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Live review: Paul McCartney rocks the Hollywood Bowl [Updated]

It’s hard to think of much in the pop music world more impressive than a 67-year-old musician  holding forth for nearly three hours, outdoors on a chilly March night, while delivering some three dozen songs, the least of which would be a career highlight for almost any other artist.

Perhaps the only thing more mind-boggling than that description of Paul McCartney’s sold-out show Tuesday in the first of his two nights this week at the Hollywood Bowl was the realization when it was all Paul_McCartney_2_  over that, without much trouble and no serious dip in quality, he could have filled another set of that magnitude with all the choice Beatles, Wings and solo tunes he didn’t get around to: “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Getting Better,” “She’s Leaving Home,”  “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Hi, Hi, Hi,” etc. etc. etc.

It was  no-brainer that he'd open Tuesday’s concert with “Venus and Mars Rock Show,” what with its line in the chorus about a “rock 'n' roll at the Hollywood Bowl.”  The rest was a romp through nearly half a century of some of the most enduring rock music ever written. And that’s just his portion of it, although he did make generous nods to departed colleagues John Lennon — singing “A Day in the Life” and “Give Peace a Chance” — and George Harrison, in a reading of “Something” that went from lighthearted to deeply moving, something McCartney does effortlessly.

The minor shock of the evening was that Ringo Starr didn’t get so much as a mention, although his presence was felt in some of the vintage film clips used as a visual backdrop to a couple of songs as well as during the pre-concert programming on the giant video screens that flanked the Bowl’s stage.

McCartney’s ace four-piece band re-created the sound of the various original recordings accurately, without being slavish, although some string and horn parts delegated to keyboardist Paul Wickens to handle by way of synthesizers were a disappointment in “Eleanor Rigby,” “Lady Madonna,” “Got to Get You Into My Life” and “Yesterday.”

If Paul McCartney can’t scare up some bona fide orchestral players, in Hollywood no less, who can?

PAUL_MCCARTNEY_3  The show’s star was relaxed as ever, downplaying his superhuman musical achievements. And even if it wasn’t spontaneous, his brief pause early on so he could step back from the microphone, cast his gaze around the Bowl’s expansive territory -- where the Fab Four made historic visits 4 1/2 decades ago -- and “drink it all in” was clearly heartfelt.

The set hewed considerably closer to the mainstream than his edge-exploring performance last year at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival, and it included a couple of selections he said he’d never played in the U.S. before this tour: “Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five” from “Band on the Run” and the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

That perfectly suited Hollywood’s middle-of-the-road crowd, consisting of old-school Beatles fans revisiting their formative years side by side with a sizable contingent of teens and pre-teens smack dab in the middle of theirs, with McCartney and the Beatles as the bond between them.

A word of advice to fans attending tonight’s Bowl show: Arrive plenty early. Tuesday’s show was delayed about 45 minutes past the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start time, in large part because some 18,000 concert-goers were funneled through a ridiculously small number of ushers scanning and hand-stamping their tickets. “Let ‘Em In,” indeed.

A full review will appear in Thursday’s Calendar section, and is now available online.

[Updated, 11:25 a.m.: Below is the set list from last night's show]

1)   Venus and Mars / Rock Show

2)   Jet


4)   Letting Go

5)   Got to Get You Into My Life

6)   Highway (The Fireman)

7)   Let Me Roll It

8)   Foxey Lady (snippet)

9)   The Long and Winding Road

10)   Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty Five

11)   (I Want To) Come Home  (from   "Everything’s Fine")

12)   My Love

13)   I’m Looking Through You

14)   Two Of Us

15)  Blackbird

16)   Here Today

17)   Dance Tonight

18)   Mrs. Vanderbilt

19)   Eleanor Rigby

20)   Something

21)   Sing the Changes (Fireman)

22)   Band on the Run

23)   Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

24)   Back In the USSR

25)   I’ve Got a Feeling

26)   Paperback Writer

27)   A Day in the Life

28)   Give Peace a Chance

29)   Let It Be

30)   Live and Let Die

31)   Hey Jude


32)   Day Tripper

33)   Lady Madonna

34)   Get Back

35)   Yesterday

36)   Helter Skelter

37)   Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)

38)   The End

-- Randy Lewis

Photos: Paul McCartney at the Hollywood Bowl on March 30, 2010. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (43)

I went to the show and it was FANTASTIC! This article describes it perfectly. I am 30 and went with my mom. She has this amazing love for the Beatles and PAUL, infact when she came here from Cuba she used their songs to learn english. I was sitting smack dab in between her and a 10 year old boy who knew the words to EVERY song he sang. It was truly a great experience. I grew up listening to Paul when he was with the Beatles and Wings and all that stuff. It was nice to finally see a legend like him.

My only complaint of the night was that we were part of that crowd that was stuck waiting to get through this mob of people to get patted down and let in to the Hollywod Bowl. Other than that it was great!

An exemplary review of one of the most talented, diverse and ageless performers in rock history. I especially love the song "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five." Paul McCartney is also a renowned human rights activist, animal welfare proponent, environmentalist and a humanitarian vegetarian.

Actually, the lyric is "rock and roll at the Hollywood Bowl," which has the advantage of rhyming.

Ah, I see now that the article has been edited. It originally said "rock show at the Hollywood Bowl."

Great review!
The concert was amazing! How many people can still have sold out concerts at 67 years old? How many can have such a wide range of ages and types attending the show? Only one: Paul McCartney!
I was hoping some guests would show up onstage....especially Ringo Starr. Oh well.
His band, as usual, is amazing!
Paul's voice and musicianship was rock solid.
We all had a blast!
We hope all is well.
The Clarences (Robert, Trixie, Carlos & Jeremy)


"McCartney’s ace four-piece band" is made up of Brian Ray (Bass/Guitar), Rusty Anderson (Lead Guitar), Abe Laboriel, Jr. (drums and amazing back up vocals!) and Paul "Wix" Wickens (Keyboards and other synthesized parts that were done rather well!!!). And yes, we were stuck in the "funnel" too...but I'm sure the people who couldn't get tickets would have waited with a smile on their face for a chance to see that show!

I expected better sound than I heard, a lack of deep bass, very clangy sounding, even the piano sound was harsh, and I thought the keyboard for strings and brass could have sounded better..I guess I'm just spoiled listening to all those studio versions....

Great game last night. The Mets are my favorite. My favorite Paul song is BlueBird. Did he sing that by chance or was it their destiny>

Last night's concert was well received -- once you waited through the 30+ minutes to have your ticket taken by the H.B. staff. Although the performers were fantastic, the sound -- mostly the guitars and keyboard -- were amped so loud that the only thing you heard was a wash of distortion so loud that it was painful to listen to -- literally -- and I was in sec. J2, in the middle of the audience. The music is the thing. Hearing the notes of the music that we all remember and longed to hear was the big reason to shell out $200.00+ per ticket. Too bad the sound mixers choose loudness over quality. I'd rate this concert a B- for overall music quality. But Sir Paul was in true form!

To anyone who went to last night's show, was there merchandise on sale? I'm going tonight and wondered if I should come prepared to purchase anything. Thanks!

LOVED every note! It was a GREAT show!!

You missed a great story angle. "Local boy makes good". Brian Ray, Paul's guitarist and vocal backup is from LA. He's played with Paul for many years and is a accomplished musician as well. There is a story there if you look into it! Cheers

I was at the concert last night with my husband. It was an incredible night, both historical and a dream come true for me to see Paul at the Hollywood Bowl. We were up on our feet singing , screaming, humming and tearing at the same time. I've been to Paul Mc's concert a couple of times before but this was something else. A must go!
This event was also personal for me from another angle. I am an Iranian-born Jewish person and being able to see my most favorite rocker perform in front of me on the second night of Passover- a celebration of freedom- meant the world to me.

Thank you Paul, thanks for making my dream come true! Love ya always!

Any tickets for tonight's performance?

I agree with the complaints about the sound: it was too loud and highly distorted. At too high a volume the ear loses the ability to perceive dynamic range, which is one of the key ways we distinguish voices and musical instruments. This is sad since Paul apparently selected, or at least approved the sound man, when he thanked him by name at the end of the concert.

Yes. They sold memorabilia. Several places had stalls that were selling PMC t-shirts. A tad expensive but worth it.

The Hollywood Bowl store was selling Beatles stuff as well.

Oh God, what a set list!!! I heard the first three songs from behind the stage, but was denied entry last night b/c of a StubHub Flub... but they're comping me tickets for TONIGHT!!!

I really REALLY REALLLY want to hear Get Back, Back in the USSR and Maybe I’m Amazed tonight. But all I really wanted to see was Live & Let Die w/ a full orchestra... he didn't have one??? How did that and A Day In The Life sound without one??

it was my first time seeing Paul McCartney perform and I am now finally, completely in awe of the man and his body of work. the presentation, sound and performance were outstanding. only he could construct such a vast array of styles and genres from his catalog (and a few friends' songs) for the setlist. i don't know if it happens at every show but to hear the stories about jimi hendrix, eric clapton, john lennon and george harrison really solidified it for me. this night was one of the greatest hollywood bowl shows i have seen and a significant choice of venue. ultimately, i feel incredibly fortunate and humbled to have been able to attend. thank you paul for an unforgettable show - if it comes anywhere near you, don't miss this tour!

"It’s hard to think of much in the pop music world more impressive than a 67-year-old musician holding forth for nearly three hours"


My mother, who is a contemporary of the Beatles and fan summed it up, "He needs to stop dying his hair and strutting around like he's young, doesn't he realize how silly he looks?".

Amazing night! Macca showed that he is 67 years young! He played 3 hours, sounded amazing, and he never took a break or a sip of water.

Quite a performance. Also, his band + the production were fantastic.


Interesting remarks about the sound quality because I was at the Phoenix concert in Jobing.com arena on March 28, and the sound quality was AWFUL. I imagined it was the arena, and even remember thinking, gosh, surely the Hollywood Bowl will have better sound... Sounds like it might be arena-independent.

But no matter, it was still just a fabulous experience. An astounding musician and performer. Paul is the best. Worth every penny.

My first concert ever was last night to see Sir Paul this 68 year old man brought life to Hollywood Bowl full of energy and pure happiness. His music was amazing just hearing it gave me an adrenaline rush. The show was amazing and he was amazing. This experience was worth every cent. There are no words out there to describe what he brought to Hollywood last night. One of the high lights of my life was to have the opportunity to see a Beatle live!!!

What a disapointed...not able to have the funds to be able to take my wife to see her favorite band member play a the Hollywood Bowl. I was really saving money to buy her the less expensive ticket just for her; but it turns out that when I try to buy the ticket online (faster) on the same day they were on sale; they were sold out. I try to get tickets later on, but they were over $1000.00; I couldn't not afford it. It was really disapointed seen my wife saying "maybe next time". It's not fare, my wife really loves the beatles. She is so loyal againts pirate copies, because she really believes.. & adores the beatles & follows them on youtube, radio, TV, you name it. So, it was a really disapointed not making her dream come true of seen her Idol's performance for the 1st time; She says since she never got the opportunity to see the whole band together; she would love to see Paul playing life in front of her eyes not caring if it was all the way up hanging from the lamps. Anyways, I hope the people that were able to go to the show, really enjoyed themselves, because you never know when it's going to happened again. I really hope there is a next time for my wife to see Paul perform live; hopefully by then I really can afford it. Take care all...

Comparing notes...yours and mine....(on set list)

#11 from the Movie: "Everybody's Fine" is entitled: (I Want to) Come Home

After #14 "Two of Us".....Paul played "Blackbird"

....Great review...have to totally agree.....
"he could have filled another set of that magnitude with all the choice...tunes"....easily.......

Thanks for the review of a most memorable evening!....Paul doesn't disappoint.

For the person who asked about the on site sale stuff, there were about five t-shirts around $40 per, a hoodie (for $85.00), tour book for $20, hat, most recent NYC CD and DVD, book tote, and a mini poster.

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