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Paul McCartney – Closed Soundcheck At Tokyo Dome 10.30.2018 (No Label)

Paul Mccartney, ‘Closed Soundcheck At Tokyo Dome 10.30.2018’ (No Label)

Disc 1 – Instrumental Soundcheck – Soundcheck / A Hard Day’s Night / Come On to Me / Fuh You / Something / Saxophone – Guitars – Drums / Drums (Come On to Me) / Guitars – Drums – Keyboards / Instrumental Jam – With Vocals – Matchbox / Honey Don’t / Come On to Me (Intro) / Come On to Me / Letting Go / Who Cares (Intro) / Who Cares / Come On to Me / A Hard Day’s Night / My Valentine

Disc 2 – Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five / Maybe I’m Amazed / I Don’t Know / I Don’t Know / I’ve Just Seen A Face / From Me to You (Instrumental) / From Me to You / Come On to Me (Intro) / Come On to Me (Intro) / Guitar Session / Blackbird / Here Today – Come On to Me (Intro) – Paul talks / Lady Madonna /  Fuh You / Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da / Let It Be (It’s Christmas!) / Live and Let Die / Live and Let Die Jam  / Live and Let Die Jam / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (Intro) / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) / Helter Skelter / Helter Skelter (Intro) / Helter Skelter Jam / Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End / Jam Finale

Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan 30th October 2018 (from Original Masters) & Original In-Ear Monitor Recording (Stereo)

The Soundcheck party, huh? The perfect gift for the Uber-fan or the next step to wringing out just a little more cash from people who are already paying through the nose to watch a legend at work (A sentence that I already understand sounds disingenuous. Don’t @ me!)
Maybe I’m just a little bitter that I’ve never been there but for anyone other than Macca, it would seem like this is a bit of an exercise in hanging you upside down and jingling that hard earned out of your pockets. What Paul McCartney brings to his parties is a gentle shift in direction that he needs. What you get is an extra bit of promotion for the latest album twinned with either a little deep-root song choosing from his early solo albums or Paul pretending that he’s jamming with a set of pals at Forthlin road and working out how to replicate the sound of his latest American import singles.

As we’ve heard in the past few years – Mostly from Audiofön’s Jools Holland rehearsals – that Macca and his band can either throw in a consummate coda-jam of a Beatles song or a hair-teasingly boring plod through a half-assed lick that someone has caught up on. Well, good news, someone has caught a long, long rehearsal from Tokyo, over two hours of warming up by Paul and his band as they check their signals, the size of the venue and, most importantly, their chops to make sure the wheels well oiled. They have also caught it via IEM (I have to guess this is possibly Abe’s feed) it’s the new audience recording but, audience 2.0, audience XRI, audience recording squared, albeit, with a swoop of static over the top just hanging on the bass (Much more noticeable through headphones)

OVER TWO HOURS of recordings where as we’re used to a single disk if not a couple of bonus tracks tacked on to the end of a disk. It doesn’t get any better does it? Well, kinda ..

I’ll begin by clarifying that you might have been better with the single disk. Yes, as much as you might read the cover or see the timings on your CD player or via iTunes and think, ‘Hey, this jam goes on over 10-minutes! Cool!’, don’t get excited as they’re not all as thrilling as they might seem. Disk one, I could do without. I’ve given it the best part of a cursory listen, Macca doesn’t turn up until around halfway through. Skip the first 9 tracks, they’re useless.
‘Matchbox’ is where things start to come alive really. A standard at the soundcheck, missing from the concerts (And why not, no-one is here to hear Macca do Singalonga Chuck Berry apart from those that pay that little extra to sit at the party.) ‘Honey Don’t’ pays it’s dues to Macca’s heritage too. They’re both nice, nothing that we haven’t heard before in soundcheck and certainly a change to the norm. ‘Come On To Me’ follows, or part of it does, now, like it or not, you have to listen as Paul throws a bit of ‘Back In Brazil’ into the intro, the song breaks down soon after so you don’t have to sit through it all but it’s nice to hear Macca having a bit of fun and messing around with his tracks. Same with ‘Letting Go’, attack that Paul has just relatively recently introduced back in to the setlist – It feels like he’s actually happy with it again after dismissing so many wings hits for so long. The horns are mixed a little TOO loudly but they don’t cover everything too much to blanket the rest of the track, they’re actually nice to hear!

A little more promo for the album now, ‘Who Cares’. I actually like this track, it diminishes nothing for me. It has a brilliant thump and bite to it, plus it has Macca screeching, not bad – A very nice rendition, we then return to the ‘Ichiban’ variation of ‘Come On To Me’. Don’t worry, it’s not actually 6 minutes long, it concludes with a conversation between Paul and the sound engineer about Paul’s lack of bass and how its travelling. ‘A Hard Days Night’ follows, in this, Paul seems to forget to come in and the intro runs a little longer than it should. ‘My Valentine’ comes next. At least there’s a nice little bit of banter about shooting the video at the end. Unless you like Paul’s love letter to Nancy, it’s pretty much routine.

Disk two picks up where we left off with the same story from disk one and a run through of ‘Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five’. This sounds much different to a standard audience recording obviously and the swooshing organ sounds with Abe’s rattle is something that you’d most certainly miss within the mix – Here, however, they’re much more prominent. Now, I’ll mention ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ but only to warn you to avoid it. At all costs. However much love you have for this track – And lets be fair – it is empirical in the cannon, Paul’s voice is awful and strips any goodwill I had in suggesting that his voice can still take it.
Two takes of ‘Egypt Station’s’, ‘I Don’t Know’ follow. The first sounds pretty much exactly like the album version but in a live setting. The guitars chime a little more maybe, a second and third vocal join in a little later too but it is just like you know it. The second version starts in without an intro, this is much more of a band version with extra vocals in the mix, a much more loose feel as chords fall around all over and around, even a few vocal flubs by Macca it also runs to around a minute and half of extra rehearsal ‘noise’.
‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’ is a delightful little skiffle run through, there’s nothing to dislike about it, it trundles on like a little jam and is a mini crowd pleaser after this, we have a country instrumental version of ‘From Me To You’, literally, no other way to suggest it. It is lazy, summery, silly and just what you’d want on an Anthology style boot if it actually existed in the vaults. Rather annoyingly, it’s followed by a vocal version of the track where Paul’s voice wobbles around like a jellyfish and sounds like his breath has been knocked out of him.

‘Guitar Jam’ is a simple riff, nothing else but it precedes a very pretty rendition of ‘Blackbird’, compare this to the version on the White Album, (I know which I’d choose .. ) in to ‘Here Today’, Paul struggles to hit the higher notes and then ruins the effort by mickey-taking his efforts, putting on a silly deep Liverpudlian accent and garbling the lyrics.

The loudness of ‘Lady Madonna’ somehow masks Macca’s voice making it sound a little fuller. Unless he’s managed to lubricate it a little in between songs, it’s the drive to fight against the volume that makes his voice sound a little better, though it dries back up by the time we start,’ Let It Be’, those unharmonious harmonies from his band don’t help either as they moan alongside him. I’m unconvinced by the horn section taking place of the orchestra on this version but that’s only my personal taste from this rendition. It differs as we get back to the rockers and Paul’s voice seems to repair again. His take on ‘Live And Let Die’ has him drawing out a much better vocal, the horns add to the urgency and pomp, really invigorating the pace. Paul picks up a random ‘G’ chord and wonders where it’s coming from. The band all take it in turns to play their part to find where it’s coming from so they can eliminate it but instead they move in to taking on ‘Sgt. Peppers’ then ‘Helter Skelter’ in quick succession.

There follows a ‘Helter Skelter’ jam – realistically, nothing more than a mess about for guitar and drums – before we get to the final triplicate from the end of Abbey Road. All of these shine with power, a real heartfelt emotion and Paul sounds great (Not that he has to put much much vocal weight in to this). It would be fun if, after the encores to his concerts, he stepped off the stage for a few seconds and rolled back on with an acoustic to sing ‘Her Majesty’ but maybe that’s for another day.

The jam finale is a little bit of silly improv fun that actually had me smile. Nice to listen to, great to hear Macca throw out a couple of funny lines too.

Were it not for the unpolished state of Macca’s voice, the best part of the first disk and, in a very small way, the static, I’d be heartily recommending this disk – As I’m preaching to a club of deep cut diggers, I know you’ll be excited about picking this up anyway, however, it’s a disk for the dedicated. There are better and, incredibly, more exciting sets to be picked up from this tour so it’s not essential but certainly more desirable than a distant audience recording.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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