Have We Heard This Song Before?

Back in the U.S., Live 2002 (Capitol)
Paul McCartney

By Kevin Gibson

Paul McCartney, fresh off his highest-grossing tour of 2002 (to the tune of $103.3 million), has now released Back in the U.S., a live double-album culled from the early parts of the tour. Whether it is better served as a souvenir for those who caught a show on the tour or as a here's-what-you-missed for those who couldn't shell out the money, McCartney's umpteenth live album is enjoyable if a bit redundant.

What we specifically learn from listening to this latest set is that a) Macca's voice is still pretty darn strong, even at his age; b) Macca knows how to pick a road band; and c) Macca knows how to give the people what they want.

McCartney seems to effortlessly glide through this collection of Beatles and solo tunes, even though there is no reason a 60-year-old man should ever be able to hit some of these notes (although he does seem to struggle a bit with "We Can Work it Out"). And how does a guy his age manage the energy it takes to wow huge audiences for two hours? He gets help from an enormously talented band, who manage to play these songs as if they've been playing them their whole lives. (In fairness, keyboardist Paul "Wix" Wickens nearly has.)

And as for song selection, a McCartney romantic would give points for including just the right songs, while a cynic might say he panders. As usual, there's a pretty even mix of Beatles and solo songs, with a handful of material from the latest album (in this case, Driving Rain) thrown in. Nothing new there. And, honestly, how many versions of "Let Me Roll It" do we really need?

But McCartney delivers a fine ukulele-driven cover of "Something" as a tribute to George Harrison and while the list of Beatles tunes touched upon hearkens to 1993's Paul is Live, there are other moments worth having on CD. Who wouldn't get the chills from hearing "Sgt. Pepper's" (reprise version) and the "The End" to close this show?

In short, forget the cynics; you know whether you need this album without hearing their opinions - or mine, for that matter.