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Paul McCartney has carried more tunes in his day than a pallet full of iPods. Music, says drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., is in “every fiber” of McCartney’s being: “Even if he’s making a little fruit salad, he’s humming a tune or whistling away. The music doesn’t stop around him. It’s beautiful.”
The same could be said of Laboriel, who is not only McCartney’s drummer but his harmony partner of more than 10 years. Musicality runs in his blood: his father, Abraham Laboriel Sr., is a highly respected bassist, and Abe Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps when he graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1993.
Watching Laboriel work has been one of the great joys of McCartney’s return to the stage, after the 71-year-old former Beatle took most of the ’90s off from touring. (McCartney and his band, including Laboriel, guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray and keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, return to Fenway Park on Tuesday.) A big, enthusiastic drummer with a shaved dome and a bushy goatee, Laboriel sings into his overhead microphone with as much gusto as he plays his kit.
[…] After becoming a session regular in the late 1990s, Laboriel met McCartney through producer David Kahne, who was helping Sir Paul assemble a new band for the 2001 album “Driving Rain.”
“I think Paul wanted to start fresh,” after losing his first wife, Linda, to cancer, says Laboriel. “I think he just wanted to see what was out there.”
The night before being introduced to McCartney, “I didn’t sleep a wink, of course,” he says. He thought back to his first record player, which he got at age 4; he’d sit in front of the speakers for hours on end, playing and replaying the albums “Meet the Beatles,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and “The White Album” (as well as a cherished 45 of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Shining Star”).
“That was very formative for me,” says Laboriel. “Melodically, rhythmically, arrangement-wise – it all fascinated me.”
In fact, his father has his own Beatles history, dating back to the group’s earliest days. Signed to Capitol Records in his native Mexico with a garage band called Las Profetas, he recorded Spanish-language covers of his labelmates’ songs even as they were still on the international pop charts. The family is trying to track down copies of those records.
From the beginning, Laboriel says, McCartney recognized his ability and encouraged him to use it.
“It all felt very natural. He never said, ‘Oh, could you play it more like Ringo [Starr] or Denny [Seiwell, drummer with McCartney’s band Wings].’ The cool thing about Paul is he’s very much into exploring the music, rather than dictating it.”
Now beginning their second decade together, McCartney’s solo band is working on their fourth studio album. Six years since their last, “Memory Almost Full” (McCartney’s most recent album, last year’s “Kisses on the Bottom,” was a collection of Great American Songbook standards), they have “a wealth of material” amassed, says Laboriel.
“It’s exciting,” he says. “A lot of different styles. It’s very youthful – aggressively rock at times, and singer-songwriter, insular and intimate, at others.”
Despite his age, McCartney remains an inspiration, he says. “He has boundless energy. At the end of an almost three-hour show, I’m completely wiped out. I’ve run the marathon. It’s amazing – he’s still bouncing around.
“The truth is, every time he gets onstage, he’s enjoying himself beyond anything. That gives us confidence that there’s no sign of this gig slowing down. He loves being in front of the audience, with his band, rocking out.”
Last updated on February 4, 2021