The indomitable Paul McCartney returned to the stage in his "Out There" tour in Chicago's United Center on July 9, 2014. This was a big performance after he postponed or cancelled all sorts of shows (five in Japan, seven in the US) for months after coming down with ... something ... in Japan. People were starting to wonder, but whatever it was, he looks all cured now.
It must be tough on his band when that happens, but that's part of the gig. At least they didn't leave him stranded in a Japanese jail and go off and do other things like "Wings" did in 1980.
|"Maybe I'm Amazed" - how many times does Paul appear in this picture?|
Paul was in good voice, though drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. backed him for the first couple of songs. Otherwise, he sounded like his old self of recent years. It was the usual set, with the old hits from the '60s and '70s combined with four songs from his latest album, "New."
It is disappointing that Paul omits an entire thirty years of the heart of his career from his sets these days - 1982 to 2012 - but frankly, what other artist besides perhaps The Rolling Stones could do something like that and still have everyone loving every second?
It was Paul's standard show, about 2 1/4 hours, then encores to bring it to three hours. He stands up there, tells the usual stories about Jimi and so on, doesn't take a sip of water or any breaks, and just goes through the set. He is probably the most comfortable and practiced rock performer onstage ever, as good as Elvis was (though Elvis was the gold standard, for sure, and his 1973 Hawaii concert never will be equalled).
If you went back to 1995 or 1985, the set was probably almost identical, with the exception of the "New" songs (which fit right in, though they aren't all as stellar as "Hey Jude" or "Blackbird").
Crowd pleasers: "Maybe I'm Amazed," "New" and "And I Love Her." Really, the vast majority of the songs were well-delivered and sounded great. Songs that, shall we say, did not excite the audience were the three other "New" songs - "Queenie Eye," "Save Us," and "Everybody Out There" - and, somewhat surprisingly, "The Long and Winding Road." Paul knows that what people want are the old classics, and he delivers, and he must fight the urge to drop the new songs completely.
|Paul McCartney performing "New"|
"The Long and Winding Road" is just the wrong tempo to get people energized, though of course it is one of the prettiest and sentimental songs in his entire catalog. It also happens to be one of my favorite Paul songs, but it helps if you are in the right mood to really appreciate it. A concert full of excited fans is not conducive to the right mood.
On the bright side, it's great that he puts "1985" right up there at the beginning, because it is one of his best and least-appreciated (by radio stations of old, at least) compositions. He still belts it out. Paul's background visuals and pyrotechnics ("Live and Let Die") also remain the best in the business.
|Paul whips out the ukelele for "Something"|
Naturally, the arena was full of people whipping out their cell phones for all the classics, and that is both good and bad: good because we get all sorts of views of Paul performing songs we like, bad because the quality of these videos usually sucks due to the technology. However, thank you to all the nice that people take them and then take the trouble to post them.
If any of the videos are gone, my apologies, hopefully some will remain up indefinitely.
Here is the opening, and "Eight Days a Week" and "1985."
Here's Paul's "Something," which I wish he would just play straight all the way through (I know, I'm way too demanding):
Here's a good view of what you see at one of these concerts from the upper deck (where I always wind up as well) for "Live and Let Die":
Here's "New," the band providing nice harmonies. This translates very well to the stage for some reason where others fall flat, and it is perfectly suited to Paul's present voice where some of the older songs call for a bit too much:
"Eleanor Rigby" - this one nicely zeroes in on Paul, and he nicely hits the high notes:
And, everybody's favorite these days, "Maybe I'm Amazed." Paul really tries hard with the tough vocals and usually succeeds in a very nice performance. His backup band shows why they get paid the big bucks, too, they could probably spend their rest of their careers being a tribute band if that was their thing: