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Review: Paul McCartney & His Band Are In Lean, Fighting Form

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 26, 2017 6:11PM

Paul McCartney plays the amphitheater in Tinley Park, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Over nearly three hours and 39 songs on Tuesday night, Paul McCartney made a pretty strong argument against any claims he might be going through the motions or needlessly trading on sentimentality during his current One On One tour. Sure, there were numerous nods to his Beatles hey-day, and miniature tributes to famous departed bandmates and friends—including John Lennon, George Harrison, George Martin and Jimi Hendrix—but those gestures felt heartfelt and genuine, a master sharing precious memories.

McCartney’s touring band was filled with the team that has backed him since he started touring again in 2003—and hasn’t really stopped since)with guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, keyboardist Paul "Wix" Wickens, and drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. (arguable one of the strongest weapons in Sir Paul’s live arsenal with his ability to fill so much space with both his persuasion skills and his vocal support).

The tour's stage set is tastefully minimal, and while it occasionally makes good use of projections on scrims over the stage and two huge screens framing the action, the majority of the light show consists of making sure McCartney and the band are the show the spotlights are focused upon. And on such a simple stage, McCartney's smallest movements projected far to the back. And Sir Paul proved he's still got it when movements as simple as removing his jacket early in the show, or giving a playful waggle of his hips toward the audience, elicited teenage-volume screams from the audience.

As McCartney bounded about the stage, at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, it was remarkable how much a member of a working band he was, and not at all just some icon happy to be trotted out to front a history lesson. That isn't to say he didn't school the crowd on the touchpoint of his vast career, touching on everything from The Beatles, Wings, and high-profile collaborations.

Paul McCartney at the amphitheater in Tinley Park, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

McCartney's tweaks of familiar material provided some of the more insightful moments of the evening. His dip into the song he co-wrote with Kanye West and Rihanna, "FourFiveSeconds," was transformed from a subtle pop meditation into into a big old singalong that built from a slow acoustic preamble into a big, stadium crowd-pleasing end.

The fan-favorite but often critically maligned "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was gifted with an aggressive drive and quickened tempo that reinvigorated the song by giving it some teeth, and this even made the inevitable vocal back and forth at the song's end somewhat palatable.

In a quieter interlude near the show's first quarter, McCartney even trotted out his first song with the proto-Beatles group The Quarrymen, on a set that mimicked a rural wooden porch; a nice nod and wink to simpler times even if the fact of the matter probably saw said Quarrymen playing the song in someone's dark basement or small rehearsal space at the time.

Paul McCartney at the amphitheater in Tinley Park, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
McCartney decried the idea that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were ever rivals as "fake news!" and then, to prove it, played the song he and Lennon gave Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1963, "I Wanna Be Your Man," that would go on to chart as the Stones' first hit in England.*

The evening took the crowd on a grand tour hat didn't miss a single stop and left all passengers exhausted by the time the inevitable balls of flame punctuated the massive chorus of "Live And Let Die" and the final massive crowd participation that closed out the main set with "Hey Jude," filled with thousands of throats voicing "na-na-na-na" over and over again.

Somehow McCartney and his band seemed barely winded as they returned to the stage brandishing various flags—including the U.S.A., the U.K., the State of Illinois, and a Rainbow Flag. Well, all except Laboriel, whose victory lap saw him toasting the crowd with a full glass of wine. And from that point onward the assembled were treated to an encore that lasted as long as some band's entire sets, finishing the evening with the majestic combination of "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight," and "The End."

Full setlist for Paul McCartney at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, July 25, 2017

A Hard Day's Night
Save Us
Can't Buy Me Love
Letting Go
Temporary Secretary
Let Me Roll It
I've Got a Feeling / Hendrix Jam
My Valentine
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
Here Today
Queenie Eye
The Fool on the Hill
Lady Madonna
Eleanor Rigby
I Wanna Be Your Man
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Hi, Hi, Hi
Golden Slumbers
Carry That Weight
The End

Paul McCartney plays a second show at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre tonight, July 26.

*O.K., as a music-nerd-aside, this needs to be said. I guess "I Wanna Be Your Man" did chart higher (#12) than their debut "Come On" did (#21) on the British charts. But both songs did chart. And the next single "Not Fade Away" blew both of those previous songs out of the water at #3. But all that was over 50 years ago, so I guess what defines a hit is really less important than the fact The Beatles and The Stones were pals.