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Review: Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne

Compared to most international tour announcements, news of Paul McCartney’s Got Back Australia tour caught us off guard, just three months out before commencement. However, for the promoter it was hardly a gamble, a Paul McCartney show is always going to sell out. Part of that audience guarantee is the wide ranging demographic he appeals to and last night at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, where McCartney presented his second Australian Got Back show, that factor was clear. The crowd comprised of mums, dads, children, babies, grandparents, grandchildren, locals and international visitors, everyone wanted to see their favourite Beatle.

There’s a joy in developing your own musical tastes in life and then sharing it over the years with friends and like-minded strangers. For many, a common thread is Paul McCartney. For Americans, it was The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan TV Show that inspired millions of musicians and music fans. For me as a five year old, it was waiting at the back of Essendon Airport with my parents and siblings (tipped off by security guards that there would be few people gathered there), as the back gate opened and a limousine emerged containing the fab four (minus Ringo) and Paul McCartney wound down his window to wave to me. Even as a five year old, that excitement for musicians has stayed with me. My older sister is still recovering from that event. So it was with a great deal of pride that in 2022 that my son and his partner text me from Glastonbury to say that they too had just been mesmerised by McCartney. And then there’s my friend Karen, who has travelled the world with friends catching Macca concerts for years and last night, was celebrating her 126th Paul McCartney show.  Up on the lighting deck among the massive crowd, Australian Musician photographer Jason Rosewarne also ticked off a bucket list item when he was granted permission to shoot, albeit under challenging conditions. Everyone has a Beatle story.

More than anyone, Paul McCartney knows his place in music history and ‘carries that weight’ with grace. The Got Back show was all about shared experiences and lasting friendships and throughout the night he acknowledged his Beatle mates, his crew, and his family. For half an hour before the show, a beautiful montage of Beatle and McCartney moments was shown on screen to the soundtrack of McCartney remixes, culminating in that dramatic final e major piano note from A Day In The Life before the great man hit the stage and launched into ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’.

The band was rockin’ and in the pocket from the outset and at 81, Paul’s voice was surprisingly good. ‘Juniors Farm’ and ‘Letting Go’ followed and although this was the same band that toured here in 2017, it seemed that the sound that they were projecting was fatter than it had ever been before. Paul’s bass notes were booming and Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray’s guitar licks were razor sharp. Keyboard wizard Wix Wickens offered all the appropriate piano and synth sounds on his Yamaha Motif and Kurzweil set up and Abe Laboriel Jr’s stick work was sublime.  Add to the mix, the Hot City Horns, who first appeared in the Marvel Stadium stands and make no mistake, this is an exciting rock band.

The set list was a great blend of Beatles and McCartney solo material from all eras or as Paul told the audience, “old songs, new songs and some in between songs.” I’m sure many would have lamented the omission of classics such as ‘Long And Winding Road’, ‘My Love’, ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Fool On The Hill’, to name few but we can forgive him for trying to keep the show as interesting for himself and the band as well as engaging for the fans. Tracks such as Come On To Me and Fuh You from his 2018 album Egyptian Station were met with polite applause but were rewarded by being followed by classics like ‘Let Me Roll It’ and ‘Jet’. In fact all of the Band On The Run album tracks seemed particularly spirited for the fifty thousand strong Melbourne audience.

Donning an acoustic guitar, a jaunty ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’ was enjoyed by all. ‘Dance Tonight’ on mandolin was made even more memorable by the hilarious dance moves going down behind Paul’s back by drummer Abe. McCartney took the opportunity to take us way back to where it all started, playing the first ever song The Beatles (known then as The Quarrymen) recorded in 1958, ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’. Soon after, with the stage plunged into darkness and the rest of band not visible, McCartney brought out the show-stopping ‘Blackbird’, telling crowd that for anyone in the audience who had tried to learn the acoustic classic on guitar, “you were probably doing it wrong!” As he sung “Blackbird fly into the light of the dark, black night,” the stage rose and revealed a beautiful blackbird animation, which then consumed the entire stage area.

Utlising a range of instruments throughout the night, Paul slung on a ukulele, gifted to him by George Harrison and proceeded to perform the Harrison classic ‘Something’, with the band coming in mid-song to great dynamic effect. ‘Obla Di Obla Da’ has always been a throwaway kind of Beatles song, often maligned but amongst friends tonight, the polka-like ditty had the audience singing at the top of their lungs.

As always, Live and Let Die signalled the pyrotechnics, and this version didn’t disappoint. It was a fiery display, with the band seemingly walking a little too close to the flame’s edge. McCartney feigned hearing loss at the song’s end, protested that it was “too loud.” ‘Hey Jude’ followed and without a need to prompt, the audience revelled in the night’s grandest singalong moment.

After around two and a half hours of McCartney magic, the band left the stage for a short break and returned for ‘Ive Got A Feeling’, the song which features a nostalgic virtual duet with his Beatle mate John, courtesy of the fabulous editing of director Peter Jackson, who gave us the incredible Get Back documentary. Sgt Pepper Reprise and Helter Skelter followed, again showcasing what a powerful rock band this is. The ferocious red and white strobing lights matched the intensity of the music and perhaps should have come with an epilepsy warning.

With almost three hours of pure McCartney joy behind us, ‘Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight’ fittingly closed the show. At 75 years old in 2017, I thought I’d seen the last of Paul McCartney on our shores. At 81, you’d expect that he wouldn’t adorn Australian stages on another tour, yet his last words to us were that he’ll see us again next time! What is certain is that if he does decide to tour here once more, there will be a ready made audience waiting, including the many new fans that were inspired last night, just as I was as a five year old in 1964, just as I was again as an expecting grandfather on a Saturday night in 2023.

The tour now moves on next to Newcastle:

Tuesday 24 October
McDonald Jones Stadium | Newcastle, NSW
Lic. All Ages

Friday 27 October
Allianz Stadium | Sydney, NSW
Lic. All Ages

Saturday 28 October
Allianz Stadium | Sydney, NSW
Lic. All Ages

Wednesday 1 November
Suncorp Stadium | Brisbane, QLD
Lic. All Ages

Saturday 4 November
Heritage Bank Stadium | Gold Coast, QLD
Lic. All Ages

Melbourne Set List
Can’t Buy Me Love
Juniors Farm
Letting Go
She’s A Woman
Got To Get You Into My Life
Come On To Me
Let Me Roll It
Getting Better
Let Em In
My Valentine
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen A Face
In Spite Of All The Danger
Love Me Do
Dance Tonight
Here Today
Lady Madonna
Fuh You
Mr Kite
Obla Di Obla Da
Out Of College/Bathroom Window
Band on the Run
Get Back
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

I’ve Got A Feeling
Sgt Pepper reprise/Helter Skelter
Golden Slumbers 

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