Paul McCartney gets back to Vegas
On more than one occasion since Paul McCartney announced he was heading on the road for his Freshen Up tour in support of his latest album, Egyptian Station, journalists have wondered in print, “Why is he still doing it? It’s not like he needs to.” Of course McCartney doesn’t need to, but why wouldn’t one keep selling out arenas, committing music to recording and enthusiastically promoting a tour if one was music royalty and in great shape? And had the entire Beatles and Wings catalog to create setlists from?
Then again, maybe he does need to, judging from the emotional audience responses McCartney’s been getting at concerts from the rebuilt Cavern Club in Liverpool to London’s O2 Arena (where Ringo Starr and Ron Wood joined the band onstage), Ontario to Tokyo, Austria to Argentina. The voice wavers a bit, with vocal fry giving lyrics like “Blackbird singing in the dead of night” a stirring new exquisiteness, but McCartney has the energy to play sets that run nearly 40 songs long if the Abbey Road medley (“Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End”) he’s been closing concerts with counts.
He also began adding more Wings songs to his rock shows since 2010, leading a live band that’s been together longer than The Beatles through ’70s hits such as “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die” as well as deeper cuts like “Junior’s Farm” and “Letting Go.” McCartney adds a few tunes from Egypt Station, which went to No. 1 upon its release in September, but he does not deny the audience’s appetite whatsoever for “Let It Be,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.” or even “Helter Skelter,” which McCartney had avoided playing live for years.
Still, there’s no shortage of surprises. McCartney’s been opening shows with “A Hard Day’s Night,” thrilling audiences as they recognize the sound of its arcane opening chord before McCartney sings verses last delivered live by John Lennon in 1965. The most die-hard Beatles fans know “In Spite of All the Danger” was recorded when the lads from Liverpool called themselves The Quarry-men, and he’s been kicking off encores with stomping rocker “Birthday.”
McCartney celebrated his own birthday June 18, turning 77 before his two scheduled shows at T-Mobile Arena. The tour ends July 13 at Dodger Stadium, but he barely gets a rest before the publication of the children’s picture book he authored, Hey Grandude! (think “Hey Jude”) is published. Then, in all likelihood, he’ll be back to work, following his muse wherever it takes him. He’s collaborated with Kanye West in recent history, and catchy pop track “Fuh You” from Egyptian Station was produced with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder.
Whether he’ll match the critical and commercial success of Egyptian Station with his next effort remains to be seen, but McCartney is well aware that the industry has changed and albums don’t have the same impact in the streaming age they once had. It doesn’t matter. He’s doing exactly what he wants to do, and what millions of fans want him to do.
T-Mobile Arena, 8 p.m. June 28-29, starting at $49.50 plus tax and fee. 888.929.7849 AXS