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From The Telegraph, December 23, 2009:
Having gone on X Factor to demonstrate how a real star does it, Paul McCartney used his only UK concert of 2009 as a showcase for an epic display of back-to-basics music-making. Armed only with his four-piece band and the greatest collection of hits in pop history, he travelled back and forth across the decades like the Dr Who of rock’n’roll. After almost three hours, he wrapped it up with Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but looked as if he’d have been quite happy to carry on all night until the trains started running again.
The most striking part about it was the way McCartney and band just stood up there and played, without assistance from sequencers, samples, dancing girls or orchestras (though there was a dramatic late appearance by the bagpipers of the Balmoral Highlanders on Mull Of Kintyre, one of several rarely-played songs refurbished for the occasion). Obviously picking the right players helps. The long-serving Paul “Wix” Wickens was at the keyboards, supplying everything from the organ counterpoint on Let It Be or the synthesised orchestrations in The Long And Winding Road to the swirling maelstrom effects in a hugely effective A Day In The Life. The physical bulk of drummer Abe Laboriel accurately reflects the concussive force of his playing, while guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson handled the riffs, licks and power chords with nonchalance.
Whatever elixir the 67-year-old Macca is running on remains a mystery, but he seems to get a huge charge from performing to an audience, especially one which is bombarding him with waves of adoration. Structuring a set from such a huge catalogue must be a real brainteaser, but he struck an effective balance between raunchy Beatles’ nuggets (Get Back, Day Tripper, Lady Madonna) and Beatles’ ballads (Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday), highlights from Wings (souped-up versions of Jet and Band On The Run) and solo material. Standout among the latter was a scintillating Sing The Changes, from the Electric Arguments album.
There was a sense, too, that McCartney was finding himself again after the traumas of the Heather Mills’ years. My Love came with a heartfelt dedication to the late Linda, and he used Here Today and a version of Something to summon the spirits of John Lennon and George Harrison. But dying before he gets old looks like the last thing on Macca’s mind.
From For Whom The Bell Tells, February 19, 2010:
London – 22nd December, 2009
‘There are few on this earth who can write a more impressive set-list without recourse to cover versions.’ 5 Stars. The Times
‘McCartney offered a curfew-busting set packed with sufficient hits to leave people punch-drunk….But, as ever, it was largely sunshine from the singer who can cause grown men to make sparkly banners. They came to be uplifted, and after almost three hours no one could say they were short-changed.’ 4 Stars. Evening Standard
‘Sir Paul McCartney wows London’s O2 Arena with a marathon three-hour spectacular. Indeed, everyone had a truly wonderful time.’ The Mirror
‘Having demonstrated on the X Factor how a real star does it, Paul McCartney used his only UK concert of 2009 as a showcase for an epic display of back-to-back basics music-making. Armed only with his four-piece band and the greatest collection of hits in pop history, he travelled back and forth across the decades like the Dr Who of rock and roll. Whatever elixir the 67-year-old Macca is running on remains a mystery, but he seems to get a huge charge from performing to an audience, especially one that is bombarding him with waves of adoration.’ 5 Stars. Telegraph
‘He pulled out the heavy weaponry for a hit-packed three-hour gig. Macca’s as fab as ever.’ The Sun
‘The most emotional moment is the smallest: “Blackbird” rendered alone on acoustic guitar, his voice wavering through the chorus. The O2 is vast, a sterile, unforgiving shed whose scale can crush junior talents. For two-and-a-half minutes, he shrank it to the size of his living room.’ The Observer
‘As the old Christmas joke goes: What do you give the man who’s got everything? For the most legendary singer on the planet, the answer is a tour finale so emotional even HE is overwhelmed by his fans’ response…..you can almost see the green glow of envy from younger stars in the crowd like Noel Gallagher and Alex Turner. The man is living history and the way he continues to bring new energy to his past is incredible.’ 5 Stars. News Of The World
‘….He served up a tremendous, high-energy show…People of all ages, and there really were all ages at this concert, were up and dancing.’ 5 Stars. The Independent
Last updated on December 8, 2018
Setlist for the soundcheck
Setlist for the concert
Accompagnied with the Balmoral Highlanders pipers