Live review

Paul McCartney, Hyde Park, London, June 27, 2010

The last time we saw Paul McCartney on stage at Hyde Park was a year and a day ago. Then, he joined Neil Young for a coruscating version of “A Day In The Life”, sharing vocals with Neil and helping coax waves of feedback from Old Black. It was a major highlight during a tremendous run of shows last summer at Hyde Park that also included Bruce Springsteen and Blur.

This year, of course, McCartney himself is now a headliner – on a day filled with more than it’s fair share of dramas. Yes, it is the hottest day of the year so far – just over 30 degrees – and McCartney’s support line-up is a suitably Uncut-friendly collection, including Elvis Costello and CSN. But – and I hate to remind you of this – it’s also the day we lost to Germany in a major international sporting event. The crowd, then, seem in restless spirits; “I hope he plays better than England…” mutters one glum-looking man to his friend. While screens scroll through footage of McCartney stretching back to the Cavern days, and jaunty girl group cover versions of Beatles songs clatter from the speaks, the audience picks up the “Na-na na na” refrain from “Hey Jude” as a kind of terrace chant.

But, you know, there’s nothing like the sight of a former Beatle arriving on stage with thumbs aloft to lift the spirits. Arguably, “Venus And Mars/Rock Show” might not be the ideal opener – it lacks an immediate recognition value, I suppose. But, hey, “Jet” and “All My Loving” follow close behind; the greatest song-book ever written is now open and any mention of Sepp Blatter, disallowed goals or England’s shambolic defence are a bad memory best forgotten. After all, you’re not exactly going to complain about “Got To Get You Into My Life”, are you?

All the same, there are admittedly some strange moments. An outing early on for “Highway”, from his 2008 Fireman album, is met with confused glances. As Band On The Run’s “Let Me Roll It” finishes, he launches into “Foxy Lady” before whipping out a story about Hendrix and Clapton that’s – shockingly – a bit of a non-starter (Macca! Clapton! Hendrix! – how can you possibly go wrong there..?!). At one point, there appears to be a minor mishap – I’m not clear what – and McCartney and his band end up playing, rather surreally, “Tequila”. And, yes, even the most ardent McCartney fan might find it hard not to cringe at the cod-Jamaican patter that peppers his between-song banter.

But if we were to judge musicians on their sense of humour, rather than the music, I suspect we’d have all given up and gone home long ago. What’s important here are “Two Of Us”, “Blackbird”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Band On The Run”, “Day Tripper” and a half dozen more songs of impeccable pedigree. For “Paperback Writer”, he even brings on stage the actual Rickenbacker he wrote it on, which in itself raises a large cheer of approval. “Blackbird” and “Yesterday”, both played solo acoustic, are delivered to an entirely silent and respectful crowd. And, for all the cheesy pointing and winking at fellow band members and people in the crowd, he looks great, wearing a white shirt and black waistcoat, bustling around, springing to the piano, strapping on a ukelele, just being A Beatle.

There are semi-anecdotes/dedications to fallen friends – Linda (her photographs are being displayed on site), John (“Here Today”) and George (“Something”). Before “Back In The USSR” he tells a sweet little story about meeting Russians who learned English from listening to Beatles’ records; one exchange with a Russian fan was simply “Hello, Goodbye”. It ends fantastically, too, with a tremendous run through of mostly late period Beatles material including “Lady Madonna”, “Get Back” and a ferocious version of “Helter Skelter”. Good work, indeed.

Set list
Venus and Mars/Rockshow
Jet
All My Loving
Letting Go
Got To Get You Into My Life
Highway
Let Me Roll It
Long And Winding Road
1985
Let ‘Em In
My Love
I'm Looking Through You
Two Of Us
Blackbird
Here Today
Dance Tonight
Mrs Vandebilt
Eleanor Rigby
Ram On
Something
Sing The Changes
Band On The Run
Obla Di Obla Da
Back In The USSR
I Gotta Feeling
Paperback Writer
A Day In The Life
Let It Be
Live And Let Die
Hey Jude

Day Tripper
Lady Madonna
Get Back

Yesterday
Helter Skelter
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band
The End


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