Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015

Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015Paul McCartney @ Birmingham Barclaycard Arena – 27th May 2015

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Over the years, Paul McCartney has become quite a divisive figure in the world of popular culture. There are those who consider him the most important and influential musician in history. Others, including many commenting on my Facebook page before tonight’s show, strongly disagree. One commented he’d rather “suck sick through a straw than watch that overrated pony”! One things for sure, you can’t underestimate his influence on generations of musicians and music fans alike. And, at almost 73 years of age, he’s still packing out arenas worldwide, jamming with a variety of musicians from Dave Grohl to Kanye West, and continuing to write new music rather than relying on his impressive back catalogue.

Tonight, inside Birmingham’s newly refurbished Barclaycard Arena, McCartney manages to successfully showcase that catalogue of music, unafraid to drop brand new songs in amongst a 40-song setlist that includes 25 songs by The Beatles.

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It’s 8:15 on the nose when he wanders on stage, surrounded by his now quite familiar band, and casually waves to those in the front rows. There’s no big fanfare introduction, only a collage of images from his 50+ year career, before they start with a note-perfect run through Eight Days A Week. The crowd immediately jump to their feet, the delight on hardcore Beatles fans’ faces more than obvious. He sensibly introduces the newer material early on in the set, with Save Us being first up, before rushing back to the classics with Can’t Buy Me Love.

McCartney looks happy and well up on stage, the wrinkles a little more defined perhaps, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down too much. He may well have more money than everyone in the arena combined but he also comes across as “one of us” fairly well, especially when he tells stories of sitting on the couch watching TV with his grandkids before adding that those grandkids are surprised when they come to his concerts. “This is what Grandad does kids” he says.

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Wings’ Listen To What The Man Said leads into Temporary Secretary from 1980, which I have to admit sits well alongside the more familiar material. More Beatles classics pepper the middle of the set. He knows what his audience wants, that’s for sure.

“If you wonder why we’re changing guitars a lot, it’s cos we’ve got ’em and we’re showing them off” he says, then tells the crowd that the guitar he’s playing is the original from the 60s that was used on the tune he plays next, Paperback Writer.

Occasionally his voice struggles to hit the high notes, noticeably on We Can Work It Out, but I guess that, when he wrote it with John Lennon 50 years ago, he probably didn’t plan to be singing it in an arena when he’s 72 years old!

A number of signs are held up by fans in the crowd. He says he tries not to look at them in case he gets distracted but then picks out a few. “Thank you from Japan” says one. Another reads “Sign me before my wrinkles take over”. “You look pretty good to me”, he quips.

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Hope For The Future, another new song written for the video game, Destiny, and one with the weirdest video you may see for a while, seems at odds with his other material tonight, being slightly too dramatic, especially combined with the animated graphics adorning the huge video wall behind the stage. In contrast, And I Love Her, is minimal and sweet, and Blackbird, played on a platform which rises above the crowd, is every inch the acoustic classic. He jokes about how many in the audience have tried to learn how to play it. “And you all got it wrong”

“I wrote this next song for my friend John” he explains, to massive cheers from the crowd. “It was written in the form of a conversation that we didn’t get to have”. Unfortunately, his tribute to John Lennon is a low point of the set, with lyrics that are so cringeworthy it’s hard to imagine they came from the same person that wrote so many classic pop songs. “If you were here today, oh- ooh- ooh, here today. But as for me, I still remember how it was before, and I am holding back these tears no more, Ooh- ooh ooh, I love you, ooh.” he croons over a forgettable melody.

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Thankfully such moments are scarce and he’s soon back behind a multi-coloured piano banging out a rousing version of Lady Madonna as the video screens flash up images of iconic female faces from Marilyn Monroe and Eva Peron to Princess Diana and the Mona Lisa. He introduces “All Together Now” with “This next one’s for the kids” and indeed, it’s great to see a few youngsters in the crowd. It’ll be a gig they’ll tell their kids about in a few decades time I’m sure.

Band On The Run and Back In The USSR bring the rock back to the fore. He shares a story about being intimidated being introduced to the Russian defence minister when they played Red Square. The minister then confessed that the first record he ever bought was Love Me Do!

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Paul’s back behind the piano for a great version of Let It Be before the fireworks come out for an immense Live & Let Die. As the “na na na na” refrain of Hey Jude eventually fades, a significant amount of people begin leaving, perhaps unaware that they’re about to miss another 8 songs including Yesterday, Saw Her Standing There and Helter Skelter. The latter pushes McCartney’s voice to the limits but it still sounds fantastic.

The night ends on a calmer note. Carry That Weight is an uplifting finale. Macca bids us farewell and the chatter amongst the exiting fans suggests nobody here left feeling disappointed.

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Review & photos – Steve Gerrard

Setlist:
Eight Days a Week
(The Beatles song)
Save Us
Can’t Buy Me Love
(The Beatles song)
Listen to What the Man Said
(Wings song)
Temporary Secretary
Let Me Roll It
(Wings song) (with “Foxy Lady” outro)
Paperback Writer
(The Beatles song)
My Valentine
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
(Wings song)
The Long and Winding Road
(The Beatles song)
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face
(The Beatles song)
We Can Work It Out
(The Beatles song)
Another Day
Hope for the Future
And I Love Her
(The Beatles song)
Blackbird
(The Beatles song)
Here Today
New
Queenie Eye
Lady Madonna
(The Beatles song)
All Together Now
(The Beatles song)
Lovely Rita
(The Beatles song)
Eleanor Rigby
(The Beatles song)
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
(The Beatles song)
Something
(The Beatles song)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
(The Beatles song)
Band on the Run
(Wings song)
Back in the U.S.S.R.
(The Beatles song)
Let It Be
(The Beatles song)
Live and Let Die
(Wings song)
Hey Jude
(The Beatles song)
Encore:
Another Girl
(The Beatles song)
Hi, Hi, Hi
(Wings song)
I Saw Her Standing There
(The Beatles song)
Encore 2:
Yesterday
(The Beatles song)
Helter Skelter
(The Beatles song)
Golden Slumbers
(The Beatles song)
Carry That Weight
(The Beatles song)
The End
(The Beatles song)

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