First, let me say that Paul McCartney’s show at Madison Square Garden on Friday night was superb. After putting on all kinds of concerts over the years, McCartney finally got it right — completely right. More on that in a minute.
Second, the gossip: McCartney is scheduled to marry Heather Mills in June, some four years after the death of his beloved wife, Linda. There has been much talk about whether or not McCartney’s family approves of his marriage to a woman the same age as his eldest children. McCartney himself turns 60 on June 18.
To make this situation stickier, it was quite apparent from Friday night's show that Paul is not about to forget Linda. In fact, he is still wearing his wedding ring. It was clearly evident in the video close-ups when he played the piano. It was a little surprising, considering the wedding is not far off. However, it's possible Paul will wear two rings, which is not uncommon for widows and widowers.
A member of McCartney's immediate family told me at the show that the family completely approves of the upcoming nuptials. “I think it’s a tribute to how wonderful their marriage was,” my source said. "People who've been in long, good marriages tend to want to be married again. It’s understandable."
It was made clear to me that Paul has the approval of everyone, including Linda’s family.
Meanwhile, several celebs made it to the opening night of this McCartney show, even though the top ticket was $250 and there were no free tickets given out. I spotted Paul Schaffer, former New York Yankee Paul O'Neill and — most importantly — Paul's star designer daughter, Stella. Ricki Lake was there with her husband, although they appeared to be squabbling.
McCartney still has about a dozen dates left in the U.S. before he plays Buckingham Palace at the Queen's Jubilee. Here’s hoping he comes back for a second leg this summer, because this show gels in ways his previous ones never did.
For one thing, McCartney is relaxed, fun and chatty. He’s almost unplugged, and he uses the MTV Unplugged arrangements of “Every Night” and “We Can Work It Out” to great effect.
He reminisces about his departed friends, John Lennon and George Harrison, and is extremely poignant in both cases. A highlight of the three hour concert is McCartney singing Harrison’s “Something” accompanied by just a ukulele. What a treat! McCartney makes the song into a spare and haunting elegy. Beautiful.
For the most part, the song selection leans heavily toward the Beatles. He uncovers “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Back in the USSR” from the White Album, resurrects “Getting Better” from Sgt. Pepper, and reconstructs “You Never Give Me Your Money” from Abbey Road, taking it out of its famous medley and giving it stand-alone status. He could do more — "I Will," "Oh Darling!" and "Rocky Raccoon" come to mind, but his performance of "Fool on the Hill" — with an accordion accompaniment — makes up for everything.
As for Wings — well, "Band on the Run" is the biggest success, along with "Jet" and "My Love." Why McCartney does "C Moon," the forgettable flip side of "Hi, Hi, Hi," is just bewildering. He'd be better off trying "Another Day" or something from Ram, like "Too Many People." When he tried to explain to the audience what "C Moon" meant, it didn't help.
The strengths of the show, though, were in the presentation. Great sound, excellent video usage and a very good, simple stage set. There’s a weird preamble to the show, in which actors portraying either Renaissance circus performers or something from surrealist art mosey around to some unidentified instrumental music. This is completely unnecessary, but good for getting everyone into their seats.
Paul McCartney is such an enigma in many ways. He’s now outlived two of the Beatles and his wife — how tragic and weird. He gets to rewrite history any way he likes — notice how the old Beatles documentary Compleat Beatles disappeared, was replaced by The Beatles Anthology. His status as last man standing is used to his advantage all the time.
He's also one of the richest men in the world, and yet he insists on working just as hard as ever even with limited results. His last album, Driving Rain, sold very poorly although it was a solid effort. I listened to it again this weekend — driving along in the driving rain — and there are some spectacular pieces on it. (“Magic,” “Rinse the Raindrops” and “About You,” all stood out and would have been better in the show than the songs he chose off Driving Rain.)
In the end, though, the McCartney's great accomplishment now is the ability to get up on stage and make this music without adornment, ornamentation or augmentation. There was no karaoke, no lip-synching, no nonsense. He just lets the music speak for itself, and it speaks volumes.
Grammy chief Michael Greene resigned Saturday in an emergency meeting of the board of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Our long national suffering is over.
What damage Greene did to the Grammy's the last few years is incalculable. NARAS had to settle a sex harassment suit for him to the tune of $650,000. Don't cry for Mike Greene, though — he'll get a reported $8 million settlement in order to leave. He's sucked the Grammy's dry and left them with a tarnished reputation.
With the show coming to New York next year, maybe it's time to clean house altogether. The Grammy show is a turgid affair and needs enlivening. The voting system also needs to be revamped — people are still scratching their heads over how India.Arie's album didn't win any awards after being nominated for seven. Hopefully NARAS has sent a signal that they want to be taken seriously. Welcome to New York, kids. We're ready for you.