- New York City
- Highline Ballroom
More from year 2007
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From The New York Times, June 15, 2007:
“I love you, Paul,” someone shouted, halfway through Paul McCartney’s “secret” set at the Highline Ballroom on Wednesday night. Well, more than one: A lot of people were shouting that. They couldn’t help themselves. He was right in front of them.
“I love you, too,” Mr. McCartney answered, but almost as a defensive block: he put on a Tony Soprano accent, and he kept a straight face. “It’s the beauty of these intimate shows, you know,” he followed, dryly. “You get to have intimate conversations with the audience. ‘How ya doin’?’ ‘You’re the man!’ ‘Naw, you’re the man!’ “
Cheery, but essentially trying to get his work done, Mr. McCartney struck a formal facsimile of intimacy: 90 minutes on stage in a 700-capacity room full of reporters, assorted V.I.P.s, contest winners and stand-in-line-for-a-long-timers who heard about the show only a day or two before.
The gig was a promotion for his new album, “Memory Almost Full” (Hear Music), and he put on the same show at the Electric Ballroom, a slightly larger club in London, last week. (He has not announced plans for a proper tour.)
It’s not unusual these days for big acts to play a promotional show at a club they’ve outgrown. The same night in New York, Franz Ferdinand played a “secret” gig at the Bowery Ballroom, and likewise with Interpol last week.
For Mr. McCartney, however, who can sell out stadiums at hundreds of dollars a ticket, this was unusual. He used no pyrotechnics or video backdrop, and the audience stood close enough to its hero that it could hold non-conversations with him. He played beautifully, in tight control of his voice (even in high range) and his musicianship, through a clutch of new songs and some of the oldest Beatles repertory.
But much of what was special about hearing someone like Mr. McCartney in a place like this was counteracted by the glibness of his touring band, almost the same crew that backed him on his stadium tour last year. These musicians—two guitarists, a keyboards and drums — were accurate, reliable, in the pocket and kind of flavorless.
Mr. McCartney is a fascinating alloy of raw and slick, eccentricity and efficiency. When you hear the tracks on “Memory Almost Full” in which he plays all the instruments — his drumming one step ahead of primitive, his bass lines so melodically inventive they’re almost evil — you wish he could just multiply himself for performances.
When the band replicated old parts, touching on the tiniest details of Beatles songs like “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Lady Madonna,” and “Hey Jude,” the show felt something like an homage to composition and production, rather than the great thing that performances can be: two-way rituals between band and audience.
But something about the joy and simplicity of the new songs made the set more special. There were five of them, including “Dance Tonight,” a naively sweet call for fun, with Mr. McCartney’s mandolin-strumming as the through-line; “Nod Your Head,” a slow, chugging rock song; and “That Was Me,” full of spry astonishment at looking back on a strange and notable life. (It went over big in the V.I.P. section, where people may be prone to similar thoughts.)
The onlooker’s stupid reflex, after decades of Beatlesology and Paul-versus-John studies, is to scrutinize Mr. McCartney for honesty, whatever that is. But all he had to do was play a few songs alone with guitar—”Blackbird” and “I’ll Follow the Sun”— and he seemed as guileless as the next guy. Later, alone at the piano, he sang “Here Today,” an elegiac song he wrote after John Lennon’s death, and dedicated it to “our fallen heroes: John, George and Linda.”
When he finished, he stopped the flow of his own efficiency, and thought out loud. “It’s good to play that song in the town John loved,” he said. “And where Linda was born in. And where we played the Ed Sullivan show.”
Last updated on January 18, 2021
This was the 1st and only concert played at Highline Ballroom.
Setlist for the concert