Paul McCartney is one of the most successful songwriters and performers of all time. Not just with The Beatles, but with Wings in the 1970s, and a solo career that continues to this day. However, one gets a sense from some interviews that Macca still feels insecure. Not only about his accomplishments within the Fabs, but about his hit-filled solo career. While John and George continued to expand and explore their art from where they were when the Beatles broke up, Paul decided to start again, form a band, and try for a new, younger audience. This led to Paul and Wings becoming one of the biggest acts of the 1970s, both on tour and in the charts. He remained popular with many Beatles fans, but an entire younger generation grew up loving Paul and Wings, just because they put out some catchy tunes.
Despite all of McCartney's success, the press for the most part was not very kind, often comparing Macca to his former partner John Lennon, and other "heavier" "artists". Paul was slighted as being a lightweight, and mocked for being a family man. Yet when John and Yoko finally had a child together, and then Lennon retired to be a house-husband, he somehow managed to make it a political statement. Paul couldn't get a break.
In retrospect, McCartney's solo catalogue is quite impressive. His solo material on Apple has aged particularly well. Macca is the only Fab that continued to record regularly, with many gems being released only as singles. While quality went downhill a bit during the mid-1980s (which even McCartney has since admitted to), things improved with Flowers In The Dirt, and really reached a level of greatness starting with 1997's Flaming Pie, and continues to this day.
One of the most moving concerts I ever saw was then Paul toured in 2002. I had previously seen McCartney a handful of times throughout the years: 1976 (Wings Over New York), 1990 (Worcester), and twice in October 1999 ("Buddy Holly Dance Party", and the Run Devil Run record release party - where I actually got to meet Paul backstage). Although it was always great to see Paul in concert, I had not previously been blown away by his previous performances.
I was completely unprepared for the impact of the "Back In The U.S." concerts. I purposely did not read anything about the tour, so I could experience it fresh. The entire presentation was impressive, from the song selection to the big screen images to the tributes to Linda, John and George. Also, the current band is by far the best solo line-up he's had, especially guitarist Rusty Anderson. This combo is young and energetic, giving Paul's songs an excitement missing from McCartney's sluggish post-Wings ensembles.
There are reports that Paul is planning one more big world tour. For the last decade, Macca & Co. have been putting on great shows-- heavy on the 60s songs, with a mix of material from his solo years. For the upcoming tour, it seems like Paul will continue with this successful formula. He is single-handedly keeping the legacy of The Beatles alive by re-creating their classic catalogue on stage with a show that comes as close to a live Beatles concert as we've seen since the 1960s.
But what about Paul's solo years? In order to play arenas (and stadiums), and to charge the going rate for superstar acts, Macca's concerts feature only about a third of the show dedicated to nearly four decades of post-Fab material. Since his fans are now expecting a Beatle-packed show, I was wondering how Paul could do a tour of solo material, and not disappoint his fans.
Here's what I came up with: After his next world tour, Paul could announce a "Celebration" of his solo career. It should be a tour of theaters (think Radio City Music Hall) instead of arenas. The advertisements should strongly (and proudly) hint that no Beatles will be performed.
Paul seems to love the idea of playing an intimate venue as much as a stadium. In order to make it easy on Macca, he could play, for instance, ten night stands in New York and L.A., with five night stands in cities like Boston, Chicago, Houston, and Seattle. The cost of tickets should be the same as recent arena shows so that only fans who appreciate Macca's solo material attend, and the yahoos who want to scream "Hey Jude" can stay at home and complain about the high price of tickets. And keeping the same band would be essential.
Over the course of six upcoming blogs, I plan to write about what such a tour could be like. It will be modeled after 1976's Wings Over America. The plan is to think of the show as a triple album, where each side has a "theme".
I think it would be a nice way for Paul to make an exit (although I also hope- and expect- him to keep on rocking for the rest of his life). Each side will have six tracks, which would mean the concert would feature 36 songs - which is about what Paul does nowadays anyway. This way the last 40 years could have some of the respect it deserves, on its own terms.