Paul McCartney grabbed a guitar and tore through the tasty riff of “Let Me Roll It” before pushing his band into a stomping snippet of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” It rocked.
With McCartney being a rock star, it would be expected that his Tuesday Fenway Park show would rock. But that’s not a given. Many musicians play huge shows that lean more on nostalgia than visceral rock ‘n’ roll. McCartney indulged in some nostalgia, but he spent more time rumbling through high volume, big energy rock – “Junior’s Farm” and “Get Back” and “Band on the Run.”
McCartney gets an absurd amount of respect. He might deserve a bit more.
People gleefully crow about Willie Nelson and Keith Richards’ immortality, but forget that McCartney will be 80 next week and still fills and thrills stadiums with two and a half shows – he booked Fenway for back to back dates Tuesday and Wednesday.
When Sir Paul first played Fenway back in 2009, he was a mere 67 and performed 34 songs. Tuesday night, the 79-year-old played two more in a set that ran from 1958 Quarrymen obscurity “In Spite of All the Danger” to songs off 2018 album “Egypt Station,” from rock to just about everything else.
He did twangy-heavy folk (“I’ve Just Seen a Face”) and protest folk (“Black Bird”). He did a huge blustery ballad that defined a ’70s sound (“Maybe I’m Amazed”) and proto-new wave art rock (“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”). He did songs for people on acid (“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”) and people enjoying a second glass of white wine (“My Valentine” for wife Nancy, who was in the audience).
More and more, McCartney nods to the cult of the Beatles and his lost bandmates. Sometimes that can be sweet – such as his tender to grand take on George Harrison’s “Something,” which he started on mandolin and finished with a huge, electric singalong. Sometimes it can be weird – do we need John Lennon’s voice piped in from beyond the grave for “I’ve Got a Feeling?” Most often it’s fun and reverent such as the shockingly thumping and joyful “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”
If McCartney has a fault as a live performer – and he may not – it could be that he devotes too much time to his Beatles catalog. Part of me instantly regrets writing this and thinks that he simply has to do the whole of the medley that closes “Abbey Road” and not just bits and pieces. The other park thinks his solo stuff gets short shrift.
His solo material runs so deep that he has eight No. 1 hits that he didn’t put in the Tuesday set. It’s so deep that he has album cuts from five years back that would have been No. 1s had he released them in 1970. Just one of the new gems he did was “Egypt Station” track “Fuh You,” which could be a 2020 Harry Styles smash (note: this is meant as a complement).
From wonderfully obligatory Beatles songs such as “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” to the more obscure stuff (Wings’ jam “Letting Go” was nice), Paul had a blast. He grinned and shouted, did little dances and played half a dozen different instruments. He said he’ll be back. Hopefully he brings some new songs again next time. He has got to keep writing, got to keep adding material to a catalog that’s already astounding.
BOSTON, MA – June 7: Paul McCartney performs at Fenway Park on June 7, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)