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MACCA IS PITCH PERFECT; Beatles legend Paul rocks 30,000-strong Hampden crowd.

Byline: BILLY SLOAN

For Paul McCartney playing live is a risky business. The former Beatle has a unique music legacy to protect, so every show lays him wide open to criticism.

At 68 years of age, the pop legend has nothing left to prove creatively. What a thrill then to discover the man who once sang: "Will you still need me when I'm 64?" is still rocking and relevant.

After a lifetime performing it's safe to say Macca knows all the tricks required to win over a 30,000-strong Hampden audience. What impressed most though is the sheer passion with which he set about his task.

"Were gonna start off with a technical error...pretend you're not seeing this bit," shouted McCartney in good humour as roadies attempt to repair a malfunctioning guitar.

It was the only glitch in a faultless show.

With the songs at his disposal, it was a bold move to kick off with Venus And Mars/Rockshow followed by Jet from his mid-1970s Wings' period. Vocally, he tore into the latter with an energy of a singer half his age and he looked pretty cool too.

It's easy to put Macca under the microscope. Had the voice been a little croaky or had the quality control level dipped, he'd have been hit by a barrage of dissenting voices saying: "He's lost it... he's not as good as he once was."

My guess is McCartney sings and plays better now than in the brief - and more primitive - Beatles' live era when stage equipment was still in its infancy. As he rolled back the years from All My Loving and Drive My Car through to Blackbird and Eleanor Rigby it was breathtaking.

It's testament to his glorious back catalogue he could afford to "rest" all-time classics such as I'm Looking Through You and Two Of Us, only to replace them with songs of the stature of I've Just Seen A Face and a showstopping And I Love Her. But if anything, it was his little musical "curve balls" which impressed most. The rarely-performed Wings' hits Letting Go, Let Me Roll It and Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five were outstanding.

His version of Something - performed on ukelele - was a poignant tribute to his late mate George Harrison while the haunting Here Today plus an emotional reading of A Day In The Life/Give Peace A Chance transported the audience back to a time when he sat across the kitchen table swapping ideas for songs with a teenage John Lennon.

Inevitably, the familiarity of his material means there's a danger any element of surprise may be lost.

Macca confounded this with a sublime The Long And Winding Road whose beautiful piano coda seemed to get richer with every twist and turn.

It proved the essence of the man for save a few spectacular pyrotechnics during Live And Let Die and state-ofthe-art video screens he resisted the temptation of swamping his show with unnecessary razzmatazz. Great songs sung well was the order of the day.

It also helped that he did not surround himself with a group of hackneyed session men earning their pay cheques with play-by-numbers interpretations of his hits. The singer repeatedly "faced off" with ace twin guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray as if challenging them to drive him harder...which they did.

While keyboard player Paul "Wix" Wickens provided each song with vital fills as powerhouse drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. nearly tore the Hampden stand roof off with his percussive thunderclaps.

Macca was at pains to prove he's no nostalgia act however. More recent songs - notably Sing The Changes from his Fireman project - dovetailed beautifully with Back In The USSR, I've Got A Feeling, Paperback Writer, Let It Be and Hey Jude.

Then, just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it did with a stunning sprint to the tape which included Day Tripper, Lady Madonna, Helter Skelter and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Gig of the year? Yes... and by the length of the famous Hampden pitch.

BILLY SLOAN.

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WHEN I'M 68' McCartney is showing no signs of slowing down
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 27, 2010
Words:688
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