Paul McCartney’s “Back In The US” Reviewed
Album #35, Back In The U.S. (2003) is not the live dog it appears to be at first glance. For one thing, he hadn’t toured since 1993, five years before Linda’s death, so this was knocking on a decade off stage which makes the tour itself, in aid of Driving Rain (my review here) so you can’t have everything but take a look at this. From 1993 to 2002 -zero tours. Froom 2002 – 2012 he went on eight tours. That makes, if nothing else, this sighting of Macca a bigger deal than it was last year when he failed to self out Arenas across the Tri-State area. A pity because 2017 McCartney was one of the best and McCartney 2002 was a little rusty. This album, Back In The U.S did the job they way the Rolling stones No Security, maybe more so.
It isn’t great but how many great live albums can you name? I mean, after some Miles Davis masterpieces I forget. And there is something very ordinary about Back In The U.S., I was at the MSG gig and it was absolutely tremendous I promise you… but I am hard pushed to prove it here, I can’t hear what I admired so much. Oddly, the highlights are some songs I don’t like all that much, “Lonely Road,” followed by “Driving Rain” followed by “Your Loving flame” are all much better live, and the late show “Freedom” is not the worst thing I have ever heard. It isn’t even the worst thing on Back In The U.S. Placed towards the end of the set but before the encore, it build itself solidly towards the exit gate with a spritely guitar and a thin sound that is looser than the album version. At its worse when McCartney decides to improvise, the coda to “Let Me Roll It” isn’t a very good idea, Macca don’t do prog, he is a power popper and he doesn’t wear self-indulgence well. The ending of “Carry That Weight” is even worse, really quite nasty the way he souls out on “oh yeah you break down” -why would he do that.?Opening with “Hello Goodbye” and ending with “The End,” and switching the Beatles songwriting credits to “McCartney-Lennon,” this is McCartney the story so far over 35 songs from all parts of his career. Dating as far back as “I Saw Her Standing There” and stopping for at least one late career stand out, “Vanilla Sky” which laps circles round the truly awful “Hey Jude,” it does the job but it was best if left in your memory. I remember watching the Beatles perform this on the David Frost show in the 1960s as one of the great musical moments when they reach the coda…. what ever happened to that memory?
No, this isn’t a great album and neither is the follow up , album #36, Back In The World, which was recorded elsewhere and includes “Eleanor Rigby” so caveat, etc. But Paul was feeling his way through his catalog, figuring how he should put it together. By 2009 he would have it down to a fine art.