Wings Flies Again! (Piccadilly Circus PCCD-95/96/97/98)
Wings Flies Again! is another title in the ongoing Piccadilly Circus series chronicling Paul McCartney’s exploits around the globe. This release is a four disc set with the two Hollywood Bowl performances in March. This is the location of several famous Beatle performances in 1964 and 1965 and the first time McCartney played there since 1993.
Like with much McCartney does, there was much reflection in the press to find the deeper meaning as if he has transcended being a rock star to becoming a cultural icon. The press reports contained statements to this effect. Hollywood Laist, in a lengthy review of the first show, concludes by pointing out that “the real emotional killer was wholly unexpected: the childlike ‘White Album’ nugget ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’. Never one of my favorite Beatles songs, I nevertheless found myself very moved as I noticed how many very young children were in the audience, as young as four or five years old, now out of their chairs and dancing with their parents. Beatles music was certainly one of my favorite things as a little kid, and it was just a terribly heartwarming sight to behold, against the backdrop of this silly but highly effective earworm of a song. And that kind of momentary pure joy at a rock show is an increasingly rare thing at any price.”
And the Examiner began their review by saying: “If Paul McCartney’s show at the Hollywood Bowl last night proved anything, it is that Beatlemania will never die for any of us, and certainly not for Sir Paul, himself. Despite anything in the past, McCartney tightly embraced The Beatles and their music. McCartney was sentimental last night, with this marking his first set of shows at the Hollywood Bowl since 1993. The Beatles had played at the Bowl on August 23, 1964 and August 30, 1965, adding to the legendary status the venue has worldwide. This was McCartney’s second night at the amphitheater on his Up and Coming 2010 tour, which marks McCartney’s first tour in five years.”
And the LA Weekly blog stated: “And, in the end, what did it all mean? Did the love Paul McCartney take equal the love he made? With such expensive tickets, he’s not exactly a working-class hero. But, on the other hand, his well-chosen set list was deeper and more generous than ever. It’s hard to hate a guy who has still shows so much joy in performing, especially when he doesn’t have to and seemingly has nothing left to prove.
“It’s not McCartney’s fault he’s not John Lennon or that Lennon isn’t around to take the piss out of him. Of course, the real tragedy is that we don’t know what would’ve happened. That’s the sad part. That’s the huge, whole, unfair, tragic void that hangs in the air. But you can’t blame him. Give Paul a chance. And give him some credit. His musical tributes to Harrison and Lennon were creative and heartfelt, with the added grace of being communally cathartic for fans.”
It is hard to escape the idea of Paul as cultural icon. For more than forty years he’s towered over pop music and his influence is felt in almost music that has come after him. Perhaps only Bob Dylan has had a similar effect. But ultimately the meaning behind the meme is that of an artist working in the rock and roll medium and it’s by that standard he’s judged. These shows, despite some rough spots, are a definite success.
Hollywood Bowl Los Angeles, CA – March 30th, 2010
Disc 1 (78:34): Venus And Mars / Rock Show / Jet, All My Loving, Letting Go, Drive My Car, Highway, Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady, The Long and Winding Road, Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five, (I Want To) Come Home, My Love, I’m Looking Through You, Two Of Us, Blackbird, Here Today, Dance Tonight, Mrs Vanderbilt, Eleanor Rigby
Disc 2 (79:47): Something, Sing the Changes, Band on the Run, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Back in the U.S.S.R., 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, Day Tripper, Lady Madonna, Get Back, Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), The End
The first Hollywood Bowl exists on a very good but fuzzy audience recording. While is a good listen, there is a shade of fuzz that never alleviates. It is, however, good enough to be enjoyed and to feel the warmth and excitement of the performance.
The new additions to the set are welcomed by the audience, especially the “rock and roll at the Hollywood Bowl” line in “Rock Show.” Paul loses his place in “Jet” and the band stumble to the song’s conclusion. “Letting Go,” another great Wings live piece, is resurrected for these shows. The lack of a horn section renders this song limp. The synthesizers are not enough to compensate for the live brass.
“Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five” is played for the second time lime (the first is the preceding show in Arizona) and sounds tremendous live. “My Love” is dedicated to Linda and several interesting choices are made afterwards in “I’m Looking Through You” and “Two Of Us.” It’s enough that they form a thematic contrast to “My Love,” but they are also very rare songs played live.
The second half of the show contains more familiar tunes. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is the only new addition to the set. The concert reaches a climax with a scintillating performance of “Live And Let Die.” The explosions are extremely loud in this recording and there is also a strange noise covering the music. The evening ends with the final encore of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)” and “The End.”
Hollywood Bowl Los Angeles, CA – March 31th, 2010
Disc 3 (79:46): Venus And Mars / Rock Show / Jet, All My Loving, Letting Go, Drive My Car, Highway, Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady, The Long and Winding Road, Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five, Let ‘Em In, My Love, I’ve Just Seen A Face, And I Love Her, Blackbird, Here Today, Dance Tonight, Mrs Vanderbilt, Eleanor Rigby, Something
Disc 4 (79:07): Sing the Changes, Band on the Run, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Back in the U.S.S.R., 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, Day Tripper, Lady Madonna, Get Back, Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), The End
The recording for the second night is much worse than the first. It is distant and thin and marred by audience talking throughout the performance. It sounds as if it were taped from the grass section far away from the band shell. It is clear enough to give a good impression of the show, but not nearly as enjoyable as the first night.
The set begins the same with the “Venus And Mars,” “Rock Show” and “Jet” medley. It’s played much tighter this time with no mistakes. There are interesting changes in the set list during the first half of the show. After “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five” they pull out “Let ‘Em In” from Wings at the Speed of Sound. However, like with “Letting Go” the lack of a brass section renders the performance a bit flat.
“My Love” is followed by “I’ve Just Seen A Face” instead of “I’m Looking Through You.” It sounds more appropriate following the mellow love song. And the theme continues with “And I Love Her,” the old Beatles tune Paul resurrected for the Good Evening Europe tour in December.
The grand piano based epic ballads form the anchor at the end of the show with “Let It Be,” “Live And Let Die” and “Hey Jude” in which audience cheering drowns out the music.
Wings Flies Again! is a good document of these two shows. It is a shame the sound quality weren’t so different between the two shows. But it works well as a nice souvenir of the shows for those who attended. Piccadilly Circus package this in a fatboy jewel case with thick one sided artwork and no inserts for the inside.