red lights

Fresh Read on an Old Classic

Paul McCartney
Bradley Center
Milwaukee, WI
Sept. 21, 2002

Review by Tony Bonyata
Photo by Phil Bonyata

Last Saturday night in Milwaukee marked the first show of Paul McCartney's Back in The U.S. tour, and while this second leg of his Driving USA tour didn't drastically change much from his shows earlier this year, it didn't seem to matter, as the recently knighted Sir Paul delivered a regal performance worthy of royalty.
With a prolific back catalog of songs, that if bound in a single volume would have the heft of a NYC phone book, McCartney touched on practically every aspect of his illustrious career, spanning some 38 years - from 1964 to 2002.
For the fans who may have worried that McCartney was going to concentrate more on his solo material as well as his work with his second most popular group, Wings, they had nothing to fear as the former mop top unearthed no less than 22 Beatle songs from the 35 numbers performed that night. There was even one song from The Beatles catalog, "She's Leaving Home" that up until that night in Milwaukee had never been performed live before.
Paul McCartney Slender and fit and clad in a dark silk suit and red t-shirt with a boyish side-parted haircut, McCartney somehow managed to defy his actual years of 60. Although he may have acquired a few lines and sags in the face, from ten rows back you'd swear this man was still 35. His physical appearance wasn't the only fresh element onstage either, as the impressive use of 20 video screens that surrounded the stage was nothing short of awe inspiring. For once it seems that an artist has taken the time to properly use this state-of-the-art technology, incorporating not only a live concert feed and historic videos, but color and design as well. From the blinding videos and adventurous pyro techniques that added a sense of danger and intrigue to "Live and Let Die" to the vivid reds and burning yellows that saturated the video screens during a decidedly more Parisian take of "Michelle," which was also wonderfully augmented by Paul "Wix" Wickens on accordion, this was a stunning stage setting like no other before.
McCartney good-naturedly ran through a handful of songs performed solely by himself, such as the lilting "Blackbird," "We Can Work It Out" and "Every Night," which he performed with just an acoustic guitar before jumping behind a psychedelically painted upright piano for the numbers "You Never Give Me Your Money / Carry That Weight" and "Fool On The Hill," where, despite the wonderful melody, Paul had a little difficultly hitting the high notes.
But what really injected new life into all of his work was McCartney's choice of touring musicians. From his two guitar players, Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, that ripped out stinging leads and meaty chords which perfectly augmenting their leader, to Wickens' rich keys that turned on a dime from faux flute to a lush synthetic string section, as well as the monstrous rhythms and pounding primal beats laid down by drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., this was a young, hungry band that made McCartney's music sound white hot. Adding a welcome punch to familiar favorites such as "All My Loving," "Jet" and "Back In The USSR" this foursome, along with McCartney, gave refreshingly new reads on these old classics. And while a couple of Fab Four originals couldn't be touched in terms of shear energy and spontaneity, such as "Can't Buy Me Love" an "I Saw Her Standing There," the band mustered up every thing they could to keep the raucous, unbridled feel of the originals alive. Before the band upped the ante on "Maybe I'm Amazed," most notably due to Laboriel's fierce percussions, McCartney also managed to dish out some of the most biting leads of the evening on a smoking gun version of "Let Me Roll It," from his 1974 album Band On The Run.
Two of the soft spots of the evening were reserved for his late wife Linda, who succumbed to cancer in 1998, as well as his former bandmate George Harrison, who also fell to the disease last year. When Paul declared that he wrote the tender ballad "My Love" for Linda and was now sending it out to all the lovers in the audience, the entire crowd seemed to be embraced in one large collective hug. Likewise as sentimental, yet slightly more lighthearted, McCartney came out armed only with a ukulele, explaining that when he was younger and would visit Harrison at his parent's house his entire family would pull out these small stringed instruments for impromptu singalongs. Holding up the very ukulele given to him from Harrison, McCartney then broke into "Something" a bittersweet tribute to an old friend.
Ending out this nearly three-hour evening, McCartney belted out his familiar wish, "we hope you have enjoyed the show," and some 35 years after he first sang it on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band it was still as enjoyable as ever.
Paul McCartney's Setlist from the Bradley Center 09.21.02
1) Hello Goodbye
2) Jet
3) All My Loving
4) Getting Better
5) Coming Up
6) Let Me Roll It
7) Lonely Road
8) Driving Rain
9) Heather
10) Blackbird
11) Every Night
12) We Can Work It Out
13) You Never Give Me Your Money/ Carry That Weight
14) Fool The Hill
15) Here Today (Song For John)
16) Something
17) Eleanor Rigby
18) Michelle
19) Here There and Everywhere
20) Band On The Run
21) Back In The USSR
22) Maybe I'm Amazed
23) Let 'Em In
24) My Love
25) She's Leaving Home
26) Can't Buy Me Love
27) Freedom
28) Live and Let Die
29) Let It Be
30) Hey Jude
1st Encore

31) The Long and Winding Road
32) Lady Madonna
33) I Saw Her Standing There

2nd Encore

34) Yesterday
35) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band / The End (medley)

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