Paul McCartney: Arena, Glendale, AZ 3/28/10

“I love these shows, I want to take a minute to drink you all in,” shouted a buoyant Paul McCartney to the sold out Arena following one of the opening numbers – “Jet.”  Kicking off his Up and Coming Tour in Glendale, Arizona, the world’s greatest living rock star, still knows how to remain humble despite his enormity of fame.  After a couple songs, he took the time to read some of the signs held up by fans – one in particular which read, “I’ll swap you my wife for your pick.  Sir Paul jokingly replied, “is that really you want?”

The former Beatle, costly divorce and all, doesn’t need the touring money  but at 67, he still thrives on performing, breaking  a shimmy dance in between songs and whipping out Austin Powers charm though out the night.  Undeniably Arizona holds some value for McCartney, with Tucson being name dropped in “Get Back” and the city being the home of a family  ranch owned by first wife Linda, the very same place where she passed away in 1998.   Although no reference was made to Linda, there were separate references made to John, George and Ringo, giving his audience a little invite into some stories of rock and roll lore.

The first tale was before “Blackbird” where McCartney reminiscencds about how the guitar part is based on a Bach piece that he and George Harrison would play as youths and the second would be a little story-telling before “Something” as McCartney strapped on a ukulele for the Harrison standard.  The ukulele was one of six instruments Macca would play this evening, amongst bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, and mandolin.  And prior to “Here Today,” McCartney explained how he wrote the 1982 Tug of War song, following John Lennon’s death, followed with a “lets hear it for John” to the sold out crowd.

The 1973 Wings album Band on the Run and The Beatles’ Let it Be were the best-represented works in the evening with five songs each, but it was Band on the Run, which produced the most steam.  Although not as familiar as the Beatles classics, the title track, “Jet,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Mrs. Vanderbilt,” and “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” all were played with renewed vigor.  It was the later mentioned song that made its debut appearance on American soil, while McCartney poked fun at the “Ho, hey ho, ho, hey ho” chorus of “Mrs. Vanderbilt,” as if it were a Russian army chant.  For Wings’ “Live It and Lie” arguably the ultimate arena rock song, this version proved no exception with its piercing pyrotechnics.  With the thousands of visible 60+ year olds in attendance who probably cried “mercy” following the fireworks,  McCartney was likely on their side, as he held his ears in pain with a “too loud, no more” shaken expression.

Other treats for this tour included  “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” being played in America for the first time and “Sing The Changes, a song off his recent relevant collaboration with Youth as The Fireman, followed by the mandolin led number "Dance Tonight."  If there is any classic rock artist that can get away with announcing “this next one is a new song off my new album,” it’s Paul McCartney. 

It wouldn’t be a McCartney show without the big piano songs, as “The Long and Winding Road,” Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” all provided some goose-bump moments.   But what’s most noticeably impressive about hearing this man live is his voice and how durably its held up after 67 years. There are certain high notes that are only molded for McCartney’s yelp and he still hits them home solid: “your not the same” (I’m Looking Through You), “where do they all go” (Eleanor Rigby), “hope your having fun” (Band on the Run).  

The band on this current tour consists of the same four other stellar musicians that have been on board since early 2002: Paul Wickens (keyboards), Abe Laboriel Jr, (drums, vocals), Rusty Anderson (guitar) and Brian Ray(bass).  MVP of the evening was Laboriel who like Phil Collins, was able to handle both harmony vocals and drums effortlessly.  38 songs and three hours later the show had fittingly concluded with “The End,” but not before McCartney said “see you next time” as he waved goodbye.   Paul McCartney isn’t getting any younger as he pushes 70, but knowing there might be a next time, sure sounds good on the ears.

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