Madison Square Garden | NYC | 4.26.02
The Beatles will always be the band that launched a thousand ships. Their undeniable, infectious groovy blend of everything melodious will live on within and without us all. The legacy of those four lovely lads from Liverpool is as vibrant and essential today as it was in the 60s.
When I first heard that Paul McCartney would be stopping by New York City on his first major U.S. tour in years, I didn’t really think much of it. I had heard some of his new material, including the thoughtful though somewhat vapid tribute to 9/11, “Freedom”, and although it was nice to know we were in Paul’s prayers, I really wasn’t too impressed.
Nevertheless, thoughts of all the wonderful Beatles tunes Paul might play entertained my mind the morning tickets went on sale, and fortunately I managed to score a pair.
The show surreptitiously began with the entrance of a host of fancifully dressed dancers. A parade of characters drifted amidst the crowd and slowly inched upon the stage. Victorian ladies with fancy flowing dresses, circus strongmen with oversized barbells, sexy French contortionists, kimono-laden Japanese ballerinas, slender Greek goddesses, and Magritte-esque men dressed in bowlers holding up umbrellas. This surreal tapestry of eccentrics unfurled to a swelling symphonic soundtrack.
Finally the giant dreamlike curtain, which had shrouded the stage up until this point, dropped away revealing Paul with his signature Hoffner bass in hand. After quite a warm welcome, the band opened up the night with the first of many Beatle classics, “Hello Goodbye.” From the very get go, one could see and hear that Paul and his new band of youngsters were ready to rock.
The music sounded as fresh as the day it was recorded, and the look and feel of the stage setup only added to this effect. Multiple, segmented digital screens adorned the stage alternating between psychedelic images and unforgettable Beatles footage.
Paul and company weaved their way in and out of old, older, and a few new tunes. All the while, a developing theme had begun to emerge.
“Jet” took off with the wind in the hair of a thousand faces, only to make a safe landing in the early 60s pop bliss of “All My Loving.”
The very recognizable ringing guitar riff of “Getting Better” started up next. Paul noted that the Beatles never had a chance to play this tune live, and he was happy to be doing so for the first time on this tour. “Coming Up” kept with the theme of the night, getting the crowd up off their feet for a bit of a disco romp.
Several tunes later, Paul let his band have a breather while he played a few solo acoustic numbers. Starting off with the White Album’s “Blackbird”, Paul explained how, back when he was growing up in England, they used to call women "birds." He continued saying how he had written “Blackbird” with Rosa Parks in mind. [Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 for failing to yield her seat on a bus to a white man, thus sparking the civil rights movement.]
A rousing rendition of “We Can Work It Out” followed, along with the sweet simple melodies of “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Vanilla Sky”, a new tune Paul penned for Cameron Crowe’s recent film.
For his next two numbers, Paul’s circus strongmen brought out a psychedelic rainbow-colored organ to the center of the stage (very similar, if not the same as the one featured in Magical Mystery Tour). Paul sauntered over to the organ and gently eased his way into “You Never Give Me Your Money” (from Abbey Road). Although he forgot some of the speedier lyrics during the chorus, the magic was surely there. And it continued to flow and flow into “The Fool On the Hill.”
Restoring his acoustic guitar, Paul began to speak of his love for John. He sang “Here Today”, a heartfelt song written for John shortly after he was murdered in 1980. Paul remembered that although he and John had not always understood each other completely, John was always there with a smile and a joke.
The next song was also a dedication. Paul replaced his acoustic guitar with a ukulele, one he said George had given him. George was quite found of ukuleles, said Paul. He explained how anytime he would go over to George’s, they would hang out and have something to eat, but then eventually every time there would always come a point when the ukuleles would come out. One time Paul told George he knew how to play only one song on the ukulele. As he said this Paul gently embarked upon an ever-so-delicate rendering of Harrison’s “Something.”
Once again Paul’s jovial band returned to the stage, launching into an energizing rendition of “Eleanor Rigby”, then slowing it down again right afterwards for a warm turn at “Here, There and Everywhere”, which had me and me lovely holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes.
Paul's 70s arena-rock anthem, “Band On The Run”, reared its multiple heads next, followed by the White Album’s pseudo-Beach Boys tune “Back In The USSR”.
“Maybe I’m Amazed”, dedicated to his late wife Linda, along with “My Love”, slowed things down a bit again, but “Can’t Buy Me Love” brought the energy level back up just in time for...
“Freedom! We’re talking about Freedom.”
Now I know a lot of people are down on this song. I admit it is kinda cheesy, but as a New Yorker and an American I still think it’s awfully sweet of Paul to dedicate a song to us. I really think it’s the thought that counts here.
All the same, I think it’s rather tongue in cheek of Paul to play “Live and Let Die” after “Freedom”, considering the state of world affairs today, but that sure didn’t stop him. And the pyrotechnics really added a nice theatrical touch to this James Bond thriller theme song.
The overt motif of the evening continued with a duo of heavyweight titles, “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude”, the latter lending itself to a much anticipated extended sing-a-long, ending the monstrous 29-song set.
After much ado, Paul returned to the stage for a trio of brilliant Beatles encores: “Long and Winding Road”, “Lady Madonna” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”
And as if that hadn’t been enough, Paul and company returned for a second set of stupendous encores. Restoring his trusty acoustic guitar for one more solo tune, a hush fell upon the crowd as Paul began to sing “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as thought they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in Yesterday.”
Capping the evening, the band blazed into a soaring rendition of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, seamlessly segueing straight into the magnificent beauty which is Abbey Road’s “The End”:
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
JamBase | NYC
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