Friday, March 25, 2011

Paul McCartney 31: Good Evening New York City

Come the 21st century, Paul was more likely to put out a commemorative DVD after each tour, complete with lots of top-heavy cheesecake in between all the thumb-flashing, gushing accolades from celebrities and performance footage. Being the first concert held at the replacement for Shea Stadium, Good Evening New York City was considered worthy of a CD release, sporting both his great band and several repeats from his last live album. (The Best Buy DVD version includes the concert itself as well as his rooftop appearance for the David Letterman show.)
We know Paul’s awfully fond of Band On The Run, since not only do we get a fourth take of “Let Me Roll It” (of all things), he’s decided to add “Mrs. Vandebilt” to the set. A Wings song never tried live before 2008, it only makes us wish he’d pull other nuggets out of that catalog once in a while. At least “Let Me Roll It” gets an extended coda based on Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady”. (Paul knew him, of course.) “Dance Tonight” doesn’t quite translate to the stadium setting, but “Calico Skies” is nicely fleshed out from the album track. It is truly baffling that after all this time, and inclusion on each of his official deluxe live albums, that Paul loves playing “Live And Let Die”, if only for the sake of giving the crowd some fireworks.
Of course, most of the program is strictly Beatles. “Back In The USSR” seems oddly sluggish, but it’s more than redeemed by “I’m Down”, famously played at Shea a few blocks away 44 years earlier. It still amazes us how every version of “The Long And Winding Road” he plays sounds so close to the Spector version he professed to hate. John gets two nods, with a choking “Here Today” on the first disc and “A Day In The Life” duct-taped onto “Give Peace A Chance” on the second (the latter stripped of the second half of the traditional “Lennon/McCartney” credit). It’s a nice idea, except it comes off as a hollow singalong. (Paul’s performance may have been inspired by Neil Young, who’d been playing it, and much better, around the same time.) “Something” is his ukulele tribute to George, here in the arrangement well known from the Concert For George. It says a lot that Paul would hold up George’s arrangement for posterity. (And in further deference to his “baby brother”, the solo on “I’ve Got A Feeling” is botched here too.) Unfortunately, we’ll never know what John or George would have said about doing “I Saw Her Standing There” with Billy Joel.
The band, which has been serving him well for the better part of a decade, more than holds up their end of the bargain, not just on the Beatle tracks but on the Fireman songs as well. They know who’s paying their rent, and they’re not about to rock that boat.
After having heard him trot out the same crowd-pleasers several tours (and albums) in a row, some of the later transitions don’t quite translate out of autopilot. He gets the new stuff out of the way early, choosing to pile on favorite after favorite up until the very end, ensuring there’s not a dry eye in the bleachers. Long-suffering fans might want more songs from the recent albums, and he doesn’t play all the bass notes on “Band On The Run”, but c’mon. This 67-year-old bastard can’t be faulted after pushing out a show that tops two and a half hours.
In the end it doesn’t matter. He’s still Paul Freakin’ McCartney, and he doesn’t owe anyone a damn thing. Each of the releases he put out in the first decade of the 21st century were miles ahead of most of what he did in the previous two. It will be a sadder world when he’s not around. (The same goes for Ringo, for that matter.)

Paul McCartney Good Evening New York City (2009)—

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