Paul McCartney: O2 Academy, Liverpool

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Getintothis had to give away our Macca tickets. Bit of a bummer to say the least. Andy Kelly filled in on what proved a life affirming night that’ll live long in the memory.


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WE all know there are gigs and then there are GIGS.
This was a GIG and perhaps even more so, a moment.
Sir Paul McCartney back in Liverpool at Christmas in a venue where you normally see some (often great) up and coming indie larakins, fresh from a triumphant world tour and with the snow still a few inches deep outside. What’s not to like?
Macca admits the crowd of around 1,200 is full of his friends and family, and this ‘Christmas with the McCartneys’ vibe just seems to bring out one of the most relaxed performances we’ve ever seen from the great man.
Relaxed he may be but he’s not about to let his standards slip and vocally, in particular, he totally commits to every track throughout a set which lasted almost two and a half hours, including two perfectly delivered encores. Perhaps, as one colleague suggested, he was able to totally go for it since it was the last night of that global odyssey.
In dark jacket and crisp white shirt he’s on stage not much after 8.15 with the four-piece band which has taken him around the globe and which is now very familiar from that 2008 Anfield show and the Kings Dock visits before that.
With Macca there’s always the chance of some slight “embarrassing dad” behaviour – the man’s well into his sixties let’s not forget – but even that’s at a minimum tonight. There’s a brief arm flexing after Magical Mystery Tour early on but you can’t even argue when he leads the crowd through some vocal gymnastics, so enthusiastically do the crowd sing every last syllable back at him, almost note perfect.
The crowd is one of the most interesting things tonight, far, far younger than you might imagine, and testament to Paul and certainly The Beatles‘ cross generational appeal – perhaps these are some of the tens of thousands who have finally been allowed to buy up that back catalogue on iTunes.
But it’s not a drinking crowd and access to the bar is unbelievably easy throughout the show – it’s almost as if people just want to lap it all up and dare not make a swift dash
for a Tuborg in case they miss a moment of import.
The bulk of the show is pretty familiar these days – McCartney knows a winning formula and he’s not about to change it now – with just the bits round the edges changing though tonight’s show is truly eclectic.
John and I wrote this in Fortlin Road before the Beatles even existed,’ he tells us before One After 909 while he takes us to the Hamburg years for a cover of Don’t Let the Sun See You Crying (‘When my guitar broke, this is the one they allowed me to play on the piano‘ he tells us).
The Wings years aren’t forgotten with a storming Band On The Run and Jet and even Dance Tonight from his solo stuff and Highway from The Fireman side project are received like classics. Emboldened Macca even messes around with a bit of off-the-cuff Russian folk.
Between tracks he’s keen to talk, reminding us he was born ‘just down the road at Walton Hospital – during World War 1‘ and joking that the band will be moving on to Litherland Town Hall tomorrow night. He seems entirely content with his place in musical history and he reflects on it with a mention of the infamous concreting over of the original Cavern.
If they can excavate the Pyramids, they should be able to excavate the Cavern,’ he says, perhaps only half-joking. So over to you Mr Anderson (council leader Joe). I’m not sure if it is in any way possible but given you were branded ‘Con-an’ in the ECHO this week just for shifting a few cones, here’s a real challenge for you!
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As the main set heads towards a conclusion, the sure sign that it’s a great night at the 02 (the old L2 for those over 25) becomes apparent, as the sweat from the ceiling begins to drip into the beers – Paul must surely have felt a little bit of deja vu.
His sheer musicality is on show throughout, effortlessly switching from that famous bass, to acoustic guitar, to ukulele, to the piano where he delivers some of the night’s finest moments.
Highlights? Almost impossible to say but as a sucker for a descending chord the hairs on my neck really stood up on All My Loving, Long And Winding Road, Blackbird (as always) and Let it Be.
There were tributes to George (Something on the ukulele) and John (A Day in the Life morphing into Give Peace a Chance) while the boys easily outpointed the girls during the split singalong to Hey Jude.
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The encores were delivered with perfect timing, none of this waiting ten minutes we’re often forced to endure by some two-bit band who once had a song of the week on Zane Lowe. Mind you you’d wait a long time to hear songs as good as Get Back and Yesterday, the standout moments of the returns for me.
It’s time for us to go Macca tells us, not that he’s heading anywhere except a late-night party. Outside he’s put on free chips for everyone at the burger van (not sure Linda would approve but a lovely gesture). Tonight he got all the small things right.
I miss the free chips but do make the Lobster Pot and the last rattler, thinking in this year when we remembered the 30 years since Liverpool lost John how great it is that it still has Paul. We should never take him for granted.
Not so much a life changing night, as a truly life affirming one. Rebuild the Cavern, the campaign starts here!
Set list:
1. Honey Hush
2. Magical Mystery Tour
3. Jet
4. Got To Get You Into My Life
5. All My Loving
6. One After 909
7. Drive My Car
8. Let Me Roll It
9. The Long And Winding Road
10. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five
11. Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying
12. Maybe I’m Amazed
13. Blackbird
14. Calico Skies
15. I’ve Just Seen A Face
16. And I Love Her
17. Dance Tonight
18. Eleanor Rigby
19. Hitch Hike
20. Highway
21. Something
22. Band On The Run
23. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
24. Back In The USSR
25. A Day In The Life / Give Peace A Chance
26. Let It Be
27. Hey Jude
Encore
28. Day Tripper
29. I Saw Her Standing There
30. Get Back
Second Encore
31. Yesterday
32. Lady Madonna
33. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / The End
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Pictures by Sakura Zilla

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