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 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?
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.
[Updated, 11:25 a.m.: Below is the set list from last night's show]
1) Venus and Mars / Rock Show
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
16) Here Today
17) Dance Tonight
18) Mrs. Vanderbilt
19) Eleanor Rigby
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
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