September 19, 2017
Review by David Chiu
Photos by Paul McCartney © MPL Communications Ltd/Photographer: MJ Kim
The biggest takeaway from Paul McCartney’s recent sold-out performance at the Barclays Center this past Tuesday night was his stamina, at age 75, to deliver nearly three hours’ worth of hit songs from one of the great catalogs of popular music. If Bruce Springsteen shows are the gold standard of marathon workouts, then a McCartney concert comes pretty close in terms of length and spectacle.
The former Beatle made a stop in Brooklyn as part of the One on One tour; since there’s no new solo record to promote, this tour was guaranteed to bring out the hits, and McCartney and his sturdy band followed through on that promise. Of course, the show heavily tilted towards the Beatles songs, from the obvious choices like “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “We Can Work It Out,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Back in the USSR,” and “All My Loving.” There were also some surprises for a newbie that had never seen McCartney live before: performances of such songs like the rocking “Helter Skelter,” a medley of “A Day in the Life” and “Give Peace a Chance”, “I Wanna Be Your Man” (which was one of the Stones’ early hits), and most notably “Being the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” He also presented a diverse range of Wings and solo stuff, including “Band on the Run,” “Jet,” “Junior’s Farm,” a heart-pumping rendition of “Live and Let Die” (accompanied by fireworks and flames), “Jet,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and most recently “FourFiveSeconds” from his collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna.
Certainly the touching moments of the show were McCartney’s tributes to his former Beatle bandmates John Lennon with “Here Today” and George Harrison on “Something”, as well as the acoustic moments like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Blackbird,” and a slightly reworked version of “You Won’t See Me.” Towards the end of the show, he pulled out the big guns: “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Yesterday,” and “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End”, which ended the whole evening followed by a shower of confetti.
Going all the way back to the Flowers in the Dirt tour from 1989-1990, this show was definitely an exercise in nostalgia, with McCartney referencing in his stage banter, to the effect of “We’re gonna go back in time…” as well as the on screen visuals featuring the Beatles and other iconic moments from the ’60s. And the crowd loved all of it. I know I’m in the minority for wanting to hear more Wings and solo stuff in the setlist (“No More Lonely Nights,” “My Love,” “Coming Up,” “My Brave Face,” etc., were in my wishlist) but I can’t say I was disappointed, either. If it had been the other way around for less Beatles stuff, there probably would have been a riot.
McCartney’s backing band —longtime keyboardist Wix Wickens, drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr., guitarist Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson– ably rose up to the challenge of tackling such iconic songs with verve and muscle. McCartney himself was in fine spirits as well as in good voice. Based on his enthusiastic demeanor and dry humor, it didn’t seem like for him performing the hits was perfunctory but rather quite rejuvenating. (He even paid tribute to Jimmy Fallon in the audience by performing “Birthday”). Even McCartney seemed amazed at the sense of history from the music, for example, after performing a song from the Sgt. Pepper album that turned 50 years old.
The experience wasn’t so much of just another concert but an experience—seeing one of the most legendary figures in music history still giving his all in a career spanning 60 years. It’s a moment that leaves you knocked out and exhausted by the time the show ends, but in a good way that also kind of stays with you forever.
A Hard Day’s Night
Can’t Buy Me Love
All My Loving
Let Me Roll It
I’ve Got a Feeling
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Maybe I’m Amazed
We Can Work It Out
In Spite of All the Danger
You Won’t See Me
Love Me Do
And I Love Her
I Wanna Be Your Man
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
A Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
Happy Birthday to You
Carry That Weight