One on One With McCartney: Fan Tour Reports

Here is a selection of reports filed by Beatlefan contributors from the recent U.S. leg of Paul McCartney’s One on One tour. See Beatlefan #228 for more coverage.

Macca joined onstage by Billy Joel in Long island. (Photo: MPL)

Tom Frangione reporting on some of the New York area shows …

Following a seven-week summer hiatus, Paul McCartney and his band returned to the stage, launching the current leg of their One on One Tour with two shows at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, which began on Monday, Sept. 11th. The venue is a short train ride across the river from New York’s Madison Square Garden, where they would be taking the stage a few days later for an additional two shows.

Sept. 11 is a somber date on the calendar, especially in the New York/New Jersey area, so Paul addressed the anniversary early on, dedicating the show to “those we lost on that day” 16 years earlier. He did not, however, reprise the song he wrote in the wake of the attacks, “Freedom”, as many had suspected he might.

Paul on acoustic at Madison Square Garden (Photo: Rick Glover)

The extended holiday did wonders for his voice, which was well rested and in fine form. The band tore through the standard tour set list, which showed little deviation from last time Paul was in town, barely a year earlier, with just two songs swapped out from the August 2016 repertoire: “Here There and Everywhere” and “The Fool on the Hill” were dropped, with “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in their stead. For the former, Paul told the story of how he and John came to give that song to the Rolling Stones back in 1963 (quick! Someone get him a Mark Lewisohn book!) and, for the latter, he did acknowledge the 50th anniversary celebration we’ve all been immersed in this summer.

One of Paul’s band members, Paul “Wix” Wickens, noted that they had some surprises in store, given the number of frequent fliers (The Fans on the Run and others …) likely to see multiple shows during the eight-show run in the area. Beyond the two shows each in Newark and the Garden, pairs of shows also took place at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, and the Barclays Center in the garden spot of the world, Brooklyn, USA.

“I Saw Her Standing There” with Bruce Springsteen. (Photo: Bob Gannon)

For “I Saw Her Standing There” in the Sept. 15 encore at Madison Square Garden in NYC, Paul was joined was joined onstage by local hero Bruce Springsteen and his sidekick “Little” Steven Van Zandt, bringing the crowd to a frenzy. Two takes were done, presumably as a “safety” measure for possible release or web posting, or other editing.

Paul noted from the Garden stage that “New York has many special memories” for him, and he had many friends and family in the audience. To mark the occasion, he added a medley of “A Day in the Life” and “Give Peace a Chance” to the middle of the set list. The spirit of John Lennon was very much in the room, as it was during the acoustic performance of “Here Today.”

Kathy Urbanic reporting on the Sept. 23 show at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse …

The Syracuse show was fantastic, as always, so no need for me to to ladle on the superlatives. Paul was in high spirits, and he seemed happy and playful with the crowd, although I noticed early on that he seemed a little congested. He sneezed twice while introducing one of the early songs, made a joke of it and said, “God bless me.” I think he may have a bit of a cold — his voice seemed hoarse on some of the numbers — but you’d never know it by his energy level.

The Carrier Dome is not air-conditioned and, with the outside afternoon temperature hitting the high 80s, it was sweltering inside — for the concertgoers and for the band. Paul never commented on the heat, though, and the band members didn’t scale back on their energy, either. It occurred to me what a class act they are — consummate professionals. Paul and the guys gave it their all, even in decidedly uncomfortable conditions.

Paul with Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray at MSG. (Photo: Rick Glover)

I noticed two sign language interpreters on the floor in front of the section where I was sitting, a young guy and a young gal. It was fascinating to watch them, especially the young guy, who put a lot of body English into his delivery of the lyrics.

There was a scary incident that, thankfully, was quickly resolved: During “Live and Let Die,” some of the explosives ignited material at the top of the rigging at the right side of the stage (just above the big screen on that side). There were visible flames on the rigging that did not look like they would burn themselves out; in fact, they were getting stronger. We could see one of the crew members (or maybe it was a Dome staffer) climb up the rigging in the dark to douse the flames while Paul launched into “Hey Jude,” after which those of us who had spied the problem breathed a sigh of relief.

Peter Stergakos reporting on the Sept. 26 show at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island … 

My initial intention was to write a “proper” review of one of Paul’s performances at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.  However, after being a part of this concert experience, I feel the need to go much further. A simple musical analysis of McCartney’s performance is, I feel, a futile exercise at this point in time. The magnitude of the man’s significance far supersedes any commentary on his music or how well he performed it.

Onstage at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island. (Photo: James Liverani)

Upon seeing him in 2005 at one of his Madison Square Garden shows, I had made the decision that this was basically “it” for me. By this time, the decline in his vocal abilities was well evident and, in all honesty, I couldn’t subject myself to any more shows in which a man who was/is such a huge part of my life seemed to struggle to make it through a given performance.

For this reason, when my wife presented me with two tickets to one of the Nassau Coliseum shows for Father’s Day, my feelings were, at best, quite mixed.

At any rate, the night of Sept. 26 had arrived and here I was, going against my decision, getting (psychologically) ready to see a performance by a man who is one of the prime representations of my nearly 60 years of life. How would he sound? How much would he struggle? Would his performance envelope me, make me happy for him and proud of myself in being such a huge, diehard fan? Or would I be standing there shaking my fat head the entire night?

Well, let me state in no uncertain terms that, within less than 30 seconds of the evening’s opener (“A Hard Day’s Night”), every one of those concerns became nonexistent. Yes, his voice was clearly not what it once was and, if I’m being brutally honest, sounded even more strained than it did in ’05 (which was to be fully expected). So, why wasn’t I hoping this would be a quick evening?

The best way to explain is to quote my wife, who was at my side and, at best, is only an average music listener and certainly not a fanatic for Paul, The Beatles or any other musical artist. But, during the fourth song (“All My Loving”), she leaned over to me and said, “His voice isn’t so great, but I don’t care!”

And, there, you basically have it. This was Paul McCartney. A 75-year-old Beatle whose level of importance nearly excused any technical shortcoming he could possibly exhibit on a live stage. As his songs took us through the times of our lives, he exuded an energetic warmth and persistence which, for my part, are unmatched by any performer I’ve ever had the opportunity to see.

For the very first time at any concert, he made me realize that it was not about a “perfect” performance, from a technical standpoint. It was about the sincerity, desire and, yes, LOVE, that emanated from the stage. This is not a love “for the money” as many cynics would speculate; it’s a love for the music, the process which creates it and a very deep-rooted appreciation of the resultant adulation his fans put forth for that music and the man who played a crucial role in creating it.

It was more than a concert; it was an event I’m grateful to have been given the chance to be a part of.

Garry Wilbur reporting on the Sept. 26 show at Nassau Coliseum …

It was my 12th time seeing Paul in concert, this time at the newly refurbished Coliseum venue in Long Island, NY.

The set list was the exact same one he played Saturday night at Syracuse, with one exception which I’ll get to. It was a very enjoyable show, but Paul’s voice was threadbare for most of it, in my opinion anyway. I saw him last August and it didn’t sound as bad then.

Joked about which Nassau he was playing. (Photo: James Liverani)

He started off by quipping, “Hello Nassau! When I heard we were off to Nassau, I thought we were going to the Bahamas.”

Other notes from the show; lots and lots of oldsters in attendance, including me … Paul, before launching into “Here Today,” referred to John “passing away,” which always irritates me since he was actually murdered in cold blood … the big bathroom break song was “My Valentine,” but, for me, it was the men only/women only ending to “Hey Jude” … Paul reading signs from the audience: “Brooklyn girls do it 8 days a week” (must have been a holdover from the Barclay Center shows in Brooklyn the previous week) and “My 16th time seeing Paul in concert,” to which Paul replied, “That seems highly excessive” …  the “Give Peace a Chance” refrain in which Paul yelled out “to all the world” — a welcome and nice touch …  anecdotes about Soviet planes spraying clouds to prevent rain from spoiling Paul’s Red Square show, and imagining once that Robert Plant would be fatally zapped by laser beams at a Led Zep concert adding, “Must have been watching ‘Goldfinger’ too much.”

The encore was interesting. Paul muffed the beginning of “Yesterday,” then restarted after joking about it. Then, he brought on Billy Joel, who was wearing a baseball cap with an H on it (for Hicksville?). The home crowd went crazy. Paul asked Billy what song he’d like to do and “Get Back” was the reply. Unfortunately, Billy looked out of it the whole time he was onstage. He stayed at piano for the next song, “Birthday,” then, after a big embrace with Paul, he stumbled off the stage (maybe he’s not fully recovered from his hip surgery?). After Billy exited, Paul thanked him for being a good sport and showing up on such short notice. I wondered if he woke him with a call while he was sleeping!
After the finale “Abbey Road” medley song ‘”The End,” a pretty confetti dropping closed out the show.

I never miss a chance to see Paul in concert when he tours in the NYC area. I hope I’ll be able to see him many more times. And, that his voice will hold up. At 75, he shows amazing stamina and energy! And the songs, even with his voice showing more wear and tear than ever, remain wonderful and exciting to hear.

Check out Beatlefan #228 for news of the One on One U.S. tour leg and for Rick Glover’s report on Macca’s New York Takeover.

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