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Paul McCartney’s ‘Good Evening New York City’ Was Unexpectedly Relevant

Paul McCartney’s ‘Good Evening New York City’ Was Unexpectedly Relevant

Paul McCartney’s ‘Good Evening New York City’ Was Unexpectedly Relevant
November 17
10:28 2019

What could Paul McCartney, after five decades in music and an astonishing seven previous concert recordings, still have to tell us in yet another multi-disc live offering? Turns out, more than I thought.

Good Evening New York City, released on Nov. 17, 2009, commemorated McCartney’s three-night concert event to open New York’s new Citi Field. Over two discs of music played in front of more than 120,000 fans, and another DVD with the identical track listing, we found McCartney in fine voice – and, more interestingly, ready to stir in some memorable surprises while still celebrating the familiar.

Did I mention the familiar?

After a gap between live albums that spanned from 1976’s Wings Over America to 1990’s sprawling Tripping the Live Fantastic, Paul McCartney suddenly issued a half dozen in less than 20 years. Unsurprisingly, that led to some overlap on Good Evening New York City, in particular since his shows had come to focus so intently on signature work with the Beatles.

So, there is much that we’ve heard before – including “Something,” a still-deeply moving tribute to George Harrison, which opens on ukulele (a favorite of George’s); and McCartney’s rousing “Sgt. Pepper’s/The End” finale – both of which were first included on 2002’s Back in the U.S.

Elsewhere, “Paperback Writer” initially showed up on 1993’s Paul Is Live. “Got to Get You Into My Life” appeared on 1981’s Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” was on Tripping the Live Fantastic, as was “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Get Back.” “Lady Madonna,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “Blackbird” first appeared on Wings Over America.

But it’s not like Paul McCartney can credibly perform a concert set without “Hey Jude” – or “Live and Let Die,” for that matter. Forty-four years after McCartney and the Beatles first played Shea Stadium, where the new Citi Field now stands, he seemed to understand his role as protector of that legacy.

These echoes from the past, unfortunately, don’t add to the marketability of Good Evening New York City for longtime fans – even if the spritely 60-something Paul McCartney and a group of solid backing musicians made an energetic go of things.

Luckily, this recording was bolstered by stronger material from more recent McCartney efforts – something, for instance, that Paul Is Live (one of his worst-selling live sets) wasn’t blessed with. He absolutely charged through a pair of stomping rockers, “Only Mama Knows” from 2007’s Memory Almost Full and the Lennon-inspired title track from 1997’s Flaming Pie. They fit right in with a searing new reading on “I’m Down,” one of McCartney’s more underrated uptempo Fab tracks, and emboldened him into further exploring “Helter Skelter” – Paul’s heaviest offering from the Beatles period.

A soaring reading of “Sing the Changes” – which, along with “Highway,” first appeared on the terrific 2008 Fireman project Electric Arguments – might just be the catchiest thing McCartney had done in years. “Calico Skies,” a collaboration with Beatles producer George Martin from Flaming Pie, remained this quietly relevant protest song (“may we never be called to handle / all the weapons of war we despise”) tucked away inside one of McCartney’s little asides on love.

That connects emotionally with Disc 2’s gripping John Lennon tribute, as “A Day In the Life,” the closing tune from Sgt. Pepper, dissolved into John’s initial solo single “Give Peace a Chance.” The setting, too, seemed to reframe “Here Today,” a song written in the immediate aftermath of Lennon’s long-ago murder on a New York city street: McCartney was nearly overcome at one point. Even “Dance Tonight,” another tune from Memory Almost Full that always seemed a bit too cute, found a fluffy grace on stage.

And McCartney mined deeper into a catalog stuffed with great music, too – underscoring his easy command of the substantial (a grinding take on “I’ve Got a Feeling,” from 1970’s Let It Be), the surprising (“Day Tripper,” Lennon’s flipside of the 1965 single “We Can Work It Out”) and, of course, the silly (“Mrs. Vandebilt,” with its fun “Ho! Hey Ho!” call-and-response chorus from the 1973 Wings smash Band on the Run).

Paul McCartney has always been each of those things, sometimes all at once. We were reminded of that again on this unexpectedly relevant live project.

Source: Paul McCartney’s ‘Good Evening New York City’ Was Unexpectedly Relevant

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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