McCartney Revisits San Diego

Paul McCartney is arguably the most critic-proof artist touring these days. He has the deepest songbook in history, and his non-stop three hour concerts consistently leave fans satiated. He shows no signs of slowing down, weeks after starting his 78th year.

In his sold out San Diego show at Petco McCartney mined his songbook, which stretched from a pre-Beatles song through a couple tracks from his improbably strong Egypt Station album from September. Over the various times I have seen him previously (from the tiny record store gig to the Desert Trip biggest box office in history), McCartney has continued to deliver near-perfection in concert.

As folks found their seats, a DJ spun John Lennon’s Beatles songs, which I thought was a nice tribute. I was surprised when the DJ rig was removed from the stage and McCartney’s solo songs were piped through; it is rare to hear the performer’s music over the PA before the concert.

But the setlist was bulletproof. The one-two punch of the opening “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Junior’s Farm” was followed by “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Letting Go.” McCartney spent the majority of the night on bass, but moved nimbly to piano and lead guitar. His band (which has been intact far longer than The Beatles’ six year recording career or Wings’ time together) is well-oiled. The more hirsute members are in the front line; guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray flank McCartney. Keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens and the jovial drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. rounded out the band. A trio of horn players first appeared deep in the stands, and then popped up several times during the rest of the show (“Got To Get You Into My Life”) in their more traditional spot at the back of the stage.

Other great songs were “Let Me Roll It” and “I’ve Got a Feeling.” The latter was in The Beatles’ final set list, on the roof of their offices in Soho.

McCartney continues to pay tribute to his fallen comrades. The solo versions of “Something” (on ukulele) and “Here Today” were touching reflections on the unbelievable chemistry among Harrison, Lennon and McCartney.

“Band on the Run” evoked the summer of 1974, when the song was happily ubiquitous on the radio. Similarly, “Live and Let Die” (perhaps the best thing from the James Bond film of the same name) was another radio staple. Onstage, McCartney uses that song to exceed KISS with pyrotechnics that nearly overpower the stage and extend to fireworks above the stage.

McCartney was the musician who whispered into the ear of a Warner Brothers Records executive, encouraging him to sign an American guitarist who was exploding on the scene in London in the late 60s. McCartney told the San Diego audience about The Beatles releasing their Sgt. Pepper album on a Friday, and by Sunday night Jimi Hendrix was interpreting it at a club in London. With Clapton, Townshend, McCartney, Lennon and others in the audience, everyone knew a new force of nature was emerging.

McCartney winds up his concert with the opus he wrote for the last third of Abbey Road, and it was a fitting way to close. The album was the last time the four Liverpudlians recorded together, and it caps the end of the most influential band in history.

McCartney was a pivotal component of that band, and he honors that legacy in concert among the myriad other songs he wrote thereafter.

It is doubtful anyone left the show feeling less than fulfilled. A splendid time was indeed guaranteed for all.

(photos by Brad Auerbach)



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.