Paul McCartney “the soundtrack to our lives” rocks the Royal Albert Hall in 2012 – Live review from London March 29th 2012

Posted: April 1, 2012 in Pop, Rock Music
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Paul McCartney Live at The Royal Albert Hall, London, March 29th 2012

Paul McCartney rocks the Royal Albert Hall, London, March 29th 2012

Paul McCartney rocks the Royal Albert Hall, London, March 29th 2012

How do you review a living legend?  This is a question I’ve been asking myself for the past 3 days since seeing Paul McCartney perform at the Royal Albert Hall as part at Teenage Cancer Trust concert series. Anything I write is going to seem insignificant set against the achievements of this musical colossus.  Any critique will be as if a gnat was buzzing around the hide of a rhinoceros. Positive comments may come across as fawning. So I will try to write this piece from a very personal standpoint as I experienced the concert.

The truth of the matter is that I was not sure what to expect at the start. I was sort of looking forward to the nostalgia element of the performance. Above all, I was hoping to hear Wings tracks in particular, maybe even more than Beatles song or Mc Cartney’s solo stuff as London Town is one of my all time favourite albums. In the end it did not matter one jot, this show was quality from start to finish – McCartney himself, yes but his band consisting of Paul Wickens on Keyboards, Rusty Anderson on Lead guitar,  Brian Ray on guitar were absolutely first rate. And if they left the main limelight to Paul, they did however smile and wave occasionally to audience. Drummer and vocalist Abe Laboriel Jnr was positively inspired. I have seen him drumming for one of  France’s top artists Mylene Farmer  at her 2006 Bercy concert in Paris and I must admit that, in respect of the joy and passion with which he plays the drums, I kept my eyes on him almost as much as McCartney. This was easily done as we had seats in the choir just above and to the rear of the band. Strange – a rear view but better than sitting up in the gods.

Paul McCartney and his very able band from the rear of the Royal Albert Hall, London, March 29th 2012

Paul McCartney and his very able band from the rear of the Royal Albert Hall, London, March 29th 2012

There was no quiet start or gradually acclimatisation: from the off Paul McCartney and band, after being introduced by a very “geezer-like”  Paul Weller (ex The Jam and Style Council), launched full pelt into “Magical Mystery Tour”.  Already, you could feel a good vibe in the majestic Hall. This was not going to be a light touch set. Paul McCartney was going to give his rocking best. And so it was we were given the anthology.  From the early Beatles we period we were treated to“All my Loving” “Drive My Car” and a song that really started to warm up the crowd “Paperback Writer”. Paul was far from static on the stage and exuded an energy and form that belied his years. (It was hard to believe he is just 2 months away from his 70th birthday). The only time he ever set down was when he went to the piano just below us and performed “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let it Be” both of which, made my hairs stand on end and got a rousing reception from the packed Royal Albert Hall crowd. McCartney stood up from his piano, acknowledged the applause even waiving at the crowd at the back in the Choir seats. There were many many memorable moments – a mini acoustic section where the band went off and left Sir Paul on his own. He sang two tribute songs to his wives (not Heather Mills, obviously). Very moving was McCartney tribute song to John Lennon “Here Today”  before which he referred to Lennon simply as “my friend” and one of my favourite moments was listening to Eleanor Rigby sung with Abe Labouriel Jnr  who came to the front of the stage and proved himself as able a vocalist as he is a drummer.

Drummer Abe Labouriel Jnr joins Paul McCartney up front at the Royal Albert Hall to sing Eleanor Rigby, March 29th 2012

Drummer Abe Labouriel Jnr joins Paul McCartney up front at the Royal Albert Hall to sing Eleanor Rigby, March 29th 2012

I enjoyed very much some  of Sir Paul’s anecdotes. He referred to the giant mushroom shapes hanging from the ceiling of the Albert Hall and said that years ago when he played here with the Beatles (“a little band I use to play with, who some of you might remember”) there were none and the acoustics were terrible. Every time Ringo bashed out a drum beat the sound reverberated round the hall.  Another story involving a meeting with Jimi Hendrix had a heckler in the audience shouting “Stop name dropping” but Paul put him down with ease remarking that “there always one”. A personal opinion here but to my mind, if Paul McCartney wants to namedrop, with his status he has earned the right. I, for one, saw nothing wrong with the context of the story.

There were a couple of Wings song to keep children of the 70’s happy.  “Junior’s Farm” played early in the set gave that 70s vibe but “Band on the Run” had them rocking in the aisles with many in the audience standing, chanting the lyrics and fist pointing in the air. The tempo and tenor of the show continued with “Back in the USSR”. If it were possible the concert had stepped another gear to arrive at another Beatles classic – “Hey Jude”, which provoked a mass singalong; Sir Paul urging the crowd to sing the famous chorus. At one point, directing the crowd he got just men and then just the women to sing it. This was the massive climax I had been expecting from some 5000 strong crowd.

Paul McCartney's rocking performance with his band has the crowd on their feet at the Royal Albert Hall, March 29th 2012

Paul McCartney's rocking performance with his band has the crowd on their feet at the Royal Albert Hall, March 29th 2012

The encore also brought some pleasant nostalgia in the form of “Daytripper” and “Yesterday” but if we thought we were winding down, we were wrong. A second encore saw McCartney and band joined on stage by Paul Weller, Ronnie Wood and host of the Teenage Cancer Trust series Roger Daltrey for a rendition of “Get Back”. This was a veritable Who’s Who’s of British Rock royalty.

The concert appropriately finished with the final words to the Abbey Road recorded “The End” and McCartney and band rightly being cheered to the rafters.

I have heard people over the years express opinions about McCartney, the occasional one of which is not too nice. I have heard a number say they prefer The Rolling Stones.  Frankly, I don’t give a monkey’s uncle for those points of view.  I would challenge anyone who says Paul McCartney did not give of his best.  His performance and that of his band was enthralling, entertaining and energized.    Paul McCartney is the closest thing we have in the UK to an Elvis-like figure and he still rocks in 2012. As Paul Weller put it this fella is “the soundtrack to our lives”. This concert without any shadow of doubt goes into my all-time Top 10 of live performances.

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Comments
  1. First of all I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Thanks!

    • londongigger says:

      I am not sure what the answer is to this. Sometimes, I have inspiration and everything just seems crystal clear. I know instinctively know what to write. I could write a whole article in an hour or two. Other times, I write but mentally feel like I’m wading through mud. Everything is hard. I can only write a few words or sentences. Nothing comes. At the end of the day writing comes from how you feel inside. The only thing I can say is that you are a lot more productive at writing when you are fresh and mentally relaxed.

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