This is a guest article by John Cherry
OCTOBER 11, 2014-THE SMOOTHIE KING CENTER
NEW ORLEANS, LA
I admit to being apprehensive before Paul and his band took the stage around 8:30 on Saturday night in New Orleans. My concern was whether the “illness” that had caused a delay in a portion of the tour from June to October would be a factor in Paul’s performance. My uneasiness disappeared in short order. Paul looked even better than when I saw him last, and his energy level was not affected in the least.
Prior to the show, I saw some of the longest lines ever to scoop up the tour novelties, shirts, etc. I did not stop for a purchase, but wondered if the lines were affected by personalizing the offerings to the venue. I think this is an effective idea.
The pre-show video shown on the two screens seemed to have a bit of new material. The DJ playing the music of Beatle and McCartney songs performed by many others, as well as the original Beatle and solo performances, also now had a video screen on the front of his platform showing his handling of the device producing all of the sounds. The screen also showed some crowd shots.
Arriving on stage after the familiar digital version of the Hofner bass appeared on the two video screens, Paul, attired in a navy blue jacket, saluted the crowd twice before opening with “Eight Days a Week.” The crowd was enthusiastic, especially those on the floor. Lead guitarist Rusty Anderson, showed his own enthusiasm in the second number, “Save Us,” via his leg kicking and dancing. After the song, Paul addressed the crowd. As he would do throughout the night, Paul spoke warmly about New Orleans, and shared his knowledge of local expressions, such as “How’s your Momma doing?” and “Who dat?” He also noted that the fourth song of the night, “Listen to What the Man Said” had been recorded in the city.
“Let Me Roll It” was highlighted by the solos of Paul “Wix” Wickens on the keyboards, and Paul’s electric guitar solo. After the song, the instrumental “Foxy Lady” coda began, and following it, Paul saluted Jimi Hendrix. He told of Jimi playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” on stage only two days after the official release by the Beatles, and how his hard guitar playing causing the instrument to become badly out of tune. Before starting “Paperback Writer” with the original Epiphone guitar played on the recorded version in 1966, Paul noted that he hoped his guitar was not out of tune after showing some of Jimi’s use of the vibrato on the instrument.
Heading next to the piano, Paul dedicated “My Valentine” to his wife, Nancy, who he said was in attendance. This was the first song for those in the floor seats to return to the chairs. Next was the always fantastic “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” which is my favorite addition to the song list from the last few years. Staple song “The Long and Winding Road” followed, and then Paul dedicated “Maybe I’m Amazed” to his late wife Linda. As normal, Paul was egged on by Wix during much of the vocal, and the crowd was standing again.
Back to the guitar went Paul for “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” which seems to bounce in and out of the setlist. His fondness for New Orleans was again expressed, calling it a “great place,” and he recalled coming to Mardi Gras and dressing as a clown. Despite the costume, he was recognized immediately. After “We Can Work it Out,” Paul took a number of bows. Before “Another Day,” where Paul played his 12 string guitar, he took some extra time to gaze out over the crowd, while asking how each area of the arena was doing. After the song, he took time to comment on all the signs he could see from the stage, noting a fan from Australia and a sign in French. He spoke of how it was sometimes difficult to read the signs while also trying to sing and play, and stated that any mistakes that occurred were caused by the distraction of the signs.
After a version of “And I Love Her” that was quite similar to the original version, Paul walked to the edge of the stage to acknowledge those in the front rows. Before his stage began rising during “Blackbird,” Paul told of the genesis of the song as a nod to those struggling with civil rights issues in Arkansas in the 60’s. Although he started the opening chords before stopping to talk about John, “Here Today” seemed more emotional than some previous shows, as Paul saluted his band mate. Perhaps, it was because there are a number of stories that note that John seriously considered joining Paul in New Orleans in 1974-5 to write some songs. A standing ovation met both songs.
As noted in the excellent show review in the “New Orleans Times-Picayune” by Keith Spera, it is a damn shame that the next two songs, “New” and “Queenie Eye,” from Paul’s latest album, do not receive their proper recognition. Yes, the die-hard Macca fans love it, but it is a pity that more people did not show their appreciation. As I have noted in my published books, it is sad that the quality of today’s music pales in comparison to the music of McCartney. And yet, Paul receives minimal publicity, outside of his own promotion via performances and occasional musical reviews. Nevertheless, huge kudos to Mr. Spera for noting how the significant value of the more recent McCartney releases. Much of the same thought came to me when Paul followed “Lady Madonna,” “All Together Now,” and “Lovely Rita,” with “Everybody Out There,” from the “New” album. Paul tried his best to engage the crowd in the song, but there was not significant participation in the appropriate sing along portions.
By contrast, “Eleanor Rigby” then received long applause, which Paul noted in appreciation. After telling the crowd it was receiving the first time airing in New Orleans of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” Paul performed his best version of the song I have seen on this tour. After saying “thank you good folk of New Orleans,” and “where you at darlin’?,” Paul began his tribute to George Harrison on the ukulele for “Something,” that progressed into the electric version. Most of the crowd was standing after the song.
Imploring the crowd to “sing along gloriously,” Paul launched into “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and followed the song with his own clapping in appreciation of the excellent participation. The crowd was then amped up by vigorous performances of “Band on The Run,” and “Back in the U.S.S.R,” the latter that saw Paul exchange several expressions with drummer, Abe Laboriel, Jr. With the crowd still standing, Paul returned to the piano for “Let it Be,” acknowledging the numerous lights provided by the crowd.
Prior to the raucous “Live and Let Die,” there was a short and deliberate instrumental opening, which seemed unusual, but appealing as well. I detected more fire than usual during the combo fire and fireworks show during the song. As usual, the crowd stood and roared at the finish. Also, as usual, the fans sang along for most of “Hey Jude,” before the first encore of “Day Tripper,” (Brian Ray on lead guitar), and “Birthday,” which Paul noted was played due to the fact that a number of people in the crowd were having birthdays. The first few notes of “Hi, Hi, Hi” were played before Paul stopped the song, and apparently told the band that they would switch to “Get Back” to end the first encore.
The crowd was loud as Paul and Wix returned for “Yesterday,” which is always a crowd sing along. After toying with tour assistant John Hammel in switching instruments, the 14 year old girl named MacKenzie was called up on stage to receive the crowd’s universal wish, a hug and an autograph. It was then back to the music, leading with Paul’s “Let’s rock,” as the loud, rollicking “Helter Skelter” filled the air. Returning to the piano for the medley finale, Paul told the crowd it was time to go home, which was booed by a number of those in attendance. The band enthusiastically concluded the show with their guitar solos from Paul, Rusty, and Brian, and then Paul ended the night with the comforting “See you next time.” As Spera wrote, it was “A Knight to Remember.”
John Cherry is the author of “Better Than Lennon-The Music and Talent of Paul McCartney,” and “Paul McCartney’s Solo Music Career 1970-2010.” Visit betterthanlennon.com for more information.