Thursday, October 27, 2005

McCartney plays decades of hits

Paul McCartney opened his Oct. 23 Milwaukee "US" concert with "Magical Mystery Tour," the title song to a long-ago Beatles album.

It was an apt choice since McCartney has been on his own 'magical tour' since 1962. That's the year the Beatles rocketed (or rocked) to stardom. McCartney was just 19.

To quote a Fidelity Investments advertisement, McCartney has been a "Quarryman, Beatle, Wing, poet, painter, father, frontman, producer, business mogul and knight."

Now 63, Sir Paul mustered those decades of experience into a crowd-pleasing extravaganza, including a synchronized light show, at the Bradley Center.

Building anticipation for McCartney's appearance didn't seem necessary but the event included a pre-show with DJ Freelance Hellraiser (who played the Twin Freaks re-mixes of Paul's songs) and a brief film chronicling the pop star's life from childhood to his appearance at this year's Super Bowl half-time and Live 8 shows.

Then fans got what they were waiting for, a lengthy show featuring dozens of classic songs-- some never before played in concert-- performed by a master musician with a crack back-up band. (Those players include drummer Abe Laboriel Jr.; Rusty Anderson, guitar; Paul Wickens, keyboards; and Brian Ray, guitar and bass.)

Hofner bass in hand, McCartney followed his opener with "Flaming Pie," "Jet," "I'll Get You," "Drive My Car," and "Till There Was You." He switched to his Les Paul guitar for "Let Me Roll It," a heavier Wings' number; then played bass on "Got to Get You Into My Life."

Switching to a grand piano which rose from below the stage, McCartney performed his current single, "Fine Line," "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Long and Winding Road." Next, he pulled out a composition from the Quarrymen period and played "In Spite of All The Danger," a obscure song be wrote with George Harrison in the 1950's. Acoustic versions of "I Will" and "Jenny Wren" followed.

He returned to grand piano to play "For No One," "Fixing a Hole" and "English Tea" from his new album. More acoustic material followed including "I'll Follow the Sun," "Blackbird" and "Eleanor Rigby."

McCartney returned to his Hofner for "Too Many People" from 1971's "Ram" LP and added "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Good Day Sunshine," "Band on the Run," and "Penny Lane."

He rounded out the program with "I've Got A Feeling," Back in the USSR," "Hey Jude," and "Live and Let Die," complete with mind-boggling pyrotechnics.

The crowd was treated to two encores. The first featured "Yesterday," "Get Back," and for those who think McCartney can't rock hard, a incredible version of "Helter Skelter." The second included "Please Please Me," the Beatles' first No. 1 hit; and "Let It Be," performed on psychedelic upright piano. The show finished with the perfect closer, "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)/ The End."

On a 'magical mystery tour' of our own, this week's concert was the third time my wife Sue and I along with friends Bob and Carol Nygaard, have seen McCartney perform live. We traveled to Chicago's Rosemont Horizon on Dec. 4, 1989 for McCartney's World Tour in support of his "Flowers in the Dirt" album. During the Illinois performance, engineers recorded a little-known track called "Together" which appeared on the "Tripping the Live Fantastic" double compact disc.

Then, on June 2, 1993 we caught McCartney in Milwaukee during his New World Tour after the release of the "Off the Ground" CD. The show at County Stadium was nearly cancelled at the last minute due to rain shorting out the sound system. McCartney remarked that he had never seen "such a nice collection of raincoats."

During his recent Milwaukee show McCartney proved he has nothing to prove. He played decades of hit songs, entertaining 12,000 fans for hours.

Next year, McCartney will turn the age he mentioned in his Beatles composition "When I'm 64."

Still, there's no sign he's about to retire, for McCartney clearly loves what he's doing.

So, the 'magical mystery tour' continues. All aboard!

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