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August 16th, 2010

LIVE REVIEW: Paul McCartney At The Wells Fargo Center


Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg

Paul McCartney started his Saturday night show at the Wells Fargo Center (or whatever they’re calling it now) with a warning, slightly touched with irony. “You never know what will happen,” he cautioned—and then launched into a predictable, crowd-pleasing set loaded with Beatles tunes and memory.

The audience knew exactly what to expect: A sludge through McCartney’s competent, if somewhat drowsy recent work; a smattering of Wings songs; and a generous helping of the wistful and the iconic, including the inevitable “Hey Jude” sing-a-long and “Yesterday” crowd sway (cell phones up, of course, and God bless the one nostalgic soul who could produce a lighter).

And McCartney, like the old pro he is, delivered. He gave the crowd what it wanted, be it grainy nostalgia (footage from A Hard Day’s Night scrambled on the screen during “All My Loving”), ’60s anecdotes (he peppered his stage dialogue with off-hand, first-name references to Jimi and Eric) or, for one sign-waving fan, “Ram On,” a plucky 1971 rarity.

He also provided the requisite John and George tributes: “Here Today,”—McCartney’s imagined conversation with the late Lennon—and peace sign held skywards and “Something,” a ukulele-plucking solo that built to a rollicking, if misty, homage.

McCartney has such a rich back catalog to draw from he couldn’t satisfy everyone, but he covered the bases, hop-scotching from Rubber Soul b-sides (an acoustic rendition of “I’m Looking Through You”) to Band on the Run thumpers (“Jet”) to early, boy band love letters (“All My Loving”). I would have swapped “Dance Tonight,” a jangly mandolin foot-tapper off 2007’s Memory Almost Full, for some more mop-haired Beatles songs but after nearly 50 years he must be sick of playing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

If he’s tired of tearing through “Helter Skelter” or “Get Back” for the zillionth time, he didn’t show it. His voice is agile, if a little ragged, and he didn’t flag once during the three-hour, nearly 40-song set. Not bad for 68 years old. And judging from the feminine squeals when he emerged, lefty bass in hand, he’s still “the cute one,” even if that brown shag is now artificial. The crowd was packed with fiftysomethings, Shea Stadium screamers all grown up, now joining their children and grandchildren in an “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” chorus. Apparently all it takes is a couple of overpriced beers and the opening chords of “Day Tripper” to pare away the years and reduce the dowdiest suburban mom to a giggling 14-year-old.

The only surprise of the night was a pyrotechnic conflagration midway through “Live and Let Die,” incongruous in a no-frills set whose only props were a Union Jack and a dangling moon and whose only costume change, McCartney joked, was the removal of his Nehru-esque jacket. You can’t startle the middle-aged too much: they don’t appreciate things like that. Just give ‘em “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” at the end, and everyone will be happy.

We didn’t attend Sunday’s show, but we can prettily well guess how it went. (Lauren Smith)

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  1. 36 Responses to “LIVE REVIEW: Paul McCartney At The Wells Fargo Center”

  2. By Lou on Aug 16, 2010

    Wow, could this writer be any more smug? I think not.

  3. By tim on Aug 16, 2010

    Using the word “sludge” and McCartney in the same sentence is just stupid. He’s one of the few icons left out there worth seeing in today’s landscape of barren musicality.

  4. By Janice on Aug 16, 2010

    One of the worst reviews for one of the best concerts of the century. Send this reviewer back to the sports section.

  5. By Arne on Aug 16, 2010

    I think this reviewer is more insulting to the fans than to Paul. But why? Because they like to hear great songs that mean something to them, performed beautifully by the person who wrote them? Yes, I can see why the fans are deserving of scorn.

    And by the way, Paul’s latest, Electric Arguments is brilliant, as many bloggers and reviewers have attested. Heck, even the finicky Pitchfork gave it a strong rating.

  6. By steven on Aug 16, 2010

    This reviewer dosnt know what he is talking about. Paul was FANTASTIC and was funny and gave lots of charm on stage. He is the greatest artist of all time and he gave an amazing performance, best concert Ive ever been too. THANKS PAUL!

  7. By Jane on Aug 16, 2010

    Anyone who would have any kind of complaint about this concert is crazy. I have been going to concerts for over 30 years and this was the best concert I have ever seen. I felt like my dream of 46 years (seeing the Beatles) was finally realized. THANK YOU PAUL FOR A NIGHT I WILL NEVER FORGET

  8. By Beatle Ed on Aug 16, 2010

    Paul’s had the pyrotechnic display for Live and Let Die for decades now. And he has been playing Helter Skelter only in the past 5 years or so. I didn’t understand why it took SO LONG to get in the building. Also, why did the concert start about 20 minutes after 8pm??? The beginning of the show struck me as overly anticlimactic, unlike his most recent appearances in Philadelphia…he and the band looked a little tired at the start. Paul seemed genuinely awed by the crowd’s reaction/applause level, especially during “rockers”. Paul even exclaimed how we “really liked to rock”. I think Paul thinks the audience is composed of mainly new attendees, since he repeats a lot of his stories that I heard first 10 years or so ago. He did relate a few funny anecdotes though, this time. He ended with “see you next time”. I Will.

  9. By Jordan Blum on Aug 16, 2010

    I agree with all of you. Please check out my review of the concert below. I assure you it received 5 out of 5 stars.

  10. By Barbara on Aug 16, 2010

    What a nasty beatch this reviewer is. Next time the ticket should go to someone with an open mind and a personality other than snarky.If they got paid for writing this then shame on their employer.

  11. By Michael Alan Goldberg on Aug 16, 2010

    Aside from trying to get some attention for your piece by riding on the back of ours …are you KIDDING us, Jordan? “He is so famous, so talented, so respected, and so important to music that I couldn’t focus all my admiration enough to stare at him with awe.” That wasn’t a review, that was a full-fledged blowjob. It’s fine if you liked the show, but this is just starstruck fanboy slobbering. It’s impossible to take seriously as criticism.

  12. By scruboak on Aug 16, 2010

    Paul has not performed “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as a solo act. Technically, it’s a John song although both John and Paul live-double tracked the lead vocal, (with Paul veering off into the harmony here and there). It’s unlikely he’s sick of performing it since he hasn’t done so publicly since 1964.

    The photog’s criticism of Mr. Blum’s review is misplaced. Here’s the difference between a marginally informed, cynical music reviewer and an up and coming, wide-eyed kid who is willing to discover new things and relish in the experiences. Given that Paul/Beatles fans have had to suffer decades of cynical reviewers’ disdain for Paul’s pop mastery and unprecedented musical accomplishments, (would John have put out a cutting-edge electro-pop album at the age of 67? Well, who knows, but one thing’s for sure: he put out a pleasant though middling soft-rock record at the age of 40 after doing shit for six years. Meanwhile, Paul was filling the 70’s with brilliant, shimmering pop records like “LIsten to What the Man Said” and “Let “em In”. Did he write some filler amid the hundreds of songs he wrote and released? Yeah, but so has She and Him, Passion Pit and Animal Collective, all of whom have a way to go.

  13. By Brian McManus on Aug 16, 2010

    What MAG said.

  14. By Michael Alan Goldberg on Aug 16, 2010

    Enthusiasm-turned-idol worship is no substitute for critical thinking.

  15. By Jordan Blum on Aug 16, 2010

    Well I appreciate the opinion, MAG, and thanks, scruboak. Your editor contacted me about just how “awful” my piece is too. This has been a fine day. You call me out for stating how the fire display was something no one expected, yet your article states it as “The only surprise of the night…” Either we’re both wrong about it being a surprise or we’re both right. Also, my ticket says Wachovia Center on it, so as of two days ago, it hasn’t changed its name yet.

    I admit that my review does go a little too much into figurative salivating, could be tightened, and isn’t written with the totally objective approach yours is (or should I say the one you received photo credit for), but hey, I’m young, new and it was the experience of my life. I believe in writing reviews with emotion and passion if it’s felt (be it negative or positive), and my readers enjoyed the way I made them feel like they were there.

    As for my critical thinking, I critiqued it as I saw fit. I mentioned how his voice isn’t what it used to be; that’s really the only negative I noticed. I’m sorry if I didn’t invent things to nit pick.

    The Examiner site, while certainly not a blog, is not aimed at being the publishing scholar level reviews of professional wonder. It’s for local writers to discuss their topics from a unique voice and with feeling. I believe I did that fine.

  16. By Michael Alan Goldberg on Aug 16, 2010

    Jordan, a couple of things. Just so you are clear, Lauren Smith is the author of the review. She wrote it (and is credited at the end) and I posted it this morning.

    Also, the phrase “critical thinking” does NOT mean “being negative”; it’s the PROCESS of interpreting/analyzing/evaluating something. You know, being a critic.

    Writing with emotion and passion is fine, and no one’s suggesting you be bitter/cynical/jaded/whathaveyou. But your critical voice is rendered totally impotent when you go into something with extreme bias — e.g. believing McCartney is some godlike figure beyond reproach, as you essentially write more than once — and you don’t temper it with any kind of intellectual approach.

    Granted, the lack of basic research, the cliches, the tired strawman arguments, the assumptions/myth-rehashing — e.g. you say that McCartney must have had tears in his eyes singing to Lennon onstage, his childhood friend etc., which is not only overly cloying but ignores the elements of conflict, animosity, and complexity in their personal and professional relationship — and more can maybe be chalked up to the fact that you are a young writer (although I know plenty of young writers who are remarkable). By posting your link here, you’ve invited our commentary on your writing. Sure, we’ve crapped on your piece a little bit, and if you want to be upset about that, I guess I understand. And if your personal writing bar is set rather low — as your last paragraph there seems to suggest — then so be it. But if you’re open to criticism and interested in developing your critical voice and all the other things that will make you a better writer, I’m sure we could point things out in detail that you may want to consider thinking about and/or working on. Just a thought.

  17. By Jordan Blum on Aug 16, 2010

    MAG, I realize who write the article. I’m not an idiot. I wrote Brian saying that if I can receive actual advice, I’ll take it. If you guys just want to insult me (by insinuating that I would perform oral sex on McCartney, which is the most unprofessional statement in this entire conversation), then I’ll leave this whole incident behind and move on. I’m done checking this site as I no longer care what comments I receive. Good day.

  18. By Michael Alan Goldberg on Aug 16, 2010

    Sigh. If you want to turn a figure of speech — an analogy the meaning of which is perfectly clear in this context — into something else entirely as a means of redirecting your indignation over being called out after YOU posted YOUR link on OUR site, that’s your prerogative.

    Good luck with your writing career.

  19. By Jordan Blum on Aug 16, 2010

    MAG, I admit I was totally wrong for posting my link. Feel free to delete it. I’m young and trying to make a name for myself. I saw the comments here saying how they didn’t like the article and I posted mine to see what people thought of my take (and my writing). I apologize. Again, if you guys would take the time to give me some advice and tips, I would appreciate it. We’re all too old to act so immature. Let’s just move on.

  20. By Jordan Blum on Aug 16, 2010

    And no matter how much I like an artist, I am not a die hard fan boy who is blind to any faults. I have a friend that LOVES a certain band to death and he refuses to acknowledge any shortcomings, nor will he accept any negative opinion. I am not like that. Paul McCartney has written a bunch of lame, stupid songs that are far below his best in terms of quality. Hell, even some of his stuff for the Beatles is crap in my opinion (not production wise but songwriting wise). I’ll admit that completely.

  21. By Michael Alan Goldberg on Aug 16, 2010

    I think moving on is probably a very good idea.

  22. By Arne on Aug 16, 2010

    Well if Jordan’s review commits the critic’s “sin” of wide-eyed naivete, then the one written on this site written by Lauren commits the “sin” of disdain for the audience. “He gave the crowd what it wanted …” No, he put on a great performance. It was snide.

    And Paul has a mixed solo career — just like Lennon did. Just like Bob Dylan. Every singer/songwriter produces crap songs. But about McCartney’s latest work, Electric Arguments, she’s just wrong.

  23. By Janet Massaro on Aug 16, 2010

    As a fan who did see Paul and the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965 and 1966, and Paul many times since, I can tell you that his voice Sunday night rocked and rolled. He was more like 25 years old – God bless him and his pipes and let the music keep coming!

    Give peace a chance, guys, there’s enough trouble in the world. Enjoy the music while you can.

    Anyone for Pittsburgh?

  24. By scruboak on Aug 16, 2010

    I guess it’s just that, in any given century, there are going to be a handful of artists/writers/performers whose legacy matters more than others. Usually this is because those artists produced a higher quantity of high quality and influential material. This is true of, say, the 19th century Romantic period in which hundreds of composers peddled their stuff, but ultimately history relegated most of them to the pile marked “Derivative of Beethoven”. Occasionally, someone did something new, meaningful and influential in their own right. Sometimes sure, the influence wasn’t felt til’ much later, (Berlioz, for instance). Look at the 60’s rock and for the most part you have derivative blues/soul reinvention with a Beatles twist. The Beatles/Bob Dylan and the Stones, (ultimately, by 1968 anyway) broke new ground and thus spawned countless other offshoots of styles, (not just individual artists). This is not to mention the huge impact they had, (and arguably continue to have) on culture, attitudes, style, etc. Again unlike just about any other major or minor pop group/artist that we got, virtually all their songs are good/important in some way.

    My point: these factors negate the need or appropriateness of typical, critical analysis. It’s enough perhaps to be in their presence. If you go see Bob Dylan and he mumbles/growls the words to all his songs in a dramatic rearrangement that barely sounds like what you expected, it’s really an incredibly fortuitous occasion: Bob Dylan is creating right in front of you. I am one of those people who listen to all types of music somewhat voraciously. I believe I take it to “the next level” actually and it’s taught me a lot. (For example, I will listen to every Bob Dylan show via well-known bittorent sites on a daily basis while the tour is going on). I believe this is the only way to truly appreciate just what Bob Dylan does. (I’ve learned that those alleged definitive studio versions are just versions along the way in the progress of the song. He is at the top of his game now in so many ways and so few people recognize that.) Anyway, I do the same with Paul. And the Stones, And others. Paul has so improved his relationship with his songs in the past two years. They are really alive and breathing. Compare last year’s stuff with this year’s. The songs have some room to move more so than before. Hell, he’s even mixing the setlists up slightly. To see Paul in 2010 is to see Beethoven conduct and play his own piano concertos, (which he did. He actually conducted while deaf, not always successfully). Nevetheless,those fuckers were seeing Beethoven for chrissake. You guys saw Paul. Damn. I just finished listening to a high quality Neumann mic recording of that show. Damn if it ain’t the best Paul show I’ve ever heard and I’ve heard hundreds. Point: Gushing is appropriate. Peace and love.

  25. By Elisha on Aug 16, 2010

    Why is it that people who enjoy living up to the definition of the word ‘critic’ feel the need to be so snarky when it comes to something loved by the masses? Not all that is popular is bad, just as not all who criticize are original (rarely so). The world is filled with enough naysayers – an event like this was not just about music, but about that old divine trinity: peace, love & understanding.

    We die-hard Paul fans have put up with it for years, but seriously, why am I still reading it in 2010? This show was amazing, & as I said to my husband as we walked out, my voice hoarse from the incessant cheers & adoring catcalls, I love everybody when I see Paul McCartney. The love fills the room & for a few precious hours, everything is beautiful. I know I’m not the only one who shares that sentiment… I just wish the ‘critics’ could step into that feeling, just once, & write about the vibrant love brought to a city that needs it desperately.

    I also wish they would give their primo seats to real fans, & do their bashing from the bar. Give front row to those who would have a coronary just thinking about it! :)

  26. By Dave on Aug 16, 2010

    The greater challenge for journalists, if people claim to be a journalist, is to represent the truth versus their opinion. If you are an editorialist then the review might be worthy of consideration based on the editorialist’s musical and theatrical credentials. If the person who wrote the review claims to be a journalist, then you failed to report on what took place during those concerts. Twenty thousand plus got their money’s worth. If you are an editorialist the only reason you get more play than me is because you chose to write or you have incredible musical background. Choosing to be is one thing. Otherwise, please prove your background. As a journalist the only report you can file is that 20,000 plus were thoroughly thrilled by the night. My editorial, it is amazing that a 68 year old man can move so many people, in so many ways, to so many heights.

  27. By Desmond Jones on Aug 16, 2010

    The bickering above reminds me of work. ;)
    McCartney must be doing something right since he is the most successful songwriter in history according to the Guinness Book of World Records[citation needed]. It is amazing to be able to witness someone of his stature during our lifetimes. I hope he continues touring for a long time to come so I can one day take my one year old daughter to see him when she gets a little older.
    Everybody lighten up. We used to say live and let live.

  28. By newyorkjoe on Aug 17, 2010


    “…sludge through competent, if drowsy, recent work…”? “…only surprise of the night was a pyrotechnic conflagration midway through “Live and Let Die…” ??

    If this bored-to-death-with-her-job-and-life hack thinks CHAOS & CREATION, MEMORY, and ELECTRIC ARGUMENTS are drowsy (and not hailed as his best work in 30 years, as they have been by real music critics) she should be reviewing reality tv, or maybe mall openings, and not music. The new season of Kate Gosselin and those 8 exploited kids are more her milieu.

    And the LIVE AND LET DIE fireworks surprised her? Sister, those explosions have been a staple of Macca’s live performance of the Bond theme since its tour premiere in 1976.

    Next time, Miss My-Shoes-Are-Too-Tight, turn off the Beyonce on your iPod, do a little research, and text yourself a reminder: “Note to self, find a new career.”

  29. By rich on Aug 17, 2010

    I always liked Paul Mcartney but I am not a groupie or a fanboy. Simply put, he did a great job on Sunday night. A critic is entitled to his opinion if it is truthful and valid. He is not if he is just going to regurgitate his preconcieved personal opinions about an artist. Unfortunately, this article not only suggests, but stinks of the later. Maybe heshe should only review new artists like Justin Beiber. In that way, this critic would give us the facts instead of an old, worn out opinion!

  30. By anna on Aug 18, 2010

    I agree with the fans! I’ve loved Paul since I was 5 and first intro’d to the Baetles. The concert was outstanding, Paul was charming, and I left in awe. Best concert I have ever been to, interactive and rocking. I didn’t want it to end

  31. By bethany on Aug 19, 2010

    really? out of curiosity, how old is the author of this review, and what credentials do they have for reviewing this concert? because honestly, this sounds like a teenage intern with a stick up her ass who thinks she is much better then the 40+ years of musical experience performer she is reviewing. “sludge”? really? i’m not the world’s biggest paul mccartney fan but i took both of my parents to the show and have been playing classical music for the past 25 years, and you cannot deny this man his originality as a composer, as a performer, or as a leader in the musical world. he is 68 years old. if the author is older than 21, i will be surprised. open up your mind, sweetie, your writing will actually be readable, then.

  32. By tom on Aug 19, 2010

    Predictable? Guess that would apply to most shows where they perform their own (or associated) music. I saw McCartney last year and there were twelve differnces from that setlist.

    The only surprise has been a staple of his shows (last year in the open air concerts it was a huge firework display behind the stage that occurred). That sort of statement would be more understandable from a reviewer were we talking about some more obscure band (which would pretty much describe every other one that ever existed)

    Anyway, what is pretty much rubbing everyone the wrong way is the reviewer completely misses what the vast majority of attendees experienced that evening – the following snipets from past reviews sums up how this hit many of the people there —–

    Paul McCartney is the only person in the entire world capable of what happened on Saturday night: He sang his classics for nearly three hours as he presided over an enormously and universally pleasing lovefest at FedEx Field. A small handful may be able to claim an equally lauded songbook, but nobody’s is as widely cherished, and Macca wasn’t stingy in the slightest when it came giving the fans all they wanted — a whopping 21 Beatles songs were included in the set. He’s the definition of a legend, but that initial feeling of reverence quickly faded once he started chatting, affirming his status as the friendliest rock god who walks the Earth. It was simply one of those shows that left you feeling tingly on the way home. (Washington Post)

    Simply put, this was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
    I didn’t want Paul McCartney’s show at FedEx Field last night to end.
    But when it did — after a two-hour set and a 30-minute encore — I think I speak for the rest of the audience when I said I left the stadium satisfied. (Baltimore Sun)

    That’s what the reviewer missed experiencing, nor seemed to realize was being experienced by most everyone else.

    I wish I had tickets for Sunday

  33. By Meghan on Aug 20, 2010

    I could not agree more with most of these comments. Sunday night was the third time I have seen Paul McCartney in concert…and he NEVER disappoints! I am 29 years old & I was raised on Beatles music by my mother who screamed off part of her tonsils in 1964 when she saw The Beatles in Philly!!
    He is a living legend & if you can’t appreciate him, and The Beatles, for what they are & the impact that they have had on the world, then don’t go to the concerts. I only hope I can do what he’s doing at 68 years old! He has brought happiness to a lot of people & I hope he continues doing so for many years to come. You rock Sir Paul!!!

  34. By Janice on Aug 23, 2010

    I finally realized why the reviewer missed the boat on her review of the concert. I think she and her companion were sitting next to me. They came in for 1/2 of one song and then returned to the bar to stay inebriated & removed for the entire concert. Club section benefits.

  35. By Gil Coleman on Sep 4, 2010

    I went to Paul McCartney show last year in Germany with my husband. I’ve been a Beatles and McCartney’s fan my whole life, my husband not. I was amazed by his music, energy, talent and craftsmanship. The show was brilliant. My husband was so amazed, that he has become a fan. Sir Paul is fantastic and someone who has ears and soul, should have known better.

  36. By Music for Songwriters on Sep 7, 2010

    Paul McCartney is a legend…talented, down to earth and an all around nice guy…glad to know he is still touring after all these years…

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