Paul McCartney’s “Paul Is Live” Reviewed
Paul Is Live isn’t McCartney’s worst album, that would be Driving Rain, but solo album #24 is his worst live album. Three years after the superior Tripping The Light Fantastic (though they only share one song), McCartney was pushing an inferior album on a tour of Australia, Off The Ground, represented by five out of the 24 songs, as well as one nothing much new song, a slew of Beatles tracks, not much other solo Macca or Wings (a grand total of three), and two sad golden oldies.
Everything about Paul Is Live, starting with the awful harmonies on opening track “Drive My Car,” Isn’t quite right, Actually, it starts before that, with the abysmal cover, a play on the Paul Is Dead rumors that followed the release of Abbey Road. So let’s start with what for Abbey Road was a quiet bit of fun between the “28IF” Beatles and their legions of Alan J. Webermans, became a silly bit of myth making no one took seriously or much discussed. Stuff like the “281F” license plate becoming “51S” (Paul’s age at the time of Live’s release). There is something too needy about the concept, it is too Paulie nuzzling your pant cuffs.What should be a hidden gift becomes a forced command.
And it goes downhill from there. For all Paul’s vocal dynamics on “C’Mon People,” he sings the fuck out of the ending, and for all the over arrangement (and it is kinda mindboggling he was doing it live on stage), the song remains a bad one and the performance overwrought. Of the two 50s rockers, he gets his lungs around “Kansas City,” which squeaks by, but “Good Rockin’ Tonight” is terrible, it needed to be beyond sparse to get into that groove, but it doesn’t and the singlong the second time round is terrible, the solo’s atrocious. Cmon people, this is Elvis.
“Let Me Roll It” has that indelible lick, one of the greatest, to carry it through and isn’t hurt here, and “I Wanna be Your Man” is a cheeky little reclaim without being very good. “Penny Lane” is awful in an oddly spare version, “Michelle” is a great song but he can’t pull off the innocence, “Biker Like An Icon” still sucks, “All My Loving” still makes my heart skip a beat.
But moment for moment these are bad versions of some great songs and some songs not so great at all. What went wrong? I am sure if you were there it would be fine but the album doesn’t hang like the live performance, it is both too long and not long enough: perhaps if he’d upped it to two hours, two hours and a half, it would have ha the feel of a full show and the new songs wouldn’t have stuck out so bad. Perhaps it was the band, only Wix is still with him. But, anyway, they are hired hands and best.
At the heart of Paul Is Live is a simple problem, the songs don’t fit together quite right, the harmonies are a little off, and the arrangements a little too rich. And it includes six completely unmemorable songs.