Live review: Paul McCartney @ the Pepsi CenterBy John Wenzel | July 16th, 2010 | 3 comments
Is it perverse to call Paul McCartney “Beatlesesque”?
Of course it is, since he’s the most enduring member of the most enduringly popular rock band in history. But one couldn’t help thinking that as McCartney dashed onto the Pepsi Center stage Thursday night — particularly since he was wearing an outfit more than a little reminiscent of his old band from Liverpool.
A black, high-collared suit and black boots were accented by McCartney’s trademark Hofner hollow-body bass, an instrument that the thin performer still dwarfs.
Even at 68, McCartney is a ridiculously charming, unreasonably boyish performer with a strong, gorgeous voice. He still rises from his piano in triumph or lifts his guitar skyward after nearly every song (Denver Post pop music critic Ricardo Baca once compared him to a dazed prizefighter), clapping and dancing and spurring the audience to greater expressions of adulation. He’s clearly enjoying his job.
And so was the crowd. A standing ovation greeted McCartney’s appearance, one of many he would receive throughout the night. People waved homemade signs with messages such as “Can’t Buy Me Love, But This Is Pretty Darn Close.” They unfolded giant paper hearts and waved them above their heads.
McCartney responded in kind, repeatedly connecting with the audience by telling stories, dedicating songs to lost friends (Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, George Harrison) and lovers (Linda McCartney) and generally being an earnest, sentimental chap who seemingly had no right to look as upbeat and healthy as he did. (Maybe it’s that vegetarian lifestyle?)
Playing as a quintet, McCartney’s crack band effortlessly traversed his songwriting catalog, including older numbers “All My Loving,” “Paperback Writer,” “Blackbird,” “Eleanor Rigby” and other Beatles classics in which decades instantly melted away. Noisier, more ornery songs from McCartney’s “alter-ego” band, the Fireman, or songs from his soft-rock days with Wings (“Band on the Run,” etc.) sounded just as vital and fussed-over, if less memorably so.
McCartney’s two floppy-haired guitarists were solid, singing backup harmonies on Beatles numbers and doing much of the heavy lifting during solos. But his keyboard/drums rhythm-”strings” section — particularly the unnaturally gifted, versatile drummer, who was also clearly having a fantastic time throughout the concert — really held the songs together. Chills ran through my spine during some Beatles numbers, and it wasn’t hard to imagine what it must have felt like to see that band during its heyday.
McCartney, of course, is more than the Beatles, even if that group’s songs received the strongest applause of any during his long, sold-out set — which was delayed by nearly an hour, initially causing long lines to form outside the venue shortly before the advertised set time.
And there were the occasional missteps, from a distressingly bass-heavy “I’m Looking Through You” to an awkward, pyrotechnics-ridden “Live and Let Die.”
But fans were entirely forgiving of both the late start and the mixed-bag song list as McCartney delivered a bewildering number of pop and rock classics, hit after brilliant hit. And he’s an expert at working the crowd into a lather, walking on stage with a giant Colorado state flag and waving it above his head just before he began his first encore song. Cheesy as hell? Yes, but it worked.
McCartney last played Denver five years ago, and after his Thursday night performance, it would be a shame if another five passed before his return. Some Beatlemaniacs prefer Lennon’s grit and authenticity, or Harrison’s guitar prowess and spiritual bent, but when it comes to pure pop songwriting, McCartney is nearly unrivaled.
Venus And Mars/Rock Show
All My Loving
Got To Get You Into My Life
Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady
The Long And Winding Road
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Let ‘Em In
I’m Looking Through You
Two of Us
Sing The Changes
Band On The Run
Back In The U.S.S.R.
I’ve Got A Feeling
A Day In The Life/Give Peace A Chance
Let It Be
Live And Let Die
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)/The End
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John Wenzel is the co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. His book “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” was recently published by Speck Press. He also maintains a Twitter feed of random song titles.