Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Man On The Run

Two live appearances on Later With Jools Holland, and an ITV interview with Dermot O'Leary, have alerted the British public to the return of Paul McCartney's Band On The Run album.

The Jools Holland shows first: McCartney and his impeccably accomplished touring band performed 'Jet' and 'Band On The Run' during the live-as-it-happens, no-place-to-hide edition of the show, and then reprised 'Jet' alongside '1985' and 'Let Me Roll It' on the pre-recorded hour-long remake, broadcast three days later. Paul also sat at Holland's piano for a pair of bland interviews. The most revelatory moment came when Holland briefly chatted with Alice Cooper, who recalled that he had once given McCartney a circular bed. "I've still got it", Paul shouted across the studio.

And the performances? The band couldn't be faulted, and neither could Paul's musicianship, as he switched from bass to guitar ('Let Me Roll It') and piano ('1985'). His vocals were dodgy in the lower register, but no worse than those of Neil Diamond, who was on the same show; and when he reached his upper register he sounded magnificent, almost unchanged since the mid-70s. His age betrayed itself most overtly when he was interviewed, as his voice sounded strangely constricted, as if he was having difficulty shaping some of his words.

Noticeably this problem wasn't evident at all in the hour-long ITV 'documentary' (or promotional vehicle) hosted by the affable but sometimes over-matey Dermot O'Leary. Long-time observers could tick off each anecdote as it arrived - Dustin Hoffman and 'Picasso's Last Words', the mugging on the streets of Lagos - but McCartney's demeanour was relaxed, candid and friendly throughout. It was a masterful piece of media theatrics, offering intimacy while retaining his privacy, and reassuring the public that he is still the loveable moptop of old.

On the basis of the Holland shows, McCartney the performer is also battling the ravages of age with more success than most of his peers. If the bizarrely ageless Cliff Richard represents one end of the 65+ spectrum, and the ragged and rasping Bob Dylan the other, then McCartney is definitely on the Cliff side of the see-saw. But whereas Dylan has deliberately set out to make himself resemble the grizzled bluesmen who were his idols when he was 21, McCartney still sells himself on his youthfulness, energy, and fidelity to his original sound. Before too long he'll have a decision to make: letting the world see the reality of the baby-boomer generation reaching its 70s, or making a graceful escape from the spotlight. Until then, he's always on the run, with age snapping ever closer at his heels.


  1. I am simultaneously elated and uncomfortable whenever I see a new McCartney performance, whether it's an interview or a song. Mostly I wish he never started dyeing his hair.

  2. Why do so many people care about Paul's hair? Seriously, it's hard to believe that 50 years after people were obsessed with the Paul's haircut as a Beatle, they're still obsessed with his hair. And it's not like tons of other rock stars don't dye their hair: Mick Jagger, Elton John, Willie Nelson, Yoko Ono, Ron Wood, Ringo (yes its dyed, look at pictures from 5-20 years ago where Ringo was much grayer), the list goes on. Why do people beat up Paul about this?

    As for the Jools show, I thought Paul looked and sounded really good -- not perfect mind you, and not like he did at 40, but damn good for 68. But I agree that at some point in the coming years, he has a decision to make.