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
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'