By Kit O’Toole
Maybe it was the special occasion, or the history he shared with the general location, or his deep love of the city. Whatever the reason, Paul McCartney seemed determined to rock the newly christened Citi Field, and rock he did over three nights in summer 2009.
While he played numerous Beatles, Wings, and solo classics with renewed vigor, he tossed in lesser known album tracks for longtime fans. Compiled from the July 18, 19, and 21 shows, the CD/DVD release Good Evening New York City proves that the legend has no intention of slowing down.
The best way to enjoy the spirit of these concerts is to view the DVD (the deluxe edition includes more bonus features and an additional DVD of his recent David Letterman appearance). Featuring crystal-clear resolution and multiple camera perspectives, the video captures the excitement of these shows, both from McCartney’s and the audience’s points of view. Hand-held camera shots show ecstatic fans singing along, crying, dancing, and just thoroughly enjoying themselves (amusingly, a disproportionate number of shots feature female audience members). Some segments even film McCartney from the audience’s perspective, letting the viewer fully experience the feeling from those concerts.
Engineer Geoff Emerick and his team deserve accolades for their sound mixes. Due to the longtime Beatles engineer’s expertise, the mix is arguably the best of all of McCartney’s live albums. Unlike many live recordings, Good Evening New York City boasts a balanced yet nuanced sound; for example, all of McCartney’s piano notes can be heard on the usually bombastic “Live and Let Die.”
McCartney plays the usual Beatles standards–”Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” and “Yesterday,” among them—but he intersperses these familiar songs with lesser-known tracks and more current material. His fiery performance of “Only Mama Knows” (from 2007′s Memory Almost Full) fits in seamlessly with Wings classics “Jet” and “Let Me Roll It.” Two tracks from Electric Arguments, recorded under his alias The Fireman, make appearances: the rocking “Highway,”which also works quite well with his 70s work, and “Sing the Changes,” which he played while an image of President Barack Obama flashed across the background screen. Another Memory Almost Full song, “Dance Tonight,” becomes re-energized when performed live.
Two tracks from his underrated 1997 album Flaming Pie also comprise the set list: “Calico Skies,” a tender ballad clearly written for his late wife Linda, and the album’s title track, a fun rocker with humorous, absurd lyrics. Hardcore Wings fans must have enjoyed hearing the Band on the Run track “Mrs. Vanderbilt,” with its catchy “ho, hey ho” chorus.
Since The Beatles played one of their most famous concerts at Shea Stadium—and McCartney helped close Shea last year by appearing there with Billy Joel—the ghost of the Beatles hovers in the air during the performances. In a touching moment, McCartney cries during his tribute to John Lennon, “Here Today,” and fondly gazes up at a portrait of George Harrison at the end of his ukulele arrangement of “Something.” The DVD inter cuts between his live version of “I’m Down” with the original Shea Stadium performance. Keyboard player Wix even reenacts Lennon’s banging the keys with his elbows. The footage also demonstrates how McCartney’s voice remains remarkably unchanged from the 1965 Shea Stadium show.
But McCartney really lets his inner rocker loose on several Beatles songs. “Paperback Writer” gets a punk treatment, with McCartney, along with guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, furiously pounding their guitars. Drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. acquits himself well, reproducing Ringo Starr’s powerful beats with aplomb. The Let It Be track “I’ve Got A Feeling” features a particularly piercing guitar solo from McCartney. But he really lets his voice and guitar rip on “Helter Skelter,” giving it a metal edge live. Seeing McCartney play speed guitar with musicians half his age is truly inspiring.
The standard Good Evening New York City package includes two CDs with the concert tracks, but all stage patter has been removed. Therefore, while the music still has power, the overall experience suffers. Only faint audience noises can be heard, and McCartney and his band never address the crowd, giving the impression that they played to a strange void. Therefore the CDs should be seen as companions to the DVD rather than the reverse.
For longtime and new fans, Good Evening New York City serves as the best example yet of McCartney’s stellar live performances. The DVD accurately simulates a real concert experience, and hard core fans will appreciate another reminder of McCartney’s superb songwriting, musicianship, and charisma. While McCartney has released several live albums, Good Evening New York City may be the best one yet.
To view McCartney’s performances of “Highway” as well as other videos, visit his YouTube channel.
Editor – YouTube contains clip samples. We knew all those cameras in Halifax, NS were for a reason. McCartney was recording to create a souvenir DVD for fans a great idea.
Ordering this DVD is best from Amazon.com. The Canadian branch only lists the CD.
The Deluxe 2 CD 2 DVD offer in Canada will be released December 8, 2009 just in time for Christmas.
To make life even more interesting the 4-lp vinyl set shipping November 17, 2009 in Canada with no release date or price in the US.
Lots of choices.