Hollywood Casino Amphitheater, Tinley Park, IL
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Reviewed by Jeff Elbel. Photos by Curt Baran.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney knows what people want. “We can tell what songs you like,” he said midway through a nearly three-hour show. “If it’s an old Beatles song, your phones light up. It’s like a galaxy of stars at night. If it’s one of the new ones, it’s like a black hole.”
He quickly added, “We’re gonna do [the new stuff] anyway.” McCartney did feature fresher material, including the urgent rocker “Save Us,” buoyant piano piece “Queenie Eye,” and the summery, bouncing title track from his 2013 album New. 2015 single “FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West and McCartney translated well to McCartney’s own cracking band, although his oldest recorded song was more fun for singing along. That distinction went to a sparkling acoustic version of The Quarrymen’s 1958 track “In Spite of All the Danger,” written by McCartney and late Beatle George Harrison.
The bulk of the 57-year-spanning set reflected what fans really came to hear – tunes from the most celebrated catalog in rock and roll music. The 24 songs by the Beatles alone would have made a satisfying show, ranging from the 1963 debut album’s “Love Me Do” to “I’ve Got a Feeling” from 1970’s Let it Be. And yes, historians, the show concluded with “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End” – a medley taken from 1969’s Abbey Road, the album the Beatles actually recorded last.
Songs from elsewhere in McCartney’s career were also welcomed, including deeper cuts like Wings’ “Letting Go” and the proto-electropop single “Temporary Secretary.”
McCartney delighted fans with stories associated with his songs. “Let Me Roll It” morphed into a Hendrix tribute and tale about rubbing elbows with the guitar god in London. “I Wanna Be Your Man” prompted a story about the Rolling Stones, and how their reputation as rivals and enemies to the Beatles was “fake news.” Meetings with Russian dignitaries during McCartney’s visit as the first rocker to play Red Square were described following “Back in the USSR.” During the acoustic set, McCartney offered a peek behind the curtain, revealing the musical origins of “You Won’t See Me.”
The singer also made dedications to loved ones past and present. “Maybe I’m Amazed” was dedicated to late wife and Wings partner Linda McCartney. Tender piano ballad “My Valentine” from 2012’s Kisses on the Bottom was offered to wife Nancy, in attendance at the show. “Something” was begun on ukulele in tribute to Harrison. McCartney played Tug of War’s “Here Today” alone on the acoustic guitar, presented as a conversation with John Lennon. Afterward, he recommended that people not miss the opportunity to speak from the heart to others, while the chance is available. “If you got something nice to say to someone, get it said,” he said.
McCartney played his famous Hofner bass for older Beatles classics like “A Hard Day’s Night.” He moved to a psychedelic parlor piano for “Fool on the Hill” and grand piano for “Hey Jude” and the bombastic “Live and Let Die.” He dug into his electric guitar part with glee on “Hi, Hi, Hi.” Throughout the show, McCartney leaned on his longstanding bandmates including guitarist Rusty Anderson, guitarist/bassist Brian Ray, and jovial drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. One of the show’s most elegant moments was the duet between McCartney on acoustic guitar and Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards. “These guys can play …,” said McCartney, pausing before adding the cheeky jab, “… chess.”
Some critics have recently complained about the 75-year-old musician’s voice, and truth be known, it wasn’t pristine during the otherwise grand “Let it Be.” But the energy, enthusiasm and outsized talent McCartney brought to the exhaustive set list were undeniable. He ably managed the throaty blues howl of “1985” and falsetto coo of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Alone with his acoustic guitar, “Blackbird” and “Yesterday” were tender and effective pleas for outer and inner peace. Inexplicably, he never took a sip of water. In any case, McCartney had tens of thousands of voices to support him by singing every word.
No one wanted the show to end, and McCartney knew that, too. He broke the bad news with characteristic humor. “We’ve had a great time, but there does come a time that we’ve gotta go,” he said. “It’s roughly the same time that you’ve gotta go, too.”
A Hard Day’s Night
Can’t Buy Me Love
Let Me Roll It
I’ve Got a Feeling
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Maybe I’m Amazed
We Can Work It Out
In Spite of All the Danger
You Won’t See Me
Love Me Do
And I Love Her
The Fool on the Hill
I Wanna Be Your Man
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
Hi, Hi, Hi
Carry That Weight
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