I saw the show last night with a few friends. Long drive down from Syracuse (11 hours round trip). We had great seats--17th row on the right side. Good weather, full stadium, and great venue for a concert.
The show itself was great! This was my third McCartney show--first two in 2005 at MSG. His energy, voice, and showmanship amazed us all. It was the first show for two of my buddies and they were just astounded by how great he sounded and his boundless enthusiasm and energy. I was thrilled to hear I'm Down--his voice sounded really phenomenal for all the rockers, but he seemed to have nailed this one note for note perfectly. Band on the Run was also excellent, which surprised me, because I know that over the past few years, he has struggled with some of the high notes on this one. Jet too was fantastic--its a song I like but have never loved--but last night, it was just great. Overall, all the real rock songs seemed to work best. Only Mama Knows, Flaming Pie, Back in the USSR and Get Back were all excellent, each a highlight and memorable in their own right. Let Me Roll It too was fantastic.
This was my first time hearing "Here, Today" live and it was poignant and beautiful. Something, first on ukelele and then with the band, was well sung, well performed, and was a tasteful tribute to George. Dance Tonight was actually excellent live (surprise!) and seemed to have been a hit with the crowd. And Calico Skies was beautiful (my cousin played it at my wedding) and the accordion was a nice touch.
Despite loving Electric Arguments and wishing he would play more new songs, I was not impressed with either of the two new songs live. The instrumental breaks in Sing the Changes were boring and overlong, and Highway was ok, but only ok. I would love to hear Light from your Lighthouse or Dance til we're high or Nothing Too Much, and imagine the crowd would have appreciated those more as well. I remember on the 2005 tour I also didn't think the new songs translated very well (Fine Line was never very good live for some reason, and Jenny Wren made his voice sound frail and weak).
If there was a weakness I noticed, it was his voice when singing most of the piano ballads. I thought he sounded pretty good on Long and Winding Road (which was the first piano song), just ok on My Love but not so good on Let it Be and Hey Jude. I also wish he would cut "I've got a Feeling." It doesn't work without John singing John's part and Paul sings it devoid of the energy and power of the original version.
Mrs. Vanderbilt KILLED! What I would give to hear more of these type of lost gems!
On that note, it occurred to me that Paul's whole live act is designed for casual fans. Paul must figure he already has us and doesn't need to win us over, so he can play the exact same set list night after night and we won't complain. On some level, I understand what he's doing. He's figured out a set list that works for him, banter that works with the crowd, and he is only too willing to give the crowd what they want. But... his show has become a scripted show, lacking any and all surprise. The jokes and stories are the same, the sing-along on Hey Jude (men only, ladies only, upper deck, everyone else, each time singing "sounds so sweet to me"), the pyro on Live and Let Die along with the guitar player falling down at the end of the pyro, the dedications to fallen band members, and so on. As hard-core fans, we sit there quietly and watch everyone around us surprised by his song selection, or by the pyro, or laughing at the banter, or excited by the "impromptu" Foxy Lady at the end of Let me roll it.
Paul is still perhaps the greatest performer out there--but rock and roll should have some spontaneity, some surprise, some excitement. But instead, we get Paul reading the entire show (including the lyrics to some entire songs--A Day in the life was really obvious) from a teleprompter and singing the exact same songs in the same order night after night. When was the last show he didn't end with "Sgt Pepper/the end"?
He sounded so damn good for much of the show, I don't feel like anyone has any right to complain (and I didn't say anything to any of my show buddies last night, who, having never seen him before were rightly floored). But yet, as much as I loved the show, I found myself consistently disappointed (if only ever so slightly) that I knew what was coming. It was like watching a movie you love and that you have seen many times before. Sometimes, you just wish you could go back and see it again for the first time. I had that experience last night. I longed not to know what song was coming next. Or not to know what story he would tell. Or what the encore would be.
I don't wish to knock Paul at all--and don't feel like you need to defend him to me--he's one of my favorite human beings of all time and to see him work his ass off for 2 hours and 35 minutes while putting on a hell of a show was an unbelievable experience, and I am grateful to have gotten the chance to attend the show. But I do wish just once in a while, he would reward some of us who own all his albums, spend hours watching his performances on youtube, own his DVDs and have seen him multiple times on tour. Surprise us!
To end on a positive note, it was a wonderful experience and I feel truly blessed to have seen Paul perform live one more time while he still sings and plays so beautifully. Oh, and I found his voice to me stronger than it was in 2005! He's an amazing entertainer and continues to amaze. Make sure to check out I'm down from last night.