Live At The Apollo Theatre (Rattlesnake RS 247 / 248)
Live at the Apollo Theatre, New York, NY – December 13th, 2010
Disk 1 : Magical Mystery Tour / Jet / Drive My Car / All My Loving / One After 909 / Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady / The Long & Winding Road / Nineteen Hundred & Eighty-Five / Maybe I’m Amazed / Blackbird / I’m Looking Through You / And I Love Her / Petruschka / Dance Tonight / Eleanor Rigby / Hitch Hike / Hitch Hike / Band On The Run
Disk 2 : Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da / Back In The U.S.S.R. / A Day In The Life – Give Peace A Chance / Let It Be / Hey Jude – encore – Wonderful Christmastime / I Saw her Standing There / Get Back / Yesterday / Sgt. Peppers – The End. Bonus tracks – Jet / Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five / Let Me Roll It / Band On The Run. Later With Jools Holland, BBC Studios, Shepards Bush, London, October 26, 2010.
Age doesn’t seem to disparage McCartney – Approaching his 69th birthday in 2011, Due another solo album this year after the surprising success of his Youth collaboration album & the reissue of arguably his finest solo moment in Wing’s “Band On The Run” with more to follow there are no diminishing returns from the rocker who never thought he’d still stand on the stage or inhabit the studio past his 40s but here we are, 11 years into the new century with Macca gathering together the hits & the spoils from his career(s) & with still enough energy to punch the air & blow the dust from the strings from his hofner bass.
Tonight’s show, in conjunction with paid-for radio service Sirus XM, at the famous Apollo Theater, Harlem, New York is just another of McCartney’s ticks on his to do lists. In 2010 he appeared at the Hollywood Bowl again for two consecutive nights, would take his “Up & Coming Tour” to Mexico, would take himself & his band round a whistle stop tour around the British isles, back through The US, Brazil & Argentina before finally landing back on English soil for a charity show at the 100 Club in London on to the Hammersmith Apollo & then the Academy in Liverpool for a triumphal home coming gig.
The show is as tight as pretty much any as he has played over his solo career but nowadays McCartney has finally shed any stiffness to his live shows. Were as before his shows were very usually tightly scripted affairs & any ‘bloopers’ or goof offs within were usually timed pre shows Paul seems a little happier to go with the flow & will address the crowd more directly – Reacting to the hecklers ( Though with not much more than a stupid noise than rising to professional stand up stature ) & if something unscheduled does happen ( as it will tonight .. ) then he’s happy to laugh it off & get with the spirit.
The set list is usual McCartney though – a jaunt through Beatles, Wings & solo hots along with a few new covers picked up along the way. As to be expected as it is an internet / digital radio broadcast then the sound is suburb – A little more compressed than I personally would have liked but the stream has to be compressed for broadcast so regardless it sounds like a very good soundboard & not too dry. The bonus tracks are taken from a TV Broadcast & are a little ‘wider’ sounding than the radio show.
The set begins with the now habitual ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and, to say he’s nearing his 7th decade, Paul’s voice is in brilliantly good form. The Little Richard form that became his own during the Beatles time hasn’t lessened much & Paul can still bawl with the rest of them. The band race through this song & ‘Jet’ a wings track from the recently reformed “BOTR” album.
After a brief introduction to the Apollo where Paul mentions that he’s always wanted to play & has joined the illustrious pantheon of stars who have played there & “Touched the lucky log” – ‘Drive My Car’ hurriedly follows with a bruising appearance. The jolly piano lines brushing up against the clatter of the percussion & the deep bass & heavy guitar lines – Paul even throws in an adlibbed line mentioning that the female protagonist will be a star “One day.”
As small a change this might be to the song then for the Beatle manics who have heard this song played a hundred times before then it’s a neat little addition. “One After 909” is also like a wrecking ball – doubled up from it’s skiffle like beginnings it has been honed to perfection now & Rusty’s brief guitar solos tumble around & about with abandon, fairly cascading from the stage. After this clutch of Beatles tracks we’re back to Wings & that album again.
“Let Me Roll It” – The most Lennonesque song Paul ever wrote – pummels outwards & onwards – Whirling keyboard lines, brusque guitar lines & monsterous drumming are the name of the game. Coupled with the now must play of the “Foxy Lady” coda it makes it a formidable contender for song of the evening.
Paul hops back to piano for the next trio of songs – From one of the longest serving Beatles tracks to grace Paul’s set list in “Long & Winding Road” to one of the newest Wings additions, the disco stomp of “Nineteen Hundred & Eighty-Five” & then back to solo effort “Maybe I’m Amazed” all are lapped up as much as old favorites & as if they’d been played since the year dot.
New York having been breathlessly waiting their turn for the maestro to come around. Paul jokes around with the audience before “Maybe .. ” noting that whenever artists played radio shows when he was younger they would play to the attending audience at the venue half forgetting that who they were also playing to was a listening public who were non the wiser as to what was going on behind the cathode tubes & air waves. ‘Maybe .. ‘ is also one of the most emotional songs of the night for Paul. Written about his late wife Linda & after possibly having a little too much to think starts the song with a bum note before joking with the audience that they’ll be having a quiz to see if anyone spotted any deliberate mistakes.
During the performance Paul’s voice starts to crack but not tremendously so – He has given it some force tonight which could be a reason but he is also playing a song that is closer to his heart than some. Going back to guitar & the Beatles, Paul leads us through the spare & delicate “Blackbird” with the story of the song & dedicating it to the people suffering in the Southern states.
He also pulls out “I’m Looking Through You” & an unseasonably summery “And I Love Her” to top off a brilliant trio of Beatles melodies. Exchanging his acoustic guitar for a mandolin Paul next takes us through a McCartney original with a Russian flavour. It’s a silly little skit that goes nowhere bar ending with the fact that Petrushka works in the fields uprooting potatoes. The Mandolins appearance is, of course, for one of his latest hits “Dance Tonight”.
The audience don’t seem to take to it as loudly as the rest of the classics & possibly use the time to go get a drink but applaud just as loudly when the song ends. Paul then points out the placards that are being hoisted aloft in the venue & comments on the difficulty of trying to remember lyrics & chords while reading the signs. He does, although, gamely read out a few & this seems to pique the audiences interest while various members shout out their love for him & to wish him a happy Christmas. “Hitch Hike” is a cover of the Marvin Gaye song as in tribute to the many soul singers who have played at the venue over the years. It’s inaugural presentation & a fantastic version of the track.
Everything goes swimmingly until the minute & a half mark when technical difficulties get to the P.A. system & cause the room to fill with feedback. Paul makes a joke about being attacked by aliens before pointing that they should have Tony Bennett ( Who was in the audience ) up on stage to fill the room – While launching his voice in his best Bennett impersonation to try hit the back of the room. It’s something I’ve never heard Paul do in all my years of listening to his voice & the fact that he can sustain a note for so long & so strongly is a true testament to his voice.
The band start up the track again but Paul makes the lead in stopping the song by once again improvising lyrics this time about the faults that they’re facing & asks if any comedians in the audience are available to come & compare for 5 minutes. The song does start again ( For a third time ) & this time it’s perfect. It would be typical that Paul decides to try something new tonight & that it all falls apart at the seams but he & the band deal with it most admirably & the reception that they receive at the end is most fitting.
The band then play their third “Band On The Run” track of the night – The title track. After the fantastic rendition(s) of “Hitch Hike” this almost pales in comparison – but Paul once again puts his all in & the rendition is royally proud & has the crowd singing the song right back at him.
“Back In the U.S.S.R.” takes up the lead of the ‘Classics’ section that neatly bows up the final section of the first part of the show. It’s appearance gusts in like a song that has been played a multitude of times before – pin – point perfect & with additional space for Paul to pull out the stops & throw out his bluster of a voice.
Another Beatles song in the form of “A Day In The Life” twined with “Give Peace A Chance” is an unspoken tribute to John Lennon ( The usual George tribute ‘Something’ curiously absent tonight ) – It’s inclusion perfect if only for the dream sequence part of the song when the audience can start to join the high notes in the track before the now mandatory sing along segment of the Lennon track.
This also acts as a warm up for the hugely expected & communal ‘Hey Jude’ which wordlessly steps in after the emotional ‘Let It Be’ for it’s place as masthead for the night. If a McCartney concert is going to throw in a surprise or extends itself to 4 hours long then the thing you’ll still associate with the gig & walk away singing is the all powerful “Na-na-na” refrain.
As it’s Christmas time and Christmas time in New York no less, Macca could do a lot worse than pulling out his old Christmas hit “Wonderful Christmastime” which he dutifully does bringing with him the Choir Academy of Holland. The original spirit of the song is ever ditzy & a little kitsch & thanks to Paul’s wickedly dated synth chords & the ringing bells it’s brought back to life again & can’t fail to raise a smile.
The end has to come though & for the second portion of the “Greatest Hits” section Paul announces “Thats Christmas over with .. now New Year” as the band smash through an organ packed “I Saw Her Standing There” – As ever the anticipation is on that middle solo ( The one that George would struggle with when the song was originally recorded ) – Tonight it’s a near hair metal experience, playful, unabashed & wild. In other words, perfect.
“Get Back” is our next venture in to riff-in-extremis. From the first chugging bars of the song you instinctively know just how fast a pace the song is going to take & it speeds through the many of it’s sections – from rumbling bass to slick guitar solo via the chime of the giddy piano soloing. Topped off with a tough reprise it makes another indelible mark on the night.
After a string laden “Yesterday” Macca notes it’s quite similar to the original tune & proceeds to serenade the crowd with his version of ‘Scrambled eggs’. It at least shows Paul’s deprecating, Scouse humor comes right to the fore in spite of the fact that ‘Yesterday’ is a big deal to him. After a round of heart felt thanks the night is rounded off with a sterling & extended “Sgt Peppers / The End” medley – Another track that has it’s place & sticks with it.
To be fair as this is such a hot band then rather than giving them name checks each & every night then giving each of them time to play in the spot light is a brilliant move & perfectly ties the shows ends together ( The last words being Paul’s anyway then even more so. ) The packaging is a fine if flimsy production too – Using several press shots of McCartney on the cover & many live shots of Paul & the band at the Apollo inside along with a review borrowed from the New York Post website.
Rattlesnake usually present us with a bountiful 12 page booklet at least but this time they only run to 4. I can only assume this was due to the lack of usable photos rather than a lack of ideas. Altogether this set is a perfect accompaniment to 2010’s “Up & Coming Tour” in lieu of an official release. A must for Macca fans.
This is an sterling release on RattleSnake and one of the best McCartney’s available.