Paul McCartney at Target Field, 8/2/14
|Photo by Tony Nelson|
Target Field, Minneapolis
Saturday, August 2, 2014
If there's a guy who could rightfully complain about being too popular, it's Paul McCartney. For more than 50 years, his songs, influence, and mythology have remained ubiquitous. Due to radio, James Bond movies, Beastie Boys samples, cover artists from Ray Charles down to your nieces and nephews playing The Beatles: Rock Band, and, of course, consistent marketing directly from within Apple Corps, these tunes will find you even when you're not looking.
Judging by the great expense and time commitment involved in an undertaking like McCartney's current Out There tour, the 72-year-old can't be too upset that his approval rating is still quite high. Still, Saturday's show at Target Field -- amid Governor Dayton giving the legend his own day in Minnesota -- showed even knights still need to have something to prove.
|Photos by Tony Nelson|
So many of McCartney's songs with the Beatles, Wings, and solo are blessed and cursed with their overwhelming hugeness. These moments on tape aren't just soundtracking Wes Anderson films, they're the indelible accompaniments to weddings, breakups, births, and deaths. All that potential emotional upheaval and drama at one's fingertips is more artistic firepower throughout a set than most acts can pack into an encore. ("If I don't do 'Hey Jude' I've missed an opportunity," he told the BBC last year.) When played back-to-back in the same order each night based upon a rigid setlist required for detailed lighting, stage, and pyrotechnic cues, it's much tougher to create spontaneity. Then again, such expertly rehearsed stagecraft has its own magic.
For the most part, questions answered on Saturday would be of the "Will I get to my seat before this show gets going?" variety. Valid, of course, but the sold-out crowd didn't seem hung up on concerns of "Can Paul still do it?" Looking upright, healthy, and just the right amount of shaggy, McCartney mugged and strummed like a man half his age as they kicked off with "Eight Days a Week." Leading the expert backing ensemble of guitarist Rusty Anderson, bassist Brian Ray, keyboardist Paul "Wix" Wickens, and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. -- all of them harmonizing like choir boys -- he moved quickly through 39 songs, and allowed for the single costume change of removing his dapper blue jacket.
"This is so cool," he said early on. "I'm just going to take a minute to drink it all in." That was one of the only minutes of nearly three hours of a hard day's night that he allowed himself.
The greatest source of venturing into the unknown came whenever McCartney pulled out a song from his 16th solo album, NEW, which arrived last fall. Recorded with producers like Paul Epworth and Mark Ronson, both of whom have worked with Adele and tons of other modern hit-makers, it's a polished grab bag of material about new love and old friends. The four songs represented a steer away from the nostalgic feel of the night for a spell -- even if the album's title track seems to take bits of "Got to Get You Into My Life" and "Penny Lane" and twist them in on themselves.
As Sir Paul sat behind a psychedelia-adorned upright piano, his falsetto leaps and joviality throughout "New" quickly put it alongside his best. Coupled with the potent new track "Queenie Eye," which sent beach balls soaring slightly awkwardly through the crowd, it was an all-too-short glimpse into the still-vibrant rocker's present state of affairs.