Paul McCartney, 02 Arena, London (5/5)


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The Independent Culture

You have to hand it to the pop veterans. They don't stint. Paul McCartney played three hours without interval and without leaving the stage.

A few months off 70, he is a phenomenon. He looks and sounds remarkable, and the energy levels are boundless. He has the peerless ability to transport an audience back to what, aided by screen projections of frolicking mop tops and psychedelic images, he convinces you are happier or at least more colourful times. And transport us he did, opening with Hello Goodbye and All My Loving. Sandwiched between the two was a minor Wings’ hit Junior’s Farm. Not many songs could cope with being the meat in the sandwich of those two Beatles classics. Junior’s Farm certainly couldn’t.

But it was quickly back to numbers from his first heyday, two from 1965 performed in the UK for the first time, The Night Before and the Word. It just took the 46 years then to give these an airing.

Surprisingly perhaps, it was two Wings numbers that nearly stole the show, the supremely classy Let Me Roll It, apparently a favourite of McCartney’s new wife, which shows her to be a woman of taste, and the almost forgotten Mrs Vandebilt with its disarmingly catchy ho hey ho chorus.

I had some niggles. His band, which disconcertingly has been with him longer than The Beatles were together, doesn’t always give his songs the subtlety they deserve. A song like Maybe I’m Amazed scores because of the contrast of its quiet, soulful opening and the impassioned yell of the later verse. Play it at one constant, driving pace and volume, and something is lost.

Also, A Day In The Life is a too perfect, too symmetrical confection to only deliver half of it.

But what price niggles, when the middle section of the show once more transported us with beautifully rendered versions of I’ve Just Seen a Face, I Will and Blackbird, the last played as a solo acoustic number, and the inevitable but somehow always fresh Eleanor Rigby.  

And the last section was pure heaven. Not just the stunning pyrotechnics of Live and Let Die, more the evergreen Day Tripper which defies you not to sing along, and the final segment of the Abbey Road album ending with the evening with the words “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make”, a real McCartneyism if ever there was one.