Paul McCartney - MEN Arena Manchester
There really is only one criticism you could make regarding Paul McCartney’s performance at Manchester’s MEN Arena: the length. As the two hour mark ticked by, worried spectators looked anxiously at their watches thinking of trains back home, babysitters, work the next day. Some had to leave early, though no doubt very reluctantly. For those of us able to stay to the very end the entire show passed by like a dream. Three hours. No opening act. No intermission - just a cascade of classic tunes.
McCartney surely defines the notion of Living Legend, author of some of the most beloved and most successful songs of all time. Like Croesus plunging his hands into his chest of gold and letting the coins fall through his fingers, he can pull upon a back catalogue with few rivals. Starting off with The Beatles’ gem ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ McCartney and his excellent band plowed through 39 (yes, 39) tunes that left many visibly moved. He showed few signs of his 69 years, rocking as long and as hard as many performers a fraction of his age, his distinctive voice as sure as ever, and still able to hit all those “oooos” with ease.
As one song ends you wait with bated breath for what comes next. This was indeed a trip down memory lane, for even those in the audience not born when the Fab Four penned them, the music, and indeed even Macca’s solo work with Wings, was something most had grown up with. The oldie - but goodie - ‘All My Loving’ was followed by the rousing 1974 hit ‘Junior’s Farm' then back to ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’. Songs like ‘The Night Before’ and ‘Paperback Writer’ (with McCartney playing the original guitar used on the recording) were album perfect, while others contained added twists, like Wings tune ‘Let Me Roll It’ ending with a nod to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ or ‘All You Need Is Love’ tagged onto the end of the epic 'A Day In The Life’.
In between numbers McCartney would regale the audience with stories and anecdotes, like the time he met Russian dignitaries who casually informed him that they had learned English by listening to Beatles songs: “If you had told me while I was growing up in Liverpool that I would one day meet the Russian Defense Minister I would never have believed you.”
Celebrating the re-release of the classic Wings album Band On The Run McCartney treated the crowd to its highlights, including the title track, 'Mrs. Vandebilt' and a blazing rendition of 'Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five'. Other Wings tunes found their way into the set: the beautiful ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ and Bond theme tune ‘Live And Let Die' replete with a spectacular (and health and safety nightmare) pyrotechnics display.
There were also lovely homages to his late comrades. McCartney introduced the very moving ‘Here Today’ as a conversation he wished had taken place with John Lennon. The George Harrison classic ‘Something’ began softly and sweetly with just McCartney on the ukulele (an instrument Harrison was fond of) before erupting into a full band spectacle with images of both men flashing by on the giant screens.
From the start the audience were expected to take part in the show, whether it was joining in on the delightful ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ or “na na na na na-ing” our hearts out to ‘Hey Jude’. Lucky members of the crowd, some traveling as far afield as Argentina and Korea to attend the show, were invited up on stage.
During the second encore Macca strolled out with just his acoustic guitar and without further ado began performing the most covered and certainly one of the most well-known songs in history, ‘Yesterday’, joined in by a choir of delighted spectators who sang along. “Would you like us to keep rocking?” Macca asked and then he and the band launched into the furious ‘Helter Skelter' before finally ending the evening with ‘The End’. Paul McCartney more then lived up to his reputation as a first-class showman, delivering well and truly beyond the call of duty. You can’t ask for more than that.
Magical Mystery Tour, Junior’s Farm, All My Loving, Jet, Got To get You Into My Life, Sing The Changes, The Night Before, Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady, Paperback Writer, The Long And Winding Road, Come And Get It, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five, Maybe I’m Amazed, I’m Looking Through You, And I Love Her, Blackbird, Here Today, Dance Tonight, Mrs. Vanderbilt, Eleanor Rigby, Ram On, Something, Band On The Run, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Back In The USSR, I’ve Got Feeling, A Day In The Life/Give Peace A Chance, Let It Be, Live And Let Die, Hey Jude
The Word/All You Need Is Love/She Loves you, Wonderful Christmas, Day Tripper, Get Back,
Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, The End