A MUSICARES TRIBUTE TO PAUL McCARTNEY (2015)
Featuring Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Jerry Douglas, Duane Eddy, Norah Jones, Neil Young with Crazy Horse, Sergio Mendes, Coldplay, James Taylor, Diane Krall, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl and members of Cirque du Soleil.
Directed by Leon Knoles.
Distributed by Shout Factory. 60 minutes. Not Rated.
As hard as it is for those of us that grew up with him to believe, “The Cute Beatle” is now considered an elder statesman of music. One of only two surviving members of arguably the definitive rock and roll group (and certainly a lot more culturally impactful than Ringo Starr), he someone to honor rather than actually listen to.
Yet, at this point, as a seventy-something year old man, Paul McCartney is more relevant than he has been in decades.
He currently has a hit single for the first time since 1989’s god-awful “Press to Play” and his first top 10 hit since “No More Lonely Nights” in 1984. Oh, sure, on “FourFiveSeconds” he sort of has to ride the coattails of Rihanna and Kanye West to get back to the top of the charts, but he did it and good for him. (The millennials have been having a good time trolling us oldsters, asking who the old guy was on the new Kanye and Rihanna song.)
Dave Grohl chose Sir Paul to replace Kurt Cobain as lead singer on his recent reunion of the surviving members of Nirvana for the song “Cut Me Some Slack” for the soundtrack to the movie Sound City. McCartney’s 2014 comeback album New received some of the best reviews he’d had in years. And late last year, the tribute album The Art of McCartney got some of the biggest names in music to record their own versions of his songbook – including Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Heart, The Cure, Cat Stevens, Kiss, Barry Gibb, Steve Miller and many, many more.
This video is another step in the right direction for celebrating his career. This all-star concert, again performing McCartney classics and lesser-known songs, recasts some of his greatest moments in starkly different context. The concert itself happened back in 2012, when McCartney won the Man of the Year award from MusiCares, a charity formed by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammy people) to help provide for musicians in need.
Even more than The Art of McCartney was, A MusiCares Tribute to Paul McCartney had an eccentric and wide-ranging group of artists putting their own stamp on Sir Paul’s finest songs.
It starts off rather weakly, though, with an extended medley of Beatles tunes being performed by Cirque du Soleil’s cast of The Beatles “Love.” Problem is, these aren’t singers, it’s just prerecorded music with a bunch of goofily dressed dancers acting twee.
However, as soon as that endless medley winds down, the concert winds up. Sir Paul is on stage to take part in one of two of his short sets, doing a workmanlike take on “Magical Mystery Tour” and then putting the pedal down on a wonderful take of his Wings song “Junior’s Farm.” It’s an interesting song choice – only four of the songs here are not from his Beatles days, and three of those four solo or Wings songs were performed by McCartney himself. It’s not as obvious a choice as, say, “Live & Let Die,” or “Band on the Run” or “Maybe I’m Amazed” or even “Silly Love Songs.” But it reminds us of a terrific song we probably hadn’t heard in years.
The intriguing musical choices continue as the guest acts take the stage. Alicia Keys takes “Blackbird” and magically transforms it from an acoustic folk ballad to a majestically soulful torch song. On the other end of the spectrum, surf guitar legend Duane Eddy deconstructed the lushly beautiful “And I Love Her” into a raw acoustic guitar instrumental.
Alison Krauss and Union Station (with Jerry Douglas) took on the only other non-Beatles track, reinventing McCartney’s last huge hit “No More Lonely Nights” as an admittedly beautiful rootsy country lament. Still, that song is a pretty minor addition to McCartney’s oeuvre, and you’re left sort of wishing that Krauss had taken the time to recreate a more worthy page from his solo songbook.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse roughed up “I Saw Her Standing There” and gave it a loping country rock stomp, even if Neil played a little fast and loose with the lyrics. (“Well she was just 17, and she was no beauty queen…?” Really?) Coldplay sounds surprisingly low-key and humble on its acoustic take of “We Can Work It Out” and Sergio Mendes sounds oddly timeless while wonderfully old-fashioned in his bossa nova take of “Fool on the Hill” (which Mendes had ridden to the top of charts in 1966).
There is also the added entertainment of playing spot the B-celebrity in the audience. Instead of just random audience shots like most concerts, you have a good shot of recognizing the person clapping along in all the crowd scenes here. Hey, isn’t that David Crosby? Is that Miami Steve Van Zandt? Is that Jeff Lynne? There’s Smokey Robinson. Hey, look, it’s Eric Idle. And there’s Rosanna Arquette. Wait, is that Randy Jackson? Isn’t that Rita Wilson? (In fairness, her A-list husband Tom Hanks was there, too.)
By the time McCartney returns to the stage at the end – with a three-song set including the recent song “My Valentine” (honestly, far from his best work), the lyrically anachronistic but mostly enjoyable “1985” and a super-group run-through of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” with Dave Grohl and Joe Walsh – the B-celebrity audience is in a lather. If you’re a fan, you will be too.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 21, 2015.