McCartney's theme: Meet the Beatles
October 15, 2005
BY BRIAN McCOLLUM
FREE PRESS POP MUSIC CRITIC http://www.freep.com/entertainment/music/mccartney15e_20051015.htm
It's almost as if Paul McCartney has rediscovered just what the Beatles mean.
Friday night at a sold-out Palace of Auburn Hills, first in a two-night stand there, the 63-year-old legend delivered a show decorated with an abundance of tunes from his former group, including more than a few steps into less-traveled Beatles corners.
In a 36-song set drawing on more than four decades' worth of material, McCartney and his crack four-man band kept things loose and playful for a capacity crowd of more than 16,000.
Stepping out shortly before 9 p.m., vintage Hofner bass in hand, McCartney kicked into the opening chords of the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour."
An extensive mid-show acoustic set stood out, if only for serving as a showcase for several unconventional Beatles song choices, including the early Lennon-McCartney obscurity "In Spite of All the Danger," a pleasant rendition of "I Will" and a satisfyingly elegant performance of "Eleanor Rigby."
McCartney also used the segment to reveal the connective tissue between Beatles classics and material from his latest album, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard." Such songs as "For No One" and "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" were set adjacent to newer material such as "English Tea" and "Too Many People."
The Beatles selections far outweighed the number of songs pulled from McCartney's solo career and Wings period, representing perhaps his biggest leap yet in what has been a steady, two-decade journey back to his roots.
McCartney's band enjoyed an expanded role this time around, with stellar drummer Abe Laboriel leading the way on the sweatier runs through such rockers as "Jet" and "Back in the USSR."
While he appeared particularly thin and fit Friday night for his first Detroit area appearance since May 2002, McCartney at times appeared to be battling a scratchy voice, with high notes escaping him on some of the older stuff.
Most disappointing, though, was the uncharacteristically tepid Detroit crowd, which was almost startlingly subdued -- failing to roar on cue even when McCartney paid homage to the city's status as home to "some of the world's greatest music."
Perhaps the low energy seeped onto the stage; there were times when McCartney seemed less engaged than on previous tour stops, particularly his 2002 show. But it's hard to complain when McCartney -- the man who now serves as the primary custodian of the Beatles' legacy -- seems happier than ever to celebrate the time and spirit that started it all.