Susan Whitall/ Detroit News Music Writer
At age 69, after more than 50 years as a professional musician, it would be understandable if Paul McCartney wanted to kick back, enjoy his engagement to New York businesswoman Nancy Shevell, 51, and count his royalty checks. But always the most energetic of the Beatles, he shows little appetite for the kind of cozy, doze-y retired life he sang about in the Beatles song “When I’m 64” (“we shall scrimp and save” — uh, no need for that, with a fortune estimated to be worth more than $730 million). Now, with just days until his Sunday concert at Comerica Park, McCartney’s first performance in the city of Detroit since he was here with Wings in 1976 (his last shows in Metro Detroit were at The Palace in 2005), we catch you up on all things Macca.
Band on the run
McCartney comes to town having just ended one tour, the “Up and Coming” world tour, in June in Las Vegas. He immediately announced the launch of the current tour, “On the Run,” which started July 15 and 16 at New York’s Yankee Stadium. The reason why he’s seemingly always on tour, and yet has big gaps between shows sometimes, is his custody arrangements for daughter Beatrice, 7 (her mother is Heather Mills).
As he told Abu-Dhabi-based The National: “I have my little girl half the time. So what we do is, I tour in the periods when I don’t have her. It’s not a full-on tour, which actually is brilliant. We play gigs in the downtime and it means we’re very hungry to play. Usually if you’re on tour you are like: where are we today? Is this St. Louis or Cincinnati? You can get very bored with it. So this actually works out fine.”
Macca in Detroit
The first time Paul McCartney hit a stage in Detroit was with the Beatles, on Sept. 6, 1964, at Olympia Stadium, on a bill that included The Exciters (“Tell Him,”) Clarence “Frogman” Henry and Jackie DeShannon. The audience screamed so loudly it was hard to hear anything, but the Beatles plugged on nonetheless. McCartney returned to the old hockey barn with the Beatles in August 1966 (Bobby “Sunny” Hebb was among the opening acts) and then came back with wife Linda and his post-Beatles band Wings in 1976. McCartney also has performed at the Pontiac Silverdome and The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Olympic Beatles reunion
McCartney has confirmed that there will probably be some sort of Beatles element in the opening ceremonies at the London Summer Olympics next year. Olympic planners reportedly want to muster a “supergroup” of British musical icons, including the two surviving Beatles and perhaps George Harrison’s musician son Dhani and John Lennon’s sons Julian and Sean.
McCartney joked to Access Hollywood, “I met the guy who knows the guy who’s going to ask somebody about it soon.”
This spring saw the release of two new re-issues of classic McCartney solo albums: his “one-man band” album “McCartney” (1970), recorded as the Beatles were breaking up, and the similarly stripped-down “McCartney II” (1980). He personally supervised the sessions, and described the results on his website: “It just makes the quality better — it makes you feel like you’re there — it sounds how it sounded when I made the record. It’s a pure, more accurate sound and quality.”
Despite a busy schedule of touring throughout 2010 and this year, the former Beatle has been working on an album of standards with Canadian chanteuse/pianist Diana Krall. He told USA Today that he’d hesitated to do such an album before, lest it look as if he were jumping on a rather tattered bandwagon. He’s got legitimate roots in the genre; father Jim McCartney headed up a dance band in the ’30s and ’40s, so McCartney already knows a slew of classic songs.
“And I’ve written a few tunes in the genre,” he said. “We’re going all sorts of ways, and I’m having a ball.”
As if making music under his own name wasn’t keeping him busy enough, McCartney came up with an alter ego several years back, “The Fireman,” to record electronica with Killing Joke bassist Youth. His last album as “The Fireman” was 2008’s “Electric Arguments.” He is in the planning stages for a new Paul McCartney studio album, considering producers and writing songs.
McCartney recently played Las Vegas to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Cirque du Soleil’s “Beatles Love” show, a beautifully staged musical extravaganza that tells the story in music, dance and acrobatics of the four lads from Liverpool. The heady mix of high-wire acrobatics dramatically re-enacting the Beatles story set against rethought, remastered Beatles music was first touted by George Harrison, who discussed the project with Cirque de Soleil before he died. In the audience for McCartney’s shows at the MGM Grand were Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, George Harrison’s widow Olivia and Beatles producer George Martin.
He’s got 50 years of music to choose from, so a Paul McCartney concert is rarely brief. In the last few months, he’s been playing 30-plus songs in his sets, including Beatles classics, Wings hits, selections from his solo albums and even a Fireman number (“Sing the Changes”). At the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 9, he opened the show with “Hello, Goodbye” and ended with “Sgt. Pepper” and then, “The End” from “Abbey Road.” He’s still doing “Blackbird” and George Harrison’s “Something” (which he’s played on ukulele before) and includes a robust number of Wings songs in the set (“Junior’s Farm,” a new addition, along with “Let Me Roll It,” “Band on the Run,” etc.) spliced in with Beatles favorites such as “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “And I Love Her,” “Let it Be,” “Hey Jude” and others.
Paul McCartney ‘On the Run’ tour
8 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $19.50 to $250. Available at the Fox Theatre and Joe Louis Arena box offices, OlympiaEntertainment.com, all Ticketmaster locations and Ticketmaster.com. To charge tickets by phone, call (800) 745-3000.