Paul McCartney is still the most magical goddess in the world

Even – or especially – in front of 50,000 fans, Paul McCartney was just another proud grandfather.

As the 79-year-old pop legend sang his soft-rock classic “Maybe I’m Surprised” on Friday night, giant screens at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium flashed old photos of him cuddling his newborn daughter Mary inside a Shearling jacket. You know the photos, the most famous of which—taken by his late wife Linda, about which he wrote “I may be surprised”—featured on the back cover of McCartney’s first homemade solo appearance in 1970, when he returned to cuddling from his family amid the Beatles’ agonizing breakup.

“This kid in my jacket now has four kids,” he said to the crowd that was itself an obvious bastion of ancestors, at the end of the song.

After more than half a century as one of the biggest musical acts, Sir Paul has a real charm that remains his superpower. It’s not that he lacks a rock star flaunt. And “relatable” is probably not the word for a man who has more money than he can spend. But as a symbol, what McCartney gets is that people crave art that makes magic out of their everyday experiences.

Friday’s concert came two weeks after McCartney’s first tour since a 2019 outing concluded at Dodger Stadium, taking out old bandmate Ringo Starr for a surprise concert for the Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter.” The current 14-day trip, dubbed “The Return,” is also called McCartney’s return to the road after a long hiatus caused by COVID-19.

“We said we’d be back,” he announced at SoFi. “We promised.”

He was not out of sight during the pandemic. In late 2020, he released “McCartney III,” another DIY solo LP with the shabby chic spirit of the 1970’s disc, as well as a book of collected lyrics. And last year, he helped launch a new wave of Beatlemania with Peter Jackson’s epic “Get Back” documentary series about the production of the band’s last two studio albums and their landmark 1969 performance on top of the Apple Corps building in London. .

However, the stage is where McCartney appears to be investing more in overseeing his legacy as he prepares to turn 80 next month. (A week after his birthday, he’ll be the biggest person ever to headline England’s massive Glastonbury Festival.) McCartney has long considered his live show an opportunity to ramp up his life’s work — music with the Beatles, music with wings, music on his own — in a two-and-a-half hour survey. About choppy rock, honeyed harmony and the kind of deep emotional optimism that prompted him to accompany Friday’s “improvement” with a video that depicts flowers sprouting from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Unlike some of his fellow classic rock survivors — Bob Dylan and Neil Young, let’s say — McCartney shows little interest in spontaneity or unpredictability, not to mention the bewilderment and confusion that Dylan seems to enjoy seeding into his audience. Here he recycles song banter he’s been using for years, as when he told a story about meeting Jimi Hendrix in London in 1967 and when he introduced the title track from the 2013 album “The New” with a taunt about how the stadium galaxy shines. Cell phones turn into A black hole every time he plays something relatively recent.

During another of those new tunes – the “My Valentine” torch, which he gifted to his wife, Nancy, who he said was at home on Friday – screens showed Johnny Depp in black and white footage before the actor became embroiled in an ugly legal battle over domestic violence that you believed That the always sunny McCartney would be glad not to conjure it up.

Embarrassing associations aside, the unchanging living museum quality of McCartney’s instrument is precisely its intended virtue; The show, in which he is backed by a group of powerful musicians he has played with through the ages, is an opportunity to witness someone who continues to do so at a very high level – and of course, to live within their songs for an evening.

Paul McCartney and the band in concert at SoFi Stadium on Friday. The unchanging living museum quality of McCartney’s party is exactly the virtue intended.

(Brian van der Brugg/Los Angeles Times)

And those great songs: On SoFi, McCartney played at least thirty of them, including many you knew you wanted to hear (“Blackbird,” “Band on the Run,” and “Hey Jude”), you probably haven’t. You knew you wanted to hear (“Let’ Em In,” “Nineteen Hundred and Bean-Five”) and at least one you definitely didn’t want to hear but put up with anyway (“Fuh You,” say the less the better).

“Letting Go” had a medium strut; “Let Me Roll It” was snarling and sensual. “The Return” oozes with the pent-up energy of both the Beatles in doc Jackson, McCartney, and His Men after an unwelcome break from the road. In “Live and Let Die” the theater erupted with comical, exaggerated fireworks. Ob-La-Di’s song, Ob-La-Da inspired a cheery singing crowd.

Halfway through the show, McCartney and his band members gathered near the front of the stage for relatively abstract versions of the Beatles’ first singles “Love Me Do” and “In Spite of All the Danger” that he, John Lennon and George Harrison recorded when they were known as Quarrymen.

To kick off his debut, McCartney—who reappeared on stage waving a huge Ukrainian flag, while one of his colleagues waved LGBTQ pride—posted a few digital tricks he said Jackson had associated with him: a virtual duet with Lennon in “I’ve Got a Feeling” Who used the late Beatles’ vocals from a recording of the rooftop concert. It was one of several moments on Friday in which McCartney paid homage to his old bandmates, along with a fluffy show of “Here Today,” which he said told Lennon all the things he wasn’t able to do in real life, and Harrison is something. , which he started on ukulele before moving on to acoustic guitar.

Poignantly, McCartney’s age is more evident here than it was at Dodger Stadium. He moved a little slower than in the past, and his voice took a little longer to warm up. (His perfect hair, for what it’s worth, is still totally undone.) However, to view these inevitable compromises as flaws is to miss Paul McCartney’s view. The point is, his music allowed them.

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