Paul McCartney – The Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival (Piccadilly Cirus PCCD-65/66/67)

The Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival (Piccadilly Cirus PCCD-65/66/67)

The Empire Polo Field Indio, CA – April 17, 2009

Disc 1 (76:25):  Jet, Drive My Car, Only Mama Knows, Flaming Pie, Got To Get You Into My Life, Let Me Roll It, Honey Hush, Highway, The Long And Winding Road, My Love, Blackbird, Here Today, Dance Tonight, Calico Skies, Mrs. Vanderbilt, Eleanor Rigby,  Sing The Changes, Band On The Run 

Disc 2 (73:28):  Back in the U.S.S.R., Something, I’ve Got A Feeling, Paperback Writer, A Day in the Life – Give Peace a Chance, Let It Be, Live And Let Die, Hey Jude, Birthday, Can’t Buy Me Love, Lady Madonna, Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Get Back, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) – The End

Disc 3 (51:50):  Jet, Drive My Car, Only Mama Knows, Flaming Pie, Got To Get You Into My Life, Let Me Roll It, Honey Hush, Highway, The Long And Winding Road, My Love, Blackbird, Here Today, Sing The Changes

The Coachella Music and Arts Festival timeline was featured in The Desert Sun 4-16-09 article with portions of it reading: “March 1987: Alex Haagen III launches the Empire Polo Club in Indio October 1993: Goldenvoice stages a concert by Pearl Jam at the Empire Polo Club. The 25,000 people it attracts look tiny in a hill in the corner of the huge polo field, convincing co-founders Paul Tollett and Rck Van Santen this field could be filled with several stages and multiple bands, like European music festivals….Oct 9-10, 1999: Goldenvoice presents its first Coachella Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club with Beck and Tool headlining Saturday and Sunday respectively. Twenty thousand people attend Day 1, 30,000 Day 2. Coachella loses about $1 million after charging $50 a day, but critics rave and local hotels sell out. The show must go on… April 28, 2001: Goldenvoice skips a year to recoup its 1999 losses and returns as a division of AEG live. 35,000 people pay $65 a ticket.

Coachella breaks even…April 27-28, 2002: Bjork and Oasis headline the third festival. Some 55,000 people help Coachella turn a profit…April 22-23, 2003: The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys headline two days with 75 bands. Coachella makes another profit…May 1-2, 2004: Coachella has its first sold-out festival. Sadly, Coachella co-founder Rick Van Santen dies before the festival…April 30, May 1, 2005: More than 90 bands attract 100,000 people…April 29-30, 2006: Festival attendance hits 120,000 thanks largely to Madonna, who performs for 30 minutes in a dance tent…April 27-29, 2007: The festival expands to three days as Bjork, Red Hot Chili Peppers and a reunited Rage Against the Machine headline. The festival sells out faster than ever with 180,000 fans. Tollett tells Billboard magazine he thinks the festival can now run without him…April 25-27, 2008: Young fans wonder about the selection of Jack Johnson, Portishead and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd as headliners. Coachella again achieves monumental success…April 17-19, 2009: The festival gets a new sound system, and with artists such as Paul McCartney, The Cure and Morrissey, staffers anticipate the best sounding Coachella ever.”

International reviews of Pauls’ Coachella performance last month: “Everything you could ask for in a McCartney set. Stunning. Beautiful.” [LA Weekly] “The verdict from his Coachella debut on Friday? Never underestimate the power of a Beatle… The night belonged to Paul..Pity the poor acts who had to go opposite him while 95% of those still on hand for the conclusion of Friday’s opening show packed themselves like so many sardines as close to the big Coachella stage as they could.” [Los Angeles Times] “For almost two and a half hours, he had the attention of what seemed to be the entire multigenerational festival.” [NY Times] “Moments of genuine emotional connection…McCartney unleashed some stirring sparks of electric guitar-heroism of his own with a bit of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” and the set-closing mini-epic “The End”. Mac can play.” [Rolling Stone] “People could not stop talking Sunday about Paul McCartney’s two and half-hour performance.” [San Bernardino Sun]

Audience recording

Seconds of pure audience feed give way to “Jet”, which is delivered with a slightly slower and more deliberate and punctuated performance. The band sounded tight with Abe attacking the kit. After “Drive my Car”, McCartney stated: “Hey Coachella. We came from many miles away to rock your roof tonight, Coachella” and then blasted into “Only Mama Knows” from his “Memory Almost Full” 2007 release. “Got To Get You Into My Life” had more life injected into it. “It’s gonna be a good weekend here” McCartney asserted before a heavier sounding “Let Me Roll It – Foxy Lady”. McCartney introduced “Honey Hush” from his new Fireman’s “Electric Arguments” 2008 release: “Okay. We’ve got a new friend called The Fireman. For those of you who don’t know, Fireman is my alter ego. Fireman is here to save the nation putting out the conflagration”. The band offered a closer to the vest “The Long and Winding Road’ which sounded fresher and McCartney then injected: “It’s very emotional for me tonight and my family cause, uh, April 17th – this is the anniversary of Linda’s passing and, uh, so she passed away in Arizona 11 years ago. So, uh, well you know what, she loved the desert, she loved music, she loved rock & roll, she loved it all. So this song is written for Linda. We play it for her tonight and we play it also for all the lovers in the audience – you know who you are”.

McCartney’s voice breaks up at the onset of an incredibly moving “My Love” which featured effective harmonies and solid instrumentation. “Blackbird” was a nice acoustical offering. Macca was in fine vocal form for a poignant “Here Today”. A great transition followed with another solid  track from “Memory Almost Full”, “Dance Tonight”. McCartney peppers the crowd: “Hey, how you doing. Are you warm enough. Nothing I can do about it”. A great 4:30 minute rendering of the classic “Mrs. Vanderbilt” turned things up a notch. The gain on another new effective track from Fireman’s “Electric Arguments”, “Sing the Changes” was stark with “Band On The Run” closing out the first disc.

“Back In The U.S.S.R.” offers great fidelity. “Something” was a tremendous live rendering which featured powerful guitar work and was dedicated to Harrison’s wife who was in the audience. A 5:43 rousing “I’ve Got A Feeling” included the extended appealing “newer” ending. “Paperback Writer’ was more aggressive and featured the “reworked” middle bridge. McCartney stated: “Hey – okay. So I can say it’s an emotional day for me and – uh – that’s good. That’s okay. Alot of heart. Alot of emotion”. The “A Day In The Life – Give Peace A Chance” medley was solid, however, it’s about time that Macca ditched the “Give Peace A Chance” rider and gave the epic “A Day In The Life” the true and complete rendering that it is due. It’s ironic that Sting and Neil Young, for example, consistently offer complete live versions of this classic. The version of “Let It Be” is closer to that of the original album  and really enjoyable. The thunderous jolt of fireworks at opportune moments of “Live And Let Die” along with the climactic keyboard explosions helped propel this track to another level.

Surprisingly, “Hey Jude” was also played closer to the original released album version. The first encore,”Birthday”, was effective. With “Can’t Buy Me Love’, the band proved once again their natural capability to deliver in spades their fresh and spirited interpretations of Beatles classics which rendered taking on a life of its own. Macca sounded in even stronger form as the concert was progressing with “Lady Madonna”. After starting off the 2nd encore with “Yesterday”, McCartney remarked: “I’ll tell you what – You’re a great audience – Alright – A top audience” and then tore into a furious “Helter Skelter” intro and, later, adding his own “signature” ending to this 4:00 minute classic. Following “Get Back”, McCartney stated: “I want to thank this fantastic band of mine…Most of all we want to thank you” as they finished off with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) – The End”. The tape continues running with the audience feed and then McCartney stating; “Thank you Coachella. Thank you California. We’ll see you next time”.

The first 2 discs are excellent audience recordings with the gain picking up and holding particularly after track 17, “Sing The Changes”. I took a preference to the audience source as compared with the soundboard recordings from disc 3, which I will revisit, because of the warmer and livelier sound from the audience source. The audience feed fades intermittently at various intervals but the fade outs are not sustained for any significant periods of time and did not detract from my overall listening experience. Disc 2, in particular, offers phenomenal fidelity.

Soundboard recordings

The soundboard recordings offer more punch but do exhibit a rumbling sounding hum that appears to come from the mic that can be heard in quieter passages; acoustic feedback. Once again, I did not pick up on this inherent flaw until it dawned on me that there was something off after having endured sustained listening in quieter passages to it. I would actually recommend listening to disc 3 first all the way through track 12, “Here Today”, which runs in sequential order and then flip to disc 1 to finish off tracks 13 through 18.. I suggest this only because the gain is greater with the soundboard feed, hum notwithstanding.  “Here Today” on the soundboard recordings is cut abruptly feeding into a partial 1:30 minute tremendously sounding “Sing The Changes” that also cuts out abruptly. Unfortunately, what we have here is quite an awkward and reckless way to end this soundboard recording.

I had the pleasure of watching the first 12 or 13 tracks of Coachella streamed live at At&T Music. The crystal clear visual dimension coupled with the incredible sounding audio feed was astonishing to say the least. I was able to quickly ascertain that this was a special night before I learned of the dedication for Linda. McCartney and his fine band were spot on. PCCD-65/66/67 comes recommended without reservations for repeated listens.

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