Thursday, December 3, 2009

McCartney Says Good Evening To New York City

A couple of weeks ago, Paul McCartney released a multi-disc live set titled Good Evening New York City. About a week ago I got a copy of the record. I have since indulged myself in more than one Macca listening marathon. I was officially put into a "comfort food stupor" listening to Good Evening New York City. What exactly is that you ask? That my friends is when you eat a bunch of sinfully bad for you, but extremely good, food and end up in your big comfy chair afterward with a big goofy grin on your face, usually unwilling to move for several hours. Think along the lines of going to Grandma's house on the holidays and stuffing yourself silly with all of the stuff you normally refrain from eating. I know, you're thinking I'm having one of my questionable comparison moments or something. But, music is food too, just a different kind. It's food for your soul and doesn't damage your waistline. Did I digress? Anyway, so McCartney isn't sinfully bad for you but he's extremely good at doing what he does, which is well, being Paul McCartney!

So, now that I've come out of my Macca induced comfort food stupor, I had to review. For the record, to eliminate any confusion, I'm reviewing the deluxe package. The first thing you notice is the packaging. Well, I did at any rate. In sticking with the whole I'm doing a show on a baseball field thing, all of the discs look like baseballs and there's even a Paul McCartney baseball card which could have used a little sleeve or holder of some sort of its own to keep it in place in the package. You also get thirty-nine pages of photos and liner notes, all of it encased in a compact little book, nice, spiffy and cute. Y'all know I like cute!

One of the things I like about this CD/DVD combo is all 33 songs are accounted for on both the CD's and DVD film. Thank you Sir Paul for that! I get annoyed by packages that have songs on the CD portion but not on the DVD portion and vice versa. I started with the audio portion of the package first. Things kick off with "Drive My Car" one of many songs in the set from that little known band he was in way back when ... believe they were called The Beatles or something. McCartney touches on the highlights of his career including a couple of songs from The Fireman album Electric Arguments, "Highway" and "Sing The Changes" respectively. Right off the bat I found myself singing along. How could you not sing along? The man has written and co-written some of the most memorable songs in rock history and as an entertainer he's infectious.

McCartney has done a number of live recordings over the years. On Good Evening New York City, his vocals show the normal wear and tear of a long career. But, I think this is one of the best live productions, vocally, he has done in a good while. He sounds more rested and relaxed. There seems to be less vocal strain on some of the higher notes compared to some previous live efforts. I admit there are a few spots that I wonder if they were "fixed" but that's a standard thing with live recordings.

Macca is joined on "I Saw Her Standing There" by Billy Joel. That has significance because Joel headlined the last rock concert at Shea Stadium, the site where The Beatles played a now legendary 34-minute set in 1965. He invited McCartney to sing that song and "Let It Be." So, we hear and see Joel a year later helping McCartney christen Citi Field, the former site of Shea.

While the audio portion is fun to listen to, it's the video portion that fully captures McCartney. As I mentioned earlier, he's an infectious entertainer and that infectiousness smacks you upside the head watching him perform. He's the puppy eyed charmer, the storyteller, the joker; he's the friend and widower paying tribute to those no longer with us. He's also still quite a sex symbol if the "marry me Paul" signs are any indication. He's full of energy and looks to be having as much fun as ever.

I'm not a big fan of close up shots of random audience members. I could have done with less of that. But there are visual highlights. The nostalgic visual stuff plays throughout the show on the giant video screens in the background but, during "I'm Down," the only song in the set that The Beatles played at Shea in '65, a nice bit of editing is done. Footage of The Beatles ripping through the song full of energy and smiles is mixed in. Throughout the song, the video bounces between modern day Paul and The Fab Four. Seeing that old footage of The Beatles having a blast momentarily makes you wonder how some four years later they ended up sour faced guys on a rooftop.

Helter Skelter live, need I say more? I'm going by memory, but I believe this is the first time McCartney has included it on a live effort. I'm too lazy to flip through my collection to verify that though. What? I never claimed to be all proper and by the rules professional, just quirky! Sure it doesn't have that down and dirty edginess that it did all those years ago when it was originally recorded but, it's still fun to hear. It all ends with "The End" which I suppose is fitting albeit a bit corny ... it's Macca, he's allowed to be corny if he wants. He's earned it.

The bonus DVD gives McCartney's full performance atop The Ed Sullivan Theater marquee, the theater where The Beatles made their U.S. television debut. You also get an audience documentary culled from footage shot on Flip cameras that were put in the hands of some fans to help document the three shows. To be honest, that bit didn't do much for me though I'm sure the fans involved had a great time with the cameras. I just didn't need a whole segment of it. The digital fan footage is also mixed in with professional footage that makes up the concert film. The disc ends with the full performance version of "I'm Down."

Overall, Good Evening New York City is a good package. For longtime fans of The Beatles, you get lots of sentimentally significant Beatles moments. If you're a McCartney fan, you'll add this to your collection. That being said, casual fans shouldn't dismiss this. Yes, it's a bit nostalgia heavy. But, McCartney as a performer out classes a good number of today's performers and he's armed with a song catalog that few can match. If you're like me and have a Sir Paul soft spot, you'll find yourself in a Macca induced stupor with a grin on your face after nearly three hours of sing-a-long with Paul.

Track Listing
(Live Album / Concert Film)
  • Drive My Car
  • Jet
  • Only Mama Knows
  • Flaming Pie
  • Got To Get You Into My Life
  • Let Me Roll It
  • Highway
  • The Long And Winding Road
  • My Love
  • Blackbird
  • Here Today
  • Dance Tonight
  • Calico Skies
  • Mrs Vandebilt
  • Eleanor Rigby
  • Sing The Changes
  • Band On The Run
  • Back In The USSR
  • I’m Down
  • Something
  • I’ve Got A Feeling
  • Paperback Writer
  • A Day In The Life / Give Peace A Chance
  • Let It Be
  • Live And Let Die
  • Hey Jude
  • Day Tripper
  • Lady Madonna
  • I Saw Her Standing There
  • Yesterday
  • Helter Skelter
  • Get Back
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / The End
Bonus DVD
(Live on the Late Show with David Letterman)
  • Get Back
  • Sing The Changes
  • Coming Up
  • Band On The Run
  • Let Me Roll It
  • Helter Skelter
  • Back In The USSR
  • Good Evening People (Audience Documentary Film)
  • I’m Down (Full Performance)