| home   authors | new | colophon | newsfeed | print |  
volume 5
may 2002

What a rock concert should do ...


  Paul McCartney: Driving USA 2002
by Walt Everett
  From April 1st to May 17th 2002 Paul McCartney was touring, or rather "driving" the US. Walt Everett was there on May 1st, when the Driving USA 2002 Tour played the Palace in Auburn Hills, Detroit, and takes us through the set list.
1 Great show! Paul still has ten upcoming dates beginning Saturday the 4th in the west and the south, so if you're in his path, my advice would be, don't dodge the Driving U.S.A. tour. His voice is as strong as ever: all vocal parts were covered easily, and all in original keys — a sign that he may yet have further tours in reserve. His band is solidly on the mark if not inspiringly virtuosic — but you would never have expected the latter from a McCartney show. I will take you through the set list, but let me give you my four highlights first:

1. The solo set ... in which "Blackbird" more than once shocked this blissed-out listener into realizing that the White Album was indeed not on the turntable for the thousandth time ... in which one could see Lennon's ghost emerging through the falsetto vocalizations in Paul's evocative eyes-closed phrases in "Here Today" ... and in which Paul explained how the ukulele on which he was to play "Something" was one that George Harrison had given him, and on which he had played that song for his dying friend.

  2. The realization, not always called forth from the many concert videos I've seen, that Paul really can put a song across and loves doing so. He is a visually expressive singer who — putting aside the fact that $ and £ are driving this tour — can improvise soulful graces, as in one new seemingly Roy Orbison-inspired falsetto roulade that brought "Every Night" to a new level, as in the "You're Going to Lose That Girl"-sort of finger-wagging admonishing the crowd during the second verse of "Let Me Roll It" — not to mention his sizzling Les Paul duets in that song with lead-guitarist Rusty Anderson's SG — and as in the soulful, emotive facial and hand gestures with which he carried the world of "Hey Jude".
  3. Cutting through the few seconds of corny showbiz busking — and the knowledge that from early Beatles tours onwards Paul would repeat the same patter and jokes night after night — came a stronger appreciation of this man as a gifted entertainer. Some of his material was downright funny and worthy of its repeated recitation — the massage story — actually the recounting of two incidents selected from his fictitious planned Massages Around the World book, climaxing in a situation where a Japanese masseuse once sang "Yesterday" in broken English while unsuspectingly working on the song's trapped composer — would certainly be repeated for every audience.
  Paul also had another yarn that had to have been meant for Detroit alone. In this, he recollected that on a previous tour, he'd played Pittsburgh the night after doing Detroit and, due to illness, he'd lost track of where he was. Shouting to the latter audience, "People of Detroit!! ...," a bewildered and unappreciative response enlightened him to continue, " ... You are not!! People of Pittsburgh ... you are!!" This wheeze might seem apocryphal, or perhaps one that could be conveniently adjusted from city to city, but research bears out that in February 1990, McCartney played a Pittsburgh show the night after one in Detroit, so ill that he had to cut several numbers from the Pennsylvania set list.
  4. The energy level was surprisingly high. This guy never was Bruce Springsteen, but McCartney's infectious power transcended the fact that he drilled thirty-plus songs straight through two-plus hours with only one sip of a drink as a ten-second break. This is a man with 45 years of stage experience, now two weeks shy of his sixtieth birthday, in the middle of a 27-date tour in the space of a month and a half, who came off last night as a youthful artist at the peak of his career.
2 McCartney's aura was certainly enhanced by the laid-back foil provided by three of his four sidemen — drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr., was considerably more highly charged, for the most part, than were quiet and lanky guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray and keyboardist Paul "Wix" Wickens — and perhaps also by the fact that I came prepared for both a lackluster go-through-the-motions show by a mediocre band and an all-round disappointment that might give me trouble staying awake for the long drive home. But after having roused the crowd to its stomping feet through the third encore, "I Saw Her Standing There", Paul unleashed the capacity crowd's adrenaline by flinging his 1963 "Beatle" bass twenty-five feet across the stage to an able-handed roadie so he could take an unencumbered from-the-waist "Beatle" bow. Rush after rush.
  And the energy was beautifully modulated through the concert. As Wix joked in his one moment at the mic, bands often have difficulty determining how to arrange the hits amongst all the numbers in a set list. With this show, he said — as he mimed juggling numerous unmanageable objects — the difficulty was, well, he didn't have to verbalize the obvious embarrassment of riches. And the energy wove through many variegated fabrics. From the simple ukulele of "Something" to the cannon-reinforced "Live And Let Die", this show spanned the full decibel range ... From "All My Loving" and "Can't Buy Me Love" — after which Paul faked educating the crowd by adding, "that one's actually quite an old song" — to the topical "Freedom" and the trendy title song from "Vanilla Sky" — visually enhanced by Tom Cruise film clips, leading off with a chilling aerial view of the Dakota Building — we heard thirty-eight years of rock history ...
3 From the "hello, hello" chorus of his opener through the Shakespearean couplet of the final encore, "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," this program combined Beatles, Wings, and solo chestnuts and newcomers alike. Oft-played favorites such as "Maybe I'm Amazed" were there as expected but so was "Getting Better", a song enjoying its first live performances thirty-five years after its recording. Paul even built upon his understood-but-never-imposing historical gravitas to pose an imaginary break in the energy level: when carefully explaining to the crowd with the aid of his hands that "C Moon" had been composed as an opposite image to that in the metaphorical line, "let's not be L7," in Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs' "Wooly Bully" — you know, forming an L-7 square by opposing your right-angled thumbs and forefingers — he responded to his feigned perception of audience indifference by coaxing, "come on, now, this is rock history — pay attention!!"
  I often go to rock concerts hoping to recapture the same enjoyment I get from the artist's recordings. In absolute contrast to my classical listening, I'm usually one who prefers by far the painstakingly crafted engineering of a rock recording over the muddy and short-of-the-mark-however-inspired live performance. Last night, I was surprisingly rewarded most by elements very different from those that I enjoy from the records. And, I guess — duh?? — that's what a rock concert should do. Paul's set list was the same as that for the Oakland opener, and perhaps all dates since. I'll present it here along with notes on instrumentation, etcetera.
4 The Opening act — starting late, at 8:15 — consisted of about two dozen exquisitely costumed dancers silently moving to what seemed like a twenty-minute remix of material from the Rushes album by The Fireman — Paul's most recent pseudonym. First, six men and women dressed and bewigged for 18th- and 19th-century fancy-dress balls marched at a stately tempo across the floor from various arena entrances and climbed the stage, to be joined one-on-one across the forty-foot apron by a like number of clowns tethered to floating balloons five feet in diameter, each covered with a clouds-in-sky motif — which harmonized with the azure flower-covered curtains, all bathed in blue lights. Next, a Spanish fan dancer led a procession of a dozen circus performers including a barbell-lifting strong man — whose aerily-inflated musculature inspired Paul to comment later in the show, after this performer moved a piano, that he had pointedly "warned him of the use of steroids" — and three bronze statues brought to life, a ceremonial Samurai swordsman, and a double-jointed acrobat performing a long series of handsprings after being released from a small box. All left the stage with the lifting of the curtain and the band's arrival.
  Upstage right was Wix's double-rack of Yamaha Motif 7 and Kurzweil PC2X keyboards, along with other equipment including Roland JV-1080 synthesizer, Mac Powerbook G4 laptop, and an Albanez Cutaway-Dreadnought acoustic which he used for one song — I can't recall which! Upstage center was Abe's Drum Workshop kit with 26" bass drum, 12", 14", and 16" toms, snare and cymbals. The upstage riser was fronted by six amp stacks — including the star's two brown tweed Voxes — and eight additional woofer cabinets, all miked for looping through the PA and perhaps also for recording. The two 48-channel boards alongside the stage, in addition to the matching pair at the back of the floor, would seem to corroborate the presence of recording equipment.
5 Rusty played lead guitar downstage right, Paul — wearing red T-shirt under a roomy grey suit jacket plus jeans — bass and guitar downstage center, and Brian was on rhythm guitar and bass downstage left. All but Abe used vocal mics. Upstage right was a Steinway concert grand with top down, angled so Paul would face Rusty's position; Paul played this and a Rhodes-like instrument mounted in an elaborately painted, psychedelic console cabinet that was moved about the stage as needed.
  1. "Hello Goodbye". Rusty on a white Gibson SG that he used for most of the concert, McCartney on the Höfner 500/1 bass, and Brian on a Hamer-like double cutaway. Wix added the viola parts on his Kurzweil.
  2. "Jet". Same instrumentation.
  3. "All My Loving". Rusty and Paul on same guitars, Brian plays a new Gretsch Double Anniversary.
  4. "Getting Better". Rusty on SG, Paul on his 1960 flame-top Les Paul — these two doubling for the repeated G octaves — and Brian on his 1970s-vintage single-cutaway Guild M-85 bass. Last line performed three times before octave chiming ends the song.
  5. "Coming Up". Rusty on SG, Paul on Höfner, Brian on his double-cutaway.
  6. "Let Me Roll It". Rusty on SG, Paul on Les Paul, Brian on Guild bass.
  7. "Lonely Road". Paul doffs his jacket — "it's HOT in here!" Rusty excellent on SG, Paul on Les Paul, Brian on Guild.
  8. "Driving Rain". Inspired, said Paul, by a rainy drive up the Pacific Coast Highway in a black Corvette on a day off while recording his latest album in L.A. Rusty plays the Gretsch with wobble bar, Paul his Höfner, and Brian a Gibson J-200 not heard elsewhere. Abe is introduced and speaks briefly while Paul moves to the Steinway.
  9. "Your Loving Flame", "written for someone in the house tonight" [fiancée Heather Mills, who is not identified further]. Rusty on SG, Brian on Guild bass, Paul on Steinway. This concludes the new-album set.
6 "This is the bit where they leave me alone with you":
  10. "Blackbird". Paul expains the song's civil-rights origins. His Martin D-28 has a pickup and lead, but he also holds it up to a boom mike. He doesn't sustain his vowels at phrase endings, and there's no tapping or recreation of bird calls at the end, but otherwise this is eerily just like 1968 all over again.
  11. "Every Night". This is wonderful on solo guitar.
  12. "We Can Work It Out". Just like the 1965 demo ... The audience joins in singing the refrain. Paul finally relents and says hi to "Rick," as a sign in the audience has been begging him to do. After a silly music-hall feint with "As I was going down the road," it's on to ...
7 13. "Mother Nature's Son". Paul, on D-28, is joined only by Wix on his Allodi accordion — entering on the second verse, and carrying a nice descending scale for the scatted section. New bVII-I ending. [Why hadn't Wix, the tour's musical director, played accordion for the harmonium parts in "Work It Out"?]
  14. "Vanilla Sky". Paul on a classical guitar not heard elsewhere, Wix accompanies, Rusty on a Gibson acoustic.
  15. "You Never Give Me Your Money" / "Carry That Weight". A revised medley of these songs, played by Paul alone at the electric piano. The lean and very personal texture makes this performance — other than that of "Something" — the most varied from a prior recording, and so does the new form: the "You Never Give Me Your Money" descending fifths sequence is followed by the "Out of College" section — the repeat of which McCartney sings as, "this is the bit where I don't know the words, you'd think that I'd learn them before the tour ends" — into the double-plagal "magic feeling" section that leads into the "pillow" verse and "Carry That Weight" chorus, going into the "negotiations" verse and ending with a repeated vamp on the "break down" cadence.
8 Paul plays a few slowly-moving I-ii alternations on the electric piano — suggestive of the following song — that have a new-agey sort of ambience, and with the announcement, "it's time for your massage," goes into his story about the many massages he has had in hotels all around the world. One N'Orleans masseuse had him sit up straight, imagine his leg was made of bronze and hollow, then imagine his neck was long like that of a giraffe. After some work, Paul was asked how he felt; his response was, "like a giraffe with a bronze leg." When the masseuse continued, "I want you to burn a hole through my eyes with your eyes," he replied, "I came here for a massage, not a relationship." This was followed by a recounting — related above — of what happened in Tokyo — "not that time" — after he was asked to lie down on a towel.
9 16. "The Fool on the Hill". Paul on electric piano, accompanied only by Wix, who synthesized the flute and recorder parts on the Yamaha and the "backwards" harmonicas on the Kurzweil. Video screens carry Magical Mystery Tour footage from the Nice hilltop, superimposed with new colorful psychedelic patterns.
  17. "Here Today". "I wrote this song after my dear friend John passed away." Paul explained that it represents "an imaginary conversation" he regrets never having had with John. Paul solo with the D-28.
  18. "Something". Paul revealed that in his visits with George, the host would offer ukuleles to his guests after dinner. After all, the young Harrison had been a big fan of George Formby — quick demonstration of style — and was a fine uke player in his own right. On one visit, Paul told George that he had learned a song on the ukulele, and played for him the tune that we would hear this night; as for the instrument, "he gave me this one — a Gibson." Paul sings while strumming a rather awkward shuffle rhythm on the uke. Video monitors display photo montages of George. The crowd sings along in the bridge and claps in time through the last verse — a highly unusual moment.
  19. "Eleanor Rigby". McCartney on D-28, Wix playing all the string parts on the Kurzweil; Rusty and Brian rejoin as chorus.
  20. "Here, There and Everywhere". Wix plays accordion; the front line, from stage right: Rusty on Gibson acoustic — covering the chromatic lead parts — Paul on D-28, Abe brushing a snare drum, and Brian on Guild bass.
10 21. "Band on the Run". Back to the original staging, with Wix and Abe both upstage. Paul plays Höfner. To his right, Rusty begins with a Gretsch but switches to a Les Paul with steel bottleneck slide at the same point — the jailbreak — where Brian, stage left, changes from the double-cutaway to a twelve-string acoustic.
  22. "Back in the U.S.S.R". Rusty on SG, Brian on the Les Paul Double; both recreate the blistering balalaikas ringing out in the last verse. Paul on Höfner. He introduces Rusty and moves to the Steinway. After telling the crowd that everyone should try what he's doing. Rusty asks, "Are you having a good time? It smells like you're having a good time."
  23. "Maybe I'm Amazed". Rusty on SG, Brian on Guild, Paul on Steinway.
  24. "C Moon". Wix synthesizes the marimba on the Kurzweil and horns on the Yamaha. Rusty on SG, Brian on Guild, Paul at Steinway. ... "This is rock history — pay attention!" Then to "a song written for Linda."
  25. "My Love". Same instrumentation; Rusty recalls Henry McCullough's majestic solo in note-perfect fashion but for the addition of one extra inner-voice note and one new pitch inflection. Paul introduces Wix, who relates the difficulty had by all in constructing the set list.
11 26. "Can't Buy Me Love". Rusty on SG, Paul back to the Höfner, Brian on Gretsch. Paul counts this one off audibly. Rusty and Brian double on the solo. Film clips from A Hard Day's Night.
  27. "Freedom". Rusty on SG, Paul on D-28, Brian on Guild.
  28. "Live and Let Die": Paul on Steinway, Rusty on SG, Brian on Guild; unseen crew on cannons! Bond clips, lots of pyrotechnics.
  29. "Let It Be". Paul on Steinway, Rusty on SG, Brian on Guild. Abe opens the second verse with eighth-note hi-hat hits in supple, expressive repeated descrescendos in imitation of Ringo's echoing part. Choosing neither John's nor George's well-known solos, Rusty slashes his own. Audience provides copious lighter flames. Paul moves to the electric upright, inviting the audience to "feel free to join in" on the next song, the ostensible closer.
  30. "Hey Jude". Rusty on SG, Paul on psychedelic keyboard, Brian on Guild. Paul leaves the keyboard for the — fifth through eleventh — coda choruses, leading the audience — now the men! now the women! — with bare instrumental support from Wix and Brian. The band joins together in four more rousing times around for the grand finale.
12 Band leaves the stage; Paul — in new red "no more land mines" tee — and Wix run back on, carrying American and Michigan flags, respectively. Okay. Crowd: "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Is this a hockey game?
  31. "The Long and Winding Road". Rusty on SG, Paul on electric piano, Brian on Guild. Wix plays string and horn parts — but, significantly, not the chorus parts — from the Hewson score. Paul: "You wanna keep rocking?"
  32. "Lady Madonna". Same instrumentation; Rusty is great on the SG, and Wix improvises a new "tenor" solo.
  33. "I Saw Her Standing There". Paul counts-off directly into the mike, of course. Rusty on SG, Paul on Höfner, Brian on Gretsch. The solo is hard-rock chamber music.
13 Second encore:
  34. "Yesterday". Paul on Epiphone Texan with pickup. Paul prominently displays a Red Wings sticker affixed just below the instrument's bridge, as if to answer my earlier question. Wix plays the string parts on the Kurzweil. Then we hear the "People of Detroit ..." story.
  35. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" - "The End". Rusty on SG, Paul on Les Paul, Brian moving during the drum solo from the bass to his own Les Paul for the alternating solos, all improvised, none noteworthy but nevertheless making for an earnestly hard-rocking closer.
14 The screaming crowd, which had risen to its feet at several points in the show, demands more but is given only glitter dropping from the ceiling.
  The 6:30 P.M. soundcheck, by the way, consisted of "Jet", "Let Me Roll It", "C Moon", "Lady Madonna", and "Your Loving Flame". Pre-concert "piped" instrumental music was largely modal Celtic folk numbers, interspersed with anonymous renditions of McCartney's theme from "The Family Way" and "Singalong Junk". Programs went for $30, the tee-shirts $40, but heck, they were a lot cheaper than the seats. Autographs went to a front-row couple who paid $275 face-value for their tickets ...
  2002 © Soundscapes