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- Paul McCartney »
"All you’ve ever done is Yesterday" - John Lennon
The pressures of not being dead. You're the living half of the most gigantic, gazillion-selling globe-gobbling scouse-pop partnership of all time. For forty years, you've had to endure pant-wetting, shirt-pulling, voice-box-breaking adulation while your songs become scratched in the memory of millions and your bank balance bloats into the billions. But is Paul McCartney happy? Of course not.
After forty years as 'The Beatles' second best songwriter,' he's still desperate to be considered as good as, or even better than John Lennon. It’s there in the 'Lennon/McCartney' credits being reversed on his 'Back in the World' CD, in how he introduces 'Getting Better', saying "I wrote this in the sixties," and how he quick-steps into his UK tour, doing a one-man ego-dance around the songs that made him.
Opening with McCartney's mid 90’s vanity project ‘The Fireman’ – a sloppy mash-up of bongos, banghra, sitars and giltchy electronica, it displays his desperate desire to prove himself beyond the frog choruses and mid-career muzak. But it mostly just leaves the audience baffled, especially as its eastern-tinged techno is swiftly followed by the giddy rock of 'Hello Goodbye'. Unsurprisingly, it's when the Beatles songs are turned from dust-coated nostalgia to heavenly, gold dust-coated shots of majestic Mersey-pop, that McCartney begins to elevate the night into something special. 'She’s Leaving Home' is a sublime, harmony-laden requiem, the acoustic 'We Can Work it Out' is a busker-friendly three-minute pop gem and 'Carry that Weight' is an ace loner ballad about having no money. Which at least shows that McCartney’s still got a sense of humour.
Strangely enough, some of his solo stuff and Wings tunes – scientifically devised for stadium-happy arm-waving – also sound in good form, from the uncontrollable yelping vocals on 'Maybe I’m Amazed' to the heart-stopping acoustic rendering of Lennon tribute 'Here Today'. There's also the bombastic, unashamedly pompous 'Band on the Run', all (probably) about how being in a band's really cool 'cos you get to have sex and take drugs, and therefore not like a real Paul McCartney song at all.
Of course, he also plays the back-breakingly burdensome snore-rock of 'My Love', the dire 'Driving Rain', and 'The Long and Winding Road' is still as dull and directionless as it was when Phil Spector got his grubby hands on it. Being a stadium gig, it was inevitably going to be much less personal than a smaller gig, and some of the between-song banter does seem painfully rehearsed, which stops the show from truly achieving greatness.
So is Paul McCartney happy? Maybe. The truth is that while tonight's show did exorcise some demons, it settled no scores, and certainly didn't lift the lingering doubts over his recent song-writing form. But as his mile-wide Cheshire-cat grin leaves the arena and thousands of near-delirious middle-agers regain their bored sanity, you realise that even if the legacy was Lennon's, there's no doubt that it's McCartney who's now pulling the strings.
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