Paul McCartney

Let Him Be, McCartney plays Manchester More

Live Review

Written By Jon Maher Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Paul McCartney at M.E.N. Arena, Manchester

OK, I’ll level with you. I love Paul McCartney.

I love it when he sticks his thumb in the air. I love it twice as much when he sticks two thumbs in the air. I know there are those that don’t. They think he’s silly.

It will be interesting to see the bent that history affords him once he does leave us. The true genius of the Beatles, the innovator, the psychedelic sonic architect? Or remain just the sidekick of an angry-yet-empowering, peace-mongering poet-come-Martyr, who thought it might be, maybe, kinda cool if we all gave up meat?

This is the sort of thing I think about. And, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter one jot. His true legacy is his songs, and, as tonight proves, his songs are the best.

A giant screen or three projects a Höffner bass made from stars, the lights dim and people cheer. Loudly.

Now, I’m not one for giddiness but I am genuinely overcome as I realise that the little dot at the other end of the Manchester Arena is a Beatle. A real Beatle. My guest for the evening, my Mum, is transported back to the Bradford Gaumont, December 1963. It’s a moment. Silence ye cynics.

Countless moments follow, as Macca expertly picks from Beatles, Wings, The Fireman, and solo material, even throwing in Come And Get It, the 1969 hit he penned for Badfinger.

His defiant reclamation of Live And Let Die from Axl Rose and his cronies, with staggering indoor pyrotechnics, his thundering Maybe I’m Amazed, the majestic Long and Winding Road, and his perfect rendition of Yesterday which takes one and all back to Royal Variety performances of yore. Us in the cheap seats rattle our iPhones.

Oddly though, it’s a George Harrison song that pushes me over the edge. Now if you ask me, or Frank Sinatra, Something is indeed the greatest love song ever written. The blossoming version Macca delivers unfolds delicately from ukulele to full band with four-part harmonies. It is transcendental. Consider this spine well and truly tingled. And eyes moistened.

Now, it wouldn’t be Macca without a bit of that old cheese of course. A kid’s choir helps us all sing A Wonderful Christmas Time as the fake snow falls on the front rows. People are selected from the audience to join him on stage for a chat and hug. But as the cynics arm their pens, it’s worth remembering this isn’t a man fighting the wrongs of the Vietnam war, this is a man who wants to show us the transfer sticker tattoos his grandchildren gave him earlier in the day. Let him Be.

After the set-piece sing-along of sing-alongs Hey Jude leads us into an encore or two, there is one final moment for me, as Abe Jnr on drums powers the incredible band through Helter Skelter. Bucket List item #27 = ticked.

The fact that Macca chooses to include and deliver this near the end of three hour set is further proof that, despite approaching 70, there is no sign visible or audible to me that he wont continue for a 1,000 years at least.

And as Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End brings the night to a fitting close, Macca says he’ll see us next time.

And I respond with a big double thumbs up.

Set list on | YouTube

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