Paul McCartney thrills L.A. crowd with hits, tales

Wed Mar 31, 2010 8:20pm EDT
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By Erik Pedersen

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - If anyone could be excused for having a rock star's distant, aloof persona, it would be Paul McCartney.

But that's simply not him; he exudes a genuine likability and unforced charm that flattens any barriers between him and a live audience. And Tuesday's fantastic show at the Hollywood Bowl also was an example of how music -- certain music -- can bridge cultural and generational chasms. Whether it was a Wings track, recent solo material or any of the 20-plus Beatles songs, it was easy to hear the past half-century of popular music in the melodies and harmonies. And McCartney shared several stories that offered a peek behind the scenes of that history and helped make this show special.

The opening song was predictable: The Wings rave-up "Venus and Mars/Rock Show" touts "rock 'n' roll at the Hollywood Bowl," and McCartney waxed nostalgic about the venue the Beatles played early in their career and where he hadn't appeared since 1993. "I came up here in the car, and it was like, 'Oooh, deja vu," he said. "It's so amazing, I just want to take a moment to drink it all in." And he did.

Later, he added: "This is bringing back the memories. There used to be a pond there; was that really 70 years ago?"

The night's first Fab Four track -- a faithful rendition of "All My Loving," complete with black-and-white Beatlemania footage -- showed that McCartney's voice wasn't in peak form, its "whoo-hoos" abridged at best. But given the communal vibe in the packed Bowl and the generous, nearly three-hour set from a 67-year-old on a brisk night, that was entirely forgivable.

Readers who feel compelled to focus on the negative should look elsewhere; click around the snarkosphere because this show was too good to belittle.

Initially sporting a black jacket with no collar that split the difference between the early Beatles look and the gaudy "Sgt. Pepper" outfits, McCartney switched instruments often -- bass, piano, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, even a Gibson ukulele given to him by George Harrison. He proceeded to play the first half of "Something" on it, subbing a sweet falsetto for the famous post-chorus guitar lick, before the band crashed in. Funny that the song would be a highlight of a Paul McCartney concert.

He reminisced about Harrison and John Lennon with stories that were amusing or moving but never maudlin, referring to them only by first name, (There was no mention at all of a certain Liverpudlian drummer.) He recalled how he and Harrison used to play old rock 'n' roll on their guitars, then "show off" with a little classical. But he said they botched some Bach, and the result was the opening of "Blackbird," which he played alone on acoustic guitar.   Continued...

<p>Paul McCartney performs at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles March 30, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>