languages in his songwriting, drawn from the characters around him, and brimming with the perfectionism that really defined his role in The Beatles from the moment Stuart Sutcliffe left the band to the tumultuous White Album sessions and their eventual breakup.
Then came Get Back, Let It Be, Live and Let Die and the phenomenal stadium singalong of Hey Jude and we would have happily wrapped it up there, but to have the energy to play such lively renditions of Sgt Peppers and Helter Skelter in a seven-track encore just beggared belief.
Finally, it was The End – that last Abbey Road recording, which marked the last time that all four Beatles recorded together in the studio. The song was written by Paul McCartney, who wanted to create a piece that showcased each band member’s instrumental talents.
He had the final word on The Beatles and with the subsequent deaths of Lennon and Harrison, he largely continues to do so. It’s a massive legacy to live up to, but he understands that weight better than all others, and shoulders it with aplomb.
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