Paul on TV! And CD, too!

Paul McCartney played a big show last summer at NYC’s Citifield, which occupies the space of NYC’s Shea Stadium, and so now comes the massive cd/dvd package, and on Thanksgiving night an hour-long TV special which not only BOMBED (Leno got better numbers) but sort of deserved it.

He shouldn’t. He’s terrific. He’s funny. He’s charming. Listen to the concert and it’s hard not to be flabbergasted at how good he is, even now. And someone tell me, please – how does his voice sound younger and stronger than it did 20 years ago on “Tripping the Live Fantastic’? It does. Simply amazing.

But the TV show. As TV specials go, this was not the least bit special: A slightly enhanced cut-down of the DVD, really, with some newish interview chunks, which are most notable for how bizarre Paul’s hair is looking. Not just weirdly black (dude needs a new colorist, I’m afraid) but also flat and combed into a kind of odd pageboy-like ‘do which made him look like a cuter Severus Snape.

Then came the many, many Beatle segments. The clips of the boys at Shea in ’65, the freakishly right-on sound of Paul circa ’09 shrieking “I’m Down” in the same key, and with nearly the same power, as Paul circa ’65. That’s amazing. So too is his eagerness to serve as the Beatles’ official ambassador to the 21st century. Once a Beatle, Paul is now THE Beatle. If only due to the verities of mortality and the cruelties of man and nature. It’s terribly sad. I can’t think it’s his best case scenario. But what did Jim McCartney tell him and tell him and tell him back in Liverpool? Oh yes, “Soldier on.” And so he does.

But he’s got nothing new to say about any of it, really. And maybe that’s not a surprise, given how often he’s been called upon to tell the old stories over and over again. I wonder if he’s tired of talking about it by now? Or, conversely, whether recalling the Beatle years – now as the last (main) Beatle standing – means too much for him to ever set it aside.

So Paul at 67 is still talking more or less nonstop about Paul at 23, recalling those magical days when nothing was real and everything was possible. As lovely as it is to see one of those beautiful boys still up and running at nearly full strength 44 years later, there’s the sadness, too. The realization that time passes, that the world hurtles through space, that the most beautiful thing that ever was is now, and forever, a memory.

What we’d give….will never be enough.

So what? RIght now I’m listening to Paul sing “Sing the Changes” off the CD. Really, this is beautiful enough for me. Should be for you, too. “Electric Arguments.” Get it now.

Good to see Paul thought enough of that album to put two of those tunes on the live album, and “Highway” on the tv special. Also cool that he finally stretches out a few of the old familiar arrangements (he’s so leery of changing a note from the old, original arrangements – as if there’s no difference between Dylan’s rip-it-to-shred approach and the human-jukebox tack he’s taken for the last 20 odd years.

So I’m ignoring the tunes I’ve heard/seen on his cd’s over and over and over again for 33 years (give or take) and focusing on the new and/or reworked (at last!) tunes. The extended tag on “Paperback Writer” and “I’ve Got A Feeling.”  The full-band “Calico Skies,” the new stage arrangements for “Sing the Changes” and “Highway.” Not so thrilled with “A Day in the Life,” mostly b/c of the awkward shift to “Give Peace a Chance,” nor the ukulele-powered “Something” that is note-for-note the same one from “Concert for George” And “Back in the USA.” But check out that thrashy “Helter Skelter.” When dude is on it, he’s really on it.

Now all he needs to do is find a rational structure for the show (how does “Day Tripper” follow an epic like “Hey Jude”? And I LOVE “Day Tripper”?

It’s hard to be Paul. Insanely hard. He does it pretty well, most of the time. But still. What a gig.

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