Full Of Memory (Premium Masters PM-002/003)
Highline Ballroom, New York, NY – June 13th, 2007
Disc 1: Drive My Car, Only Mama Knows, Dance Tonight, C Moon, The Long And Winding Road, I’ll Follow The Sun, Calico Skies, That Was Me, Blackbird, Here Today, Back In The U.S.S.R.
Disc 2: Nod Your Head, House Of Wax, I’ve Got A Feeling, Matchbox, Get Back, Baby Face, Hey Jude, Let It Be, Lady Madonna, I Saw Her Standing There
Paul McCartney’s new album Memory Almost Full caught me by surprise. I was at a Starbucks in Buffalo a couple of weeks ago and saw it right on the front counter and thought, “huh?” I thought I was hip, but I guess not. When I popped it in the cd player it was obvious it is one of McCartney’s strongest albums in while with catchy melodies and devoid of the twee sentiments found on Chaos And Creation In The Backyard released two years ago. In support of the new album, McCartney played three “secret” club gigs: one at the Electric Ballroom in London on June 7th, at the Highline Ballroom in New York on June 13th, and in at Amoeba Music in Los Angeles on June 27th.
Full Of Memory on the new Premium Masters label is a two audience source mix of the New York show which was released about a week after the event. The main tape used is a very good sounding audience recording. There is an echo surrounding the music, the middle frequencies are slightly weak and the quality varies as the taper seems to be shoved around the standing room only crowd. A poor source is used for thirty-three seconds after “Matchbox” capturing McCartney’s spiel and the very beginning of “Get Back.” It is good in picking up the intimate, small club atmosphere and picks up every audience comment by the recorder.
In a Billboardarticle by Jonathan Cohen titled “McCartney Dazzles At New York Club Show,” he observes: “Paul McCartney and his band squeezed into New York’s 700-capacity Highline Ballroom last night (June 13) to celebrate the No. 3 debut of the Beatle great’s new album, Memory Almost Full. In front of a crowd comprised of industry personnel, hardcore fans and contest winners, McCartney rattled off a 20-song set of new songs, Beatles classics and solo cuts. The room went silent when McCartney rattled off solo renditions of ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Hear Today,’ the latter dedicated to ‘fallen heroes’ John Lennon, George Harrison and McCartney’s late wife, Linda.
But the energy was promptly ratcheted back up with spirited takes on ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.,’ the new ‘Nod Your Head’ and ‘I’ve Got a Feeling,’ which morphed into Carl Perkins’ ‘Matchbox.’ The main set concluded with the one-two punch of ‘Get Back’ and ‘Hey Jude,’ followed by a stupendous all-Beatles encore of ‘Let It Be,’ ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There.’ McCartney was refreshingly off-the-cuff throughout the evening, indulging a barrage of camera phone flashes and accepting several bouquets of flowers. ‘We could just stand here chatting all night,’ he said to the audience during a particularly loud between-song moment.”
The show begins with “Drive My Car,” McCartney’s opener for the past couple of tours. He doesn’t waste time introducing the new songs and plays “Only Mama Knows” and “Dance Tonight.” The audience sings “Happy Birthday” to him between the two. “C Moon” is a surprise inclusion and is played with a heavy reggae beat. McCartney even throws in “mister Rasta-man… woncha carry me back to Jamaica man.” McCartney introduces “I’ll Follow The Sun” by saying, “I remember writing this song in a small house in Liverpool.” The audience sings along very loudly to the chorus and Paul keeps bringing it back at the end. “Calico Skies” from Flaming Pie is one of the few songs from his more recent solo albums he plays.
Afterwards he speaks about his backing band and says, “standing in tonight for Wicks…he’s rehearsing for a show for Her Majesty The Queen….Lousy monarchist!! We have a lot of time for the Queenship.” He plays an emotional version of “Here Today” and afterwards says, “it’s nice to play that song in New York, a town that John loved and Linda was born in.” The show gets much better in the second half with the heavy “Nod Your Head” from the new album. “I’ve Got A Feeling” begins in the same arrangement as on Let It Be but then mutates into a heavy hard rock arrangement which then segues into “Matchbox” which is all matter of rockabilly fun.
After “Get Back” Paul gives in to the temptation to “get a little silly” and plays “Baby Face.” For almost thirty years he played this song as a tease before performing “Maybe I’m Amazed” and serves, in his mind, as a goofy little tune before playing something more serious. He usually only plays the opening line, but in this show plays the entire first verse before stopping, speaking a bit to the audience, and beginning “Hey Jude.” This version lasts for nine and a half minutes and features the crowd loudly singing along. The first encore is “Let It Be” which sounds great in a small club atmosphere. Paul thanks everybody who helped put on the show and the “boy band” playing with him before the final encore “I Saw Her Standing There.”
There is no news about a new tour, but if and when that does happen the material from the new album will stand up just fine with the Beatles and Wings classics that comprise his set list. Memory Almost Full debuted very high in the charts upon release and will be known as one of McCartney’s strongest solo outings in a decade.
Full Of Memory is a good title and was released very quickly. The label is not mentioned but the matrix number seems to follow George Harrison Ice Cold In Toronto, so it is assumed to be Premium Masters. It will be interesting to compare it to the Piccadilly Circus version and see if they use the same tape source or a better one. The label put a couple of pictures from the gig on the artwork and this stands as a good document of the New York show. Hopefully the London and Los Angeles gigs will also surface soon.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)