After the tour of 1989-90 was finished, Paul must really have really enjoyed being on the road, and working with this touring and recording band. They continued working together for the next three years, including the wonderful live performance on 1991’s UNPLUGGED.
I have already reviewed that album (click below to read it)
The band went into the studio in 1992 and recorded Paul’s next solo album, 1993’s OFF THE GROUND. The band had now changed drummers with Blair Cunningham replacing Chris Whitten.
They went on the road to promote the album, calling it the New World Tour. Excerpted from his shows in Australia, as well as from various cities in the United States, it followed the 1989–90 Paul McCartney World Tour/Tripping the Live Fantastic extravaganza by only three years, confounding critics and fans as to its appearance, and some its necessity (although the only song it has in common with Tripping The Live Fantastic is “Live And Let Die“).
As a result, PAUL IS LIVE (released on November 16th, 1993) became McCartney’s lowest-selling live set of his career, peaking at number 34 in the UK and a lowly number 78 in the US.
A concert film subtitled The New World Tour was subsequently released on VHS, and later on DVD. It was directed by Aubrey Powell. The video release includes the controversial pre-concert film, which features vintage footage of the Beatles, solo-era live footage of “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Bluebird” from the Rockshow film, then switches tone by including graphic animal test footage (all of which is underscored by “Live And Let Die” and “Helter Skelter“), and, finally, warmup footage of the band.
The program starts with the warm-up footage, and is played in full at the conclusion of the concert. The packaging included a disclaimer warning regarding the graphic nature of the animal footage.
A wonderful program, sponsored by “Friends Of The Earth” was given to us as we entered. OFF THE GROUND was probably Paul’s most opinionated album, with many songs dealing with animal, people and environmental issues.
Once again, we see the shift in song selections, with the majority now being Beatles songs, and all five of his solo songs were from the current release, OFF THE GROUND, which this band recorded. Not a single track from McCARTNEY, RAM, TUG OF WAR or FLOWERS IN THE DIRT albums.
I saw him and his band on April 14th, 1993 at The Sam Boyd Silver Bowl in Las Vegas, the first stop in the North American leg of the tour. The familiar pattern of it taking a few songs for Paul’s voice to reach “the best it can do point”, like it is today. As long as he can avoid intense screaming vocals, he is still wonderful to listen to. Today, at nearly 80 he still keeps these songs in the original key.
This concert was good, but maybe the worst sounding by Paul overall of the eight I have seen. I believe he still smoked back then, and that certainly didn’t help. The stage and overall performance was wonderful. Paul had the mullet in peak condition, with the wonderful colorful shirts and the personality and charm he has never lost.
Statistical Analysis # of Songs: 24 Songs of Paul (solo): 5 (20.1%) Songs of Wings: 3 (12.5%) Songs of Beatles (Lennon/McCartney): 11 (45.8%) Songs of Others/The Band: 2 (8.3%) Not Really A Song 1 (4.2%) Unreleased Tracks 2 (8.3%)
“Drive My Car”
-Opening with this Beatles classic was a good choice, and the band is nearly flawless here as always. A very good band. Cunningham, a good drummer, but lacked the overall power of Whitten. Paul needed vocal help from Hamish on this one. Rating – 7
“Let Me Roll It”
-A track Paul seemingly has on each tour, but I don’t think he played the lick which he likes to do on current tours. Linda is really turned down in the mix on nearly all of the tracks. Paul’s vocals are great, as the song is right in his range. Rating -8
“Looking For Changes”
-First of the newer tracks, the controversial anti-animal cruelty song. The crowd was pleasant, but the response was subdued. Paul struggles at times…. Rating – 7
“Peace In The Neighborhood”
-Another new track. More than a few needed a beer or a bathroom break. Played faithfully by the band. Hamish helps out again on certain lines where Paul struggles. Rating – 7.5
“All My Loving”
-This is what many of the fans want each song, those Beatles memories that are turning points in their lives. The first thing most Americans heard from the mop tops on February 7th, 1964, as they opened the Ed Sullivan show with this gem. Rating – 8.5
“Robbie’s Bit” (Thanks Chet)
-Robbie McIntosh again got a moment in the spotlight, with this delightful electric acoustic ditty, while the band quickly refreshed. I think that maybe the crowd noise has been enhanced here and throughout the album. Rating – 7
“Good Rockin’ Tonight”
-A nice zydeco version of the classic that Paul loves. A great one to swing and sway to, and Wix on accordion gave it this needed extra texture. Rating – 8.5
“We Can Work It Out”
-The band had done this one at 1991’s UNPLUGGED and repeat the performance, with Wix staying on accordion. Stuart and McCartney harmonize sweetly on the chorus. Rating – 8.5
“Hope Of Deliverance”
– The first single released off the new album. One that Paul really heavily promoted with music videos, but it was not the smash he had hoped. Very well performed and received by the crowd (of the new songs). Rating – 8
-Fantastic rendition of another Beatles classic, with the song in Paul’s vocal wheelhouse. The crowd, sang, swayed and misted up during this one. Rating – 8.5
“Biker Like An Icon” -Another failed single from the new album. Kind of an odd track to begin with. Played identical to the album version. Another break song for many. Rating – 7
“Here, There And Everywhere”
-One of Paul’s best compositions of his career. Wix is back on accordion. A more gritty version than the 1966 recording, but still touching. Rating -8
-On piano for the next few tracks, Paul is fantastic on this Wings classic from 1973. The band, especially Robbie’s solo, knock it out of the park. Paul now sings “Woooo”, and not “Wo wo wo wo” on the verse. Rating – 8.5
“Magical Mystery Tour”
-A song Paul has used to open up shows on future tours. Like every Beatles track he performs, the crowd is in his hands…. Slightly subdued version compared to the lads. He extends the ending and adds recorded dialog. Rating – 7.5
-Another single from OFF THE GROUND I think Paul and the accountants thought would be a huge hit. A magnificent music video was filmed for this one. Written to be an anthem for the times, it sadly never became that. The band does another great job on this one, coming so close to the powerful album version. Rating – 8
“Lady Madonna” -The asses were shaking on this one, that’s for sure. Rating – 8
-Another first time Beatles song done in concert. A tough one to do live back in the day, the band does their best to recreate this unusual Beatles single. Paul is back on Hofner bass. Rating – 8
“Penny Lane” -Another new Beatles song done in concert for us… The crowd is now fully engaged. Rating – 8
“Live And Let Die” -The bombastic climax of the show. Since not all of the songs from the show made this album, this is as close to an encore highlight as we will get. Rating – 8
-The Beatles used to do this in their concerts, combing it with “Hey Hey.” Here Paul combines more of the original Wilbert Harrison song but also mixed with “Hey Hey.” Paul struggles a bit on the vocals. Rating – 7
“*Welcome To Soundcheck”
-Not really a song…. I guess this is included to ease you into these “bonus tracks..” Crickets and a helicopter sounds….
“*Hotel In Benidorm”
-Unreleased song from a soundcheck. Nothing special here, unless you were invited to watch the soundcheck from near the stage. Rating – 6
“*I Wanna Be Your Man”
-Song written for Ringo back in 1963, and also given to the Rolling Stones to release as a single back in the day. The band roughs it up, and Paul hams it up, giving it an edge, and not the charm of The Beatles version. Rating – 6
“A Fine Day”
-A final soundcheck of an unreleased song. Not a bad song, and I wonder if they ever tried laying it down in the studio? Good playing throughout. It really could have turned into a real jam with each player given time to shine. But only Robbie is given the time to stretch out on lead guitar. And the sound of crickets lead us out. Rating – 7
Overall, this album was a moderate disappointment when I brought it back in the day. Today, remastered, under headphones it rates as a 7.63/10. Hmm…a slightly better rating than I had expected.
The album’s title is a response to the “Paul is dead” rumors after the 1969 release of the Beatles’ last studio album, Abbey Road, and the cover of PAUL IS LIVE is a digitally altered version of the 1969 album’s sleeve.
Intentional differences between the two covers are:
1. The infamous “LMW-281F” on the Volkswagen Beetle’s license plate was mis-read as “LMW-28IF”, purportedly meaning that Linda McCartney Weeps and that McCartney would have been 28 if he had lived – is edited to read “51IS”, indicating that he is alive and his age at the time was 51.
2. McCartney is wearing shoes; on Abbey Road he had appeared with bare feet, while the other Beatles had shoes. This mismatch was viewed as an eye catch to the hoax.
3. His left foot is forward. In the original cover, McCartney’s right foot was forward, out of step with the other Beatles.
4. He holds the dog’s leash in his left hand; since he is left-handed, many thought that another clue of the “dead Paul” from Abbey Road was the cigarette he held in his right hand.
5. The police car – said to symbolize the policemen who had been bribed by the other three Beatles to keep quiet about Paul’s death – has been removed.
**The dog appearing on the cover is Arrow, one of the offspring of Martha, the sheepdog that was the inspiration for the title of the song “Martha My Dear“.
**The cover photo is from the Abbey Road cover photoshoot by photographer Iain Macmillan.
There are differences between this and the photograph used for the Abbey Road cover; most notably, the taxi present in the Abbey Road cover photograph does not feature here.
The retouching was done by CGI artist Erwin Keustermans, who erased the Beatles and put in McCartney and the dog, taken from 35 mm pictures by Linda McCartney.
Up next: 2002 and 2003’s BACK IN THE U.S. and BACK IN THE WORLD tour albums.