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Paul McCartney – Good Evening New York City

on December 01, 2009, 3:15am

Paul McCartney released his umpteenth live album, Good Evening New York City, earlier this month and the world responded with a question: Why?

The performances were culled from performances at Citi Field, the new home for the New York Mets. The new venue is next to the Mets’ old home, Shea Stadium, where The Beatles played their infamous show in August of 1965. The Citi Field shows were the first concerts held at the new baseball park, so I guess those are some reasons to put this performance to tape.

It’s difficult to out-and-out dismiss the album simply due to the staying power of those songs. There are several classics here, including some that McCartney rarely played live in recent years. Macca still sounds good, maybe a little worse off for having sung for the past 50 years, but better than most of his contemporaries. His enthusiasm is still at an all-time high, another plus for checking out Good Evening New York City.

You can pretty much throw darts at a board with McCartney’s Beatles material, and anyone it hits is probably a good choice to kick off a performance. The first song on this album is no exception. “Drive My Car” continues to drive along to its bouncing bass line and “beep beep” just as fast today as it did leading off some album called Rubber Soul. Lest we forget the man’s solo success, “Jet” is the first material from his early years of going it alone. He lets it rip vocally, as he did on a previous live album, Back in the U.S. But this is where problems may arrive for the indecisive purchaser.

Yes, the songs are great. They sound great. But most of the songs here appeared on Back in the U.S. a mere seven years ago. Why buy this album if you already have that one, or Tripping the Live Fantastic from the early nineties? Well, for one McCartney is supporting Memory Almost Full and Electric Arguments (his Fireman side project). These are much stronger records than McCartney’s Driving Rain (circa Back in the U.S.). The Fireman songs are some of the best material from Macca since the seventies, especially “Sing the Changes”, shining here before the first disc comes to a close.

There are some nice tributes mixed in as well. McCartney sings “My Love” to the “Lovely Linda” McCartney, who passed away in 1998 from cancer. The now-standard ukulele rendition of “Something” honors the late George Harrison. The trio of “Here Today” and “A Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance” highlight the homage to John Lennon. “It Don’t Come Easy” to the still-living Ringo Starr is sadly missing here (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Longtime fans are treated to “Helter Skelter”, making its first appearance on a sanctioned, live album by any Beatle. McCartney can still stretch his vocals to get to the scream of the Beatles catalogue (that and the beginning of this), and performing it directly after the somber “Yesterday” is setlist-compiling genius.

McCartney pays tribute to the past by playing “I’m Down”, the lone representative from the famous Shea show. He even has Billy Joel join him for a raucous duet on “I Saw Her Standing There” (Joel had McCartney sing it with him during the final shows at Shea). So as one may see, there are reasons for owning this album. If you have other live efforts from Macca, you may be content with what you already have and download selections on Good Evening New York City from sanctioned sites.

With continued success, McCartney and the rest of The Fab Four may very well lay claim to “Entertainers of the Year” for their outstanding reissues and popular Rock Band video game. It’s a sad state of affairs when a band that hasn’t put out an album of new material in nearly 40 years, and a diamond-gloved artist who hadn’t put out anything worthwhile in nearly 20 years, outshine current artists both commercially and critically. But that’s for another article…

Good Evening New York City