There’s been an ongoing discussion among Paul McCartney fans in recent months about the wisdom of Macca continuing his “never-ending” tour, and how his voice is holding up. (You can watch a recent show here.) What follows is a reasoned look at both sides of the issue from a recent exchange Beatlefan Publisher Bill King had with some other McCartney fans …
I had seen the complaints about the declining state of Paul McCartney’s voice on social media from those who questioned whether he should still be performing in concert, but I’d written those comments off largely to folks who probably aren’t really hard-core fans.
After all, I’d never heard such sentiments from those leaving one of Macca’s marathon concerts. To the contrary, the blissful smiles on the faces of departing concertgoers seemed to indicate an audience well-satisfied.
Then, I received a note from a longtime Macca fan that raised the issue.
Now, understand, this is someone who has traveled to see Paul in concert many times, continues to follow his every move, and who has a very extensive collection of just about every recording McCartney has ever released. This is someone who truly loves Paul McCartney.
Here’s what the fan said:
Looking at this current Macca tour and the sad shape of his voice, do you think it’s time for him to think about hanging up his touring shoes? 10 days off since Minneapolis didn’t help 1 bit and the crowd last night in Argentina was strangely quiet. He even commented about that onstage. I love and respect the fact that he loves doing this at his age, but noticing the band are taking more and more vocals dealing with higher notes, I sincerely think “it’s time” to think about this. …
On Macca, I’m sort of divided. I agree with you about his voice, but, even so, I see how much pleasure he STILL manages to give so many people, so I can’t bring myself to say he should hang it up on touring.
And the fan responded:
I can understand what you are saying about Macca and being on the fence with either direction, but at the amount of $$ he charges for his well-orchestrated A/V shows and the chance to see 1 of the 2 surviving members [of The Beatles], it is kinda disappointing to hear him croaking on songs in a range he shouldn’t try to be singing in; even “Live and Let Die” is now out of his vocal range. We used to say that he had to get several shows under his belt to loosen/toughen his vocal chords up, but that is no longer the case. It’s sad, but we all get older and I know there are things I did in my past that I’d no longer attempt to try. …
Looking for a different perspective, I asked for some input from my son Bill, who saw his first McCartney concert in 1993 at age 8 and who continues to go to Paul’s shows (even without me). Young Bill’s thoughts, which closely match my own:
I wish his set list was more interesting for this tour. I still think the opening 10 songs are poorly paced and several “deep cuts” could have been traded out by now for other deep cuts. (I love the deep cuts and want more of them. I just think he has trotted out the same ones for several years now and they don’t really resonate much.)
I think his voice is certainly diminished, but science dictates that we only have a few years left of him being able to do big shows and tour before he has to hang it up or significantly alter the performances. So, I’m fine with him continuing on and doing it until he can’t anymore. I do think he should be more careful about the televised appearances and keeping within his range on those. Those have been a little rough, but mostly forgiven because of who he is.
I agree with you on both counts. I’d like him to mix up the set list more. And, as long as he’s still able to perform (and nearly 3-hour shows are amazing at his age, though they probably don’t help his voice), I think he should keep doing them. But the one-off appearances on TV (Olympics, Grammys, etc.) almost never are satisfying. He ought to avoid those.
So, then I turned to the original Fan on the Run, Rick Glover, who has seen well over 100 McCartney shows. Here’s what Ricky (as Macca recently dubbed him) had to say on the issue:
I would certainly weigh in heavily on the side that Paul should continue doing these live shows as long as he feels like he can.
While I will acknowledge the more frequent missed notes and squeaky moments, as recently as the Minneapolis shows his vocals were much more “on” than “off.” Whether it may be more coverage from the band (I have noticed Abe singing unison more lately) or the energy of the experience live, it still works in a grand way — people leaving the show have the overwhelming positive impression. And it always surprises me, finding folks that have never seen him live before, how impressed with his vocals, and the spectacle of the show, they seem to be. I can’t recall ever hearing anyone say they did not feel they got their money’s worth. Especially for those that never got a chance to see him in his prime, for whatever reason. And even the “regular” Fans on the Run.
The freshening of the show [on the current tour] brought a few welcome additions in the set, and certainly the production aspects (now even more awe-inspiring than before), and I, too, would love a more varied, and deeper selection. But, the show is somewhat like a finely tuned Broadway production, and a lot more than just his actual vocal delivery (and there are a lot of acts out there that are nothing BUT production).
If the only reference for his vocal ability is from Periscope and YouTube audio quality, I don’t really think that is a fair representation. There are still MANY thrilling and exciting vocal delivery moments every night, as with the scat-shouts-screams in “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” for example.
Reality says the “science” that young Bill mentions does indeed mean there’s a cap on how many more opportunities we will have to enjoy that experience, for sure. And Paul could certainly rethink the set list based on his range and abilities — but that would probably mean stepping away from a few “musts” in the show. And changing the key might seem like cheating, too.
But, I think the one deciding factor will be the show where Macca himself is dissatisfied with his own performance, and that’s when he will stop. He is clearly still happy onstage. And I think that’s his perspective. And I trust it.
I believe my son and Rick both came up with some interesting (and pretty convincing) arguments in favor Paul continuing to tour. What do you think?
You can find Rick Glover’s report on the One on One tour in Beatlefan #220. If you’d like to order a copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.