ACL Live Review: Paul McCartney

Listen to what the man said

The Beatles made pop music that normally shouldn’t work, and Paul McCartney knows it. After performing the billet-doux jangle of “From Me to You,” he recalled, “Someone asked me once, ‘What was the turning point for you and the band?’” As he cradled a Martin guitar and hummed the melody to the tune in its major key, the answer seemed to be the actual song.

Photo by Gary Miller

Yet in an unexpected clunk, he resolved to a tense G minor. Surprised, he stared at his guitar and joked, “G minor?! That’s a turning point, right?”

In conventional pop modus operandi, these songs with dissonant resolve are dangerous territory, but in modern pop vernacular, they’re timeless and brilliant, and changed the trajectory of rock & roll and pop. You can hear it on the jarring onset of “A Hard Day’s Night.” As the first song of the night, six strings rang with an unorthodoxy that clanged like a rattling iron church bell, bringing a large congregation to McCartney’s nearly three-hour Magical Mystery Tour at ACL Fest for a second consecutive Friday.

Next came the one-two punch of a spry “All My Loving” and Wings’ slinky panache on “Letting Go.” Both struck with an equal aplomb that was met by either a kick of his Chelsea boot or goofy gyrations. Even at 76, he’s still the cutest and most beloved Beatle.

Quick to take off his denim jacket and roll up his sleeves, McCartney swapped out his iconic violin Hofner bass for a multicolored Les Paul on Band on the Run’s “Let Me Roll It.” The hard-edged, swift lick sparked like tripwire to the explosive Jimi Hendrix tribute “Foxy Lady.” Dialing in torrential Sixties fuzz and coaxing feedback, the knighted Liverpudlian might have bested his trusted axemen, Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray.

In a 31-song set, the bandleader sucked the audience into a vertiginous time warp, traversing through a multitude of eras. The Seventies, “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” kept him perched alongside a grand piano, while Beatlemania from the previous decade metered out the early-show triumvirate of “We Can Work It Out,” “From Me To You,” and “Love Me Do.” The side-winked and cheeky “Fuh You” and “Come On to Me,” off his latest Egypt Station, sneaked their way in for a leap of centuries.

While hi-hats muffled like carnival monkey cymbals on Sgt. Peppers’ “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” George Harrison tribute “Something” dialed back with a ukulele arrangement in simplistic reverie. Karaoke and jukebox hour then commenced with calypso-tinged fluff “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and piano ballad epic “Let It Be,” while “Back in the U.S.S.R” coalesced Beach Boys harmonies and Chuck Berry skewer-cooked riffage.

In the pyrotechnic-assisted “Live and Let Die,” brass crescendos and sweeping strings launched into the transcendental ether of closer “Hey Jude.” Beyond the crowd-pleasing and 60 years worth of celebrity, there’s some sage wisdom lined in Paul McCartney’s songwriting. In his own words, listen to what the man said.

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More Paul McCartney
ACL Live Review: Paul McCartney
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Listen to What the Man Said
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Paul McCartney, ACL Fest 2018, ACL Music Fest 2018, Beatles, Wings, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, George Harrison, Beach Boys, Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray

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