Paul McCartney: We still love him, yeah, yeah, yeah!

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 26, 2002

Obviously not running from his past, Paul McCartney embraced the band that made his career and treated fans to a concert that was top-heavy on Beatles hits.

His set list Tuesday night at the United Center didn’t veer much from the former Beatle’s two sold-out concerts here last April. Neither did his onstage patter, a fact he joked often about.

“Those of you who were here last time already heard this story,” said the world’s most famous bassist. “But I’m going to tell it again.”

With that, he regaled the audience with tales about John, George, Linda and Heather. He reminisced about a massage therapist in Tokyo who croaked out a Beatles tune as she tended to his sore muscles. Sorry, Ringo fans–the drummer wasn’t mentioned.

McCartney’s voice held up remarkably well throughout, hitting all the high notes and not missing one yeah, yeah or yeah.

Dressed in jeans, a red jersey and a white jacket, he didn’t wear his bass as high as he used to during the 1960s, but he sounded just about the same as he tackled an ambitious repertoire that included “All My Loving” “Eleanor Rigby” and an ethereal rendition of “Fool on the Hill.”

As he sang the latter number, a giant overhead videoscreen projected split screen images of McCartney. One side depicted a lean, youthful McCartney (circa mid-’60s) sporting a black overcoat and a cheeky smile. The other showed him performing live, still handsome, but at 60, older and gray–just like many of his fans.

Age obviously isn’t an issue for McCartney, who surrounded himself with a superb young band. Fiery guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray were up to the challenge of keeping pace with McCartney. Drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and keyboardist Paul Wix Wickens were impressive in their range.

Back in their pre-Fab Four days, when they played grueling hours in Hamburg, Germany, the leather-clad Beatles often were ordered by demanding audiences to mak show. Amped up on amphetamines to stay awake, they obliged–sometimes performing with toilet seats dangling from their necks. During Beatlemania, they wore matching suits and played 45-minute concerts where their main goal was to be heard over the deafening roar of screaming girls.

His recent tours have allowed him to have some fun. For his opening act, he took a took a page from Cirque du Soleil. Martial artists battled a la “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Rubberband-backed acrobats contorted their bodies. And gorgeously garbed dandies and ladies, one of whom had a tiny ship perched on top of her meticulously coiffed head, slowly walked around the floor of the United Center.

But most striking was the guy dressed in a suit with a bowler hat atop his head and an apple dangling from his opened umbrella. He looked as if he had stepped out of a Magritte painting. The Beatles once copied this look (minus the apple) for a photo that ran on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

There were a few other theatrics. A series of explosions and fireworks to rival anything in a James Bond movie went off during “Live and Let Die.” And when he returned onstage to sing “The Long and Winding Road” as part of his encore, McCartney carried an American flag and showed off a new red T-shirt stating, “No more land mines.”

Paying homage to the late George Harrison, McCartney took out a ukulele that Harrison had given him and delivered a jaunty version of “Something.” He sang a fun, spirited version of the usually obnoxious “Coming Up.”

And he dedicated songs to both his late wife, Linda, and his new bride, Heather Mills. On a purely musical level, “My Love”–which he wrote with and for Linda–is much stronger than the bland “Your Loving Flame,” which was penned for Heather.

Waving his bass victoriously high above his head, McCartney smiled often.

Go ahead, Paul. You’ve earned the right.

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