Paul McCartney, Academy, Liverpool

Paul McCartney's 35-song set is just brilliant... and the guitar's holding up too

If only Macca knew. Midway through "Maybe I'm Amazed", a man who used to manage the Liverpool Academy, back when it was called the L2, leans over and informs me that the building, tucked away in a side alley behind Lime Street station, was originally a slaughterhouse. The metal rings and meat hooks are still visible in the dressing rooms where, under clingfilm, a vegan aftershow buffet awaits.

This spartan, 1,200-capacity space, all breezeblock walls and bare overhead ducts, is the venue Paul McCartney has chosen to get back to where he once belonged. It concludes a series of intimate shows, including one at London's now rescued 100 Club, which he's clearly doing more for love than money. And you know what? He's indisputably brilliant.

I'm over 40 now, and perhaps it's time to drop my opposition. Even for a professional Beatle-sceptic, there comes a point where, if you're listening to McCartney playing McCartney songs and you're not enjoying it, you're being perverse. And if you're not joining in with the la-la-las on "Hey Jude" till your throat hurts, you're the one who's missing out.

Crisp white of shirt and Just For Men dark of hair, the voice far stronger than last year's X Factor appearance would suggest, he performs for more than two hours, delivering a mammoth 35-song set which stretches from The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" right up to his most recent studio album, Memory Almost Full. Frequently, he's toting that bass – the same iconic Hofner "violin" model he's had since 1963 – and I won't pretend it isn't a thrill to see it.

For those who follow the Alan Partridge line that Wings were "only the band The Beatles could have been", there's "Jet" and a storming "Band on the Run", but no "Live And Let Die": the ceiling isn't high enough for the pyros. For Fab Four fundamentalists, highlights include a rollicking "Back in the USSR", the Beasties-sampled "The End" (he sued them) and, with Paul at the piano, my personal favourite "The Long and Winding Road", even if Phil Spector was right about the strings.

McCartney's tour-toughened band absolutely nail the intro to "Eleanor Rigby", a song whose structure – it starts halfway through, then goes back to the start – must have felt impossibly futuristic in 1966. It helps that they have a soundman who rides the faders like a virtuoso, rather than setting the levels and going for a sandwich.

Certain songs, after decades of cultural immersion, suffer by unfortunate associations. If you cherish tonight's encore, "Yesterday" – "a song I wrote in the shadow of the gasworks" – be sure never to listen to the lisping version by Daffy Duck.

McCartney is often criticised for his cheery banality and, as "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" reminds us, it's not entirely unfounded. A chasm between intent and execution opens when he introduces a song he wrote during the civil rights troubles in the US, "in the hope that if someone in Little Rock, Arkansas, heard it, it might give them some hope". Wow, what's this gonna be? Some incendiary dynamite, surely? Um, actually it's bloody "Blackbird", off The White Album.

There is, as it happens, plenty of localised chat. He reminisces about knocking around with George on Upton Green in Speke, and the day Harrison first played him "Something" on a ukulele. McCartney's rendition lacks the earth-quaking power of Shirley Bassey's cover and the sky-scraping beauty of The Beatles' recording, but it's a sweet tribute.

At the end of a 12-song Beatles run, the 68-year-old gives an almost self-parodic, thumbs-aloft salute, hoists that Hofner high, and he's gone. If Paul McCartney's "half the man I used to be", that's still quite some man.



Next Week

Simon Price catches the rapid rise of emo-electro-metal types, My Passion

Simon Price: Rock 2010

Different Class In October, for the first time in chart history, more than half of the British singles in the Top 40 were made by artists who were privately educated and/or stage-schooled. The posh takeover of pop peaked in 2010 with the rise of Eliza Doolittle, the granddaughter of Sylvia Young herself. That clunking sound you hear is one of the last remaining escape routes for the talented poor being locked shut.



She Asked, She Told Dressed in sober pinstripes and determinedly addressing the camera, one Stefani Germanotta – aka Lady Gaga – made a dignified appeal to politicians and, more importantly, her millions of fans to pester politicians, to take down the US Army's homophobic Don''t Ask, Don't Tell rule. By December, the Senate had passed a Bill to repeal it.



Going Green We're all in favour of British rap. We've all enjoyed seeing home-grown stuff dominating the charts and repelling the American invasion. But does it have to mean grunting over old INXS records like Mike Skinner's idiot kid brother?



Cape Crusaders The arrival of Cape Town crazies Die Antwoord – a bilingual filth-rap collective fronted by the wiry Ninja and helium-voiced midget Yolandi Visser – was 2010's biggest WTF? moment, leaving listeners genuinely unable to decide whether their single "Enter the Ninja" was brilliant or appalling. Clue: this usually means it's brilliant.



Reality Bites Those feeling stupid for investing so much emotion in this year's X Factor can console themselves in the knowledge that they've been the victim of world-class manipulators. The tricks employed to keep charmless brat Katie Waissel in the contest provided a weekly opportunity to vent pent-up anger in a cathartic Two Minutes' Hate. The real contender was Scouse Aretha soundalike Rebecca, the comedy stooge was middle-aged Brazilian walrus of love, Wagner Fiuza-Carrilho, but the star was Cher Lloyd, an elastic-eyebrowed 16-year-old from Malvern whose imperious audition with an obscure R&B song sent multiple versions of "Turn My Swag On" into the charts. The actual winner, razor-dodging, castrato-voiced decorator Matt Cardle, centre, will be forgotten faster than you can say Leon Jackson.



Back ... For Good? The Libertines' comeback, cashing in on their myth at the Reading/Leeds festivals, made bigger headlines, but Suede's swaggering return to the Royal Albert Hall and Adam Ant's chaotic guerilla gigs were both masterclasses in how to recapture the fire of your early years.



Gone ... But Not Forgotten The Reaper has been working overtime. In 2010, sadly, we lost punk mastermind Malcolm McLaren, folk's Kate McGarrigle, jazz greats John Dankworth and Lena Horne, and soul stars in swathes.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?