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TRIPPING THE LIVE FANTASTIC (1990)

After Paul was busted going into Japan, he laid low in 1980 and put his next an effort into the home recorded McCARTNEY II. It was not fully appreciated in it’s day, and now is thought of as ahead of it’s time experimental gem, not without faults, but a door opener in low-fi electronic recordings.

Lennon’s death was a crossroads which he could not turn back from.

He began to slowly re-embrace his Beatles roots, working with George and Ringo, and on all Beatles related projects up until this day.

We can see on all future concerts a dramatic shift in his song selections.

While successive tours would most likely support a new solo release, the set lists would become much more Beatles friendly.

Why look at the next live album we are reviewing now…. 3 Wings songs, 9 solo songs (most from the new album) and 15 Beatles songs.

After reuniting with George Martin in 1981, and beginning the next Wings album, he was convinced by Martin to make it a solo album. Wings was history with that decision and TUG OF WAR became the start of the third phase of his solo recording career.

Guest stars and bringing in new/hot producers to enable his visions, and attempts to recapture the mega-sales status of the past while remaining relevant in the contemporary market.

This still holds mostly true, but I think today he is more at peace to create to critical praise and self happiness.

1983 saw PIPES OF PEACE, started from leftovers from previous sessions. Not as well praised, but with big hits and names helping out.

Music videos for TV became the new way to promote, rather than going out on the road. After much success from these two albums on that front, he went full into it with the 1984 BROAD STREET. Not a disaster to watch as a fan, but it was box-office and critic wise, the biggest bomb of his career. Macca Magical Mystery Tour.

He appeared in concert as a one off at 1985’s Live Aid, and was greeted with a sound technical failure that almost made this a nightmare. His 1986 PRESS TO PLAY was ripped by critics, sold less that past albums and forgotten. He still put out singles, now dabbling in remixes and extended plays. His appearance at the Prince’s Trust concert that year was fantastic and had to help heal the wounds of Live Aid.

1987 saw him record, old style “The Russian Album” or CHOBA A CCCP. His love for the songs of his youth was always a healer for Paul, and is reflected on the 1989 tour which spurned this live album.

He began to work with other songwriters in this time period. First Eric Stewart of 10cc, then Elvis Costello. Both collaborations filled me with promise, but both ended quickly and with a bit of mystery as to why….

He took some of the songs he had worked with Costello on and hired a recording band, consisting of Linda, Hamish Stuart, Robbie McIntosh, Wix Wickens and Chris Whitten.

The album was 1989’s FLOWERS IN THE DIRT, released to much more positive reviews and sales. He decided to take this recording band and make them his touring band.

So they headed out on the road as The Paul McCartney World Tour. Every aspect was ultra modern, from stage to sound to promotion and concept. I saw him on this tour for the second time in Los Angeles on November 23rd, 1989. The night before Stevie Wonder joined him onstage, and Ringo came out for an introduction. This tour stretched into mid-1990 and was captured for this release. Beside the huge full album, a Highlights version was also released on October 29th, 1990.

On this complete album, Paul has included the pre-show chant as a track as well as four soundcheck tracks with two of these pre-show jams and being credited to all five band members.

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Statistical Analysis

# of Songs: 37

Songs of Paul (solo): 9 (24.3%)

Songs of Wings: 3 (8.1%)

Songs of Beatles (Lennon/McCartney): 15 (40.5%)

Songs of Others/The Band: 9 (24.3%)

Not Really A Song 1 (2.7%)

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“Showtime”

Not really a song so no rating….

There may have been a pre-show film for this one, about Paul’s career.

As the band approaches the stage they warm up and psych themselves up. Many bands circle, pray, harmonize. Nowadays, Paul and touring band sing the “Theme from The Monkees.” But in 1989….. we had this. A knock on the door…. “Showtime…”. The band approaches as the crowd volume raises…. The opening note drone….The giant image of Paul’s Hofner bass fills the screen into…..

“Figure Of Eight”

A song from his current album, FLOWERS played as well as possible. Paul sounds great but we can hear the voice now struggles and squeaks a bit more on the screams. This is life. He still smoked (everything) back then, and and a thirty year career of vocal shredding pays a price. Rating – 7.5

“Jet”

They segue into Wings “Jet,” and again this band is top notch. Wix brings such talent to every track, and besides filling every sound needed he takes the pressure off Linda. Robbie is an outstanding guitarist, and Hamish harmonizes so well with Paul. Paul struggles a tad more on this one. Rating. – 7

“Rough Ride”

Another FLOWERS track. If you had bought the album, and liked it and knew the songs on it, then you hear a wonderful reproduction. I would notice more bathroom and food & drink breaks by this in the crowd during the newer songs….Linda’s “yeahs!” Crack me up. Rating – 7.5

“Got To Get You Into My Life”

Paul teases the Robbie had written this song “that morning..” I’m sure he said this every show…. The first Beatles track and a chance to bop. Hamish really has to help Paul out on the chorus…. I remember being saddened at the time that our Paul was aging. Thirty three years later he still is kicking it…. Rating – 7

“Band On The Run”

Wings signature song, not as an encore, but placed here, early on. Linda’s synth part sounds a bit lean compared to the band. Played fantastically, as are all of the songs here. Paul’s charm and energy before and after each song are what makes you love him, but he struggles on the chorus here. Rating – 7

“Birthday”

A Beatles song that he hadn’t done before certainly had the asses shaking. Rating – 7.5

“Ebony And Ivory”

TUG OF WAR hit, with Hamish taking Stevie’s parts and nailing them. The second show at The Forum in L.A. Stevie was brought onstage to sing this with Paul. Rating – 8

“We Got Married”

A FLOWERS track played fantastically, Robbie doing his best to nail David Gilmour’s original 1984 guitar parts, which were kept on the 1989 album. Paul ad-libs “It’s not just a ‘washing machine’ if you don’t work at it. You really hear Wix’s contribution on the band, with a magnificent trumpet solo and strings on his keyboard set-up. Sadly, I watched the crowd rush to pee and eat as it began. Rating – 8.5

“Inner City Madness”

A jam at soundcheck that is filled with odd noises and squeaks and changes in tempo. Is it needed, no, but ok. Rating – 6

“Maybe I’m Amazed”

Paul settles into the large piano for the next two and sounds fine, but struggles on the upper end. The band, musically and vocally are spectacular, on this and EVERY track. Rating – 7.5

“The Long And Winding Road”

Paul takes us back “through the mists of time…to a time they call the 60’s.” Extra long intro and pause before the opening line. Done wonderfully. Funny how Paul now plays it in concert with lush strings and tender horns (Wix and Linda) and this was one of the straws that broke him back in 1969. Hamish and Paul harmonizing on the last verse is a highlight of the album for me. Rating – 8.5

“Cracking Up”

Bo Diddley made this one a hit, and Paul recorded it on the Russian album. Here is just a 50 second snippet of a soundcheck. Rating -7

“The Fool On The Hill”

He dedicates this to George, John and Ringo. On the colorful piano, at the end features the spoken words of Martin Luther King Jr. The piano lights up, rises and spins as Paul offers this song of hope…. Another highlight as Paul stays within his vocal range. Another wonderful harmony segment and finish with Hamish. Rating – 8.5

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

Wix samples the opening to the Beatles album and the crowd loves it. They rock it hard, but stay true to the original. All the sound effects are here. The segue into the guitar interplay of “The End” without crediting it, and no lyrics and then return to end “Pepper” properly. A very nice change I didn’t expect. Rating – 8.5

“Can’t Buy Me Love”

Paul asks “if they want to pop, jiggle about a bit or rock out, as this is a good one to do it.” They go in the 1964 classic and it sure is a toe tapper. But I’m not sure about “popping” to it. Rating – 8

“Matchbox”

Soundcheck of a Carl Perkins song that The Beatles recorded with Ringo handling the lead. But here it is rocked up more than a bit and Hamish handles the main lead, backed by Paul. Rating – 8

“Put It There”

Live, Paul explains the origins of the expression. From FLOWERS. Sadly, another chance for lesser fans to run somewhere. He adds a coda of the coda to “Hello Goodbye.” Other than it fits perfectly, it doesn’t make any sense why? Sort of like now he does “Foxy Lady” at the end of “Helter Skelter.” Rating – 7

“Together”

Soundtrack that the band is given credit for. A mid-tempo reggae beat on this song of positivity, with only three lines of lyrics…. Rating – 7

“Things We Said Today”

Another new Beatles song he had never done, and it was refreshing. Hamish again jumps in on the chorus much like his old partner. At the end Robbie is given a few minutes to solo with Wix giving him notes to work off of (Hey…. Paul did that on the last song of Egypt Station (“C-Link”) , and it really shows his chops. I imagine everyone ran to the back to get a drink or smoke…. Rating – 8.5

“Eleanor Rigby”

The segue into the REVOLVER classic. Paul slows it down a hair or two, with just Wix on keys, Robbie on acoustic and the band on backing vocals. Linda is way off key as I listen on the headphones. God rest her soul…. Rating – 7

“This One”

From FLOWERS…. Nice drone opening and vocals (kudos again to Hamish) throughout… personal favorite from the album, performed here in loose as a goose fashion. Rating – 8

“My Brave Face”

FLOWERS opening single, the very Beatle like song that everyone expected to top the charts. It did well, but only well. Sounds nice, but lacks the full impact of the studio version. Rating – 7

“Back In The U.S.S.R”

Wix lures us in with the soundbite of the airplanes…. A nice ass-shaking version of The Beatles WHITE ALBUM version. Faithful in all aspects, but at the end Paul scats on the vocals about being ‘back…. I’m back…. etc” Rating – 7.5

“I Saw Her Standing There”

Another one to keep the crowd “popping.” And “popping they-a-was.” The rip this 4/4 standard rocker for all its worth. Hamish’s rhythm track is worth the price of admission. Paul doesn’t overstep his range on this one. Rating – 8.5

“Twenty Flight Rock”

He played this one the 1979 Wings tour, on the Russian album in 1987, and again, this song got him into the Quarrymen. One of Paul’s all-time favorite covers. Great playing and singing by the band. Wix’s piano solo even had my dogs ass shaking. Oh wait, it shakes all of the time… Rating – 8.5

“Coming Up”

The crowd is wild, and Paul makes this one about Chris Whitten who turns the pop-rocker into more of a disco laden tune. Otherwise this one in similar style to the live hit of 1979, with Wix on horns. Hamish and Paul swap lead on a few of the verses… Paul even has Wix pull in a few vocal samples during the extended drum runs. Rating – 7.5

“Sally”

Soundcheck that Paul appears to improv vocally through. Old standard that must have confused the two time he played bits of it in shows…. Rating – 6

“Let It Be”

We knew it was nearing the end. Paul was saving the big guns for the final laps of the show. Done much like the 1979 version and Glyn Johns Beatles mix. Slow and steady until the 1:30 mark, and Whitten’s drums kick in. Solo by Robbie is spot on. Paul effectively vamps on the vocal phrasing…. Rating – 8

“Ain’t That A Shame”

Paul talked about meeting Fats Domino and then used the opening line of the song to finish his story. He recorded this one on The Russian Album in 1987, but thankfully didn’t have echo on his vocals on the two breaks… Very well done…. Rating – 8

“Live And Let Die”

The end is nearing. Paul at the piano, and we waited for the explosions! Now even bigger and better. Paul hangs in there and handles the screams! Rating – 8

The band leaves the stage…. We are happy, but we want more…..

“If I Were Not Upon The Stage”

36 second snippet that is made to fool the crowd to think he is going to sing it…. That zany Paul No Rating

“Hey Jude”

The first time this became a crowd involved version, with Paul asking the various parts of the crowd to sing it (“now the people in the middle…”) and then having them rated by the rest…. Then he would ask just the boys…. Then just the girls…. (“Well you sound so sweet to me…”) While it was very nice to join in and help, I always preferred this sung straight up. They do rock out to the end… leaving us drenched as they leave the stage…. (“You were great…you were great… and YOU were great….”) Rating – 8

We were sure we were going to get encore #2….

“Yesterday”

It is not a Paul concert without this one, done with Wix providing the string quartet on keys. Paul plays his famous Martin acoustic with the Red Wings logo on it…. Rating – 9

“Get Back”

After encouraging woo-woods they launch into the pedestrian beat of The Beatles classic…. The band is now fully back and they offer the version we now hear, more uptempo and funkier than the lads version. Rating – 8

Paul introduces the band and on the album, his wife in a few languages…

“Golden Slumbers”/“Carry That Weight”/“The End”

Now we get the proper ABBEY ROAD album ending second medley.

Wonderful throughout, and then to have Paul out from behind the piano on Chris Whitten’s solo to pick up his axe and the three guitarists trade back and forth, back to back, front to front…. Until the last note…

Flowers are thrown onstage…

Screams and yells for a third encore we know won’t happen…..

“See you next time”…. And we would. Rating – 9

“Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”

Not the Gerry and The Pacemakers hit, bit the Ray Charles song of the same name is a final soundcheck tossed on at the end…. I’m not sure why, maybe more bang for our bucks….? This was a 2 CD and 3 LP set on release. Very well done, some of Paul’s best soulful singing here, all things considered. Maybe that’s why! Rating – 8.5

Overall this live album graded out as 7.51/10. The concert itself was more enjoyable by the fact you are actually in the same building as a Beatle that night in your life.

Next…1993’s PAUL IS LIVE.

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