Paul McCartney is always up for a challenge.
For his “Out There” tour, which stopped at Barclays Center Saturday night and returns again Monday, McCartney focused on streamlining his well-known arrangements and delivering them with the fire of a garage band playing, well, the world’s biggest garages.
Wings’ “What the Man Said” got faster. The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” got tougher, with McCartney shoving his guitar against an amp to get the right bit of distortion. And “Let Me Roll It” got way harder, fused to a thunderous version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” where each member of McCartney’s ever-impressive band – guitarist Rusty Anderson, keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, bassist Brian Ray and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. – got a chance to shine.
His two-hour-and-40-minute set was also a model of efficiency, barely breaking between songs for more than a few words of banter or a quick story. As Macca took off his waistcoat early in the show, he declared, “That is the big wardrobe change of the evening.”
He didn’t really need any of the usual arena show trappings. The massive pyrotechnics for “Live and Let Die,” with flame pots set so high you could feel the heat from sections away, do add to the song’s apocalyptic feel. And McCartney’s move to a smaller stage that lifted him 30 or so feet in the air did give “Blackbird” a more placid, inspirational feel. However, what made his show memorable were the songs – especially the ones that made their New York debut after all these years, including the anthemic “All Together Now,” the playful “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” and the sweeping “Lovely Rita” – and the chance to see McCartney himself.
It’s rare to see a performer so at ease that he makes even the most complicated transitions seem effortless and who is so gracefully able to pay tribute to those he has lost. His dedication to John Lennon, “Here Today,” remains poignant, while his ukulele tribute to George Harrison on “Something” grows warmer with age. However, it was his glorious love song to his late wife Linda, “Maybe I’m Amazed,” that was even more stunning than usual, his mix of rough and sweet vocals even more emotional.
McCartney even dedicated “Another Day” to producer Phil Ramone, who died in March. He added a nice story about how Ramone’s visit to the McCartney home in the English countryside had drawn the attention of the police, mainly because of Ramone’s big Stetson hat. At one point, McCartney caught himself, saying, “I’m just going on now. I know. I don’t care.”
It doesn’t get much more rock and roll than that.
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SETLIST: Eight Days a Week / Junior's Farm / All My Loving / Listen to What the Man Said / Let Me Roll It > Foxy Lady / Paperback Writer / My Valentine / Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five / The Long and Winding Road / Maybe I'm Amazed / I've Just Seen a Face / We Can Work It Out / Another Day / And I Love Her / Blackbird / Here Today / Your Mother Should Know / Lady Madonna / All Together Now / Lovely Rita / Mrs. Vandebilt / Eleanor Rigby / Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite / Something / 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 // ENCORES: Day Tripper / Hi Hi Hi / Get Back // Yesterday / Helter Skelter / Golden Slumbers > Carry That Weight > The End