With one of the biggest back catalogues in the history of music, Paul McCartney continues to tour around the world playing setlists that barely scratch the surface of this massive and eclectic body of work.
Over the past decade Paul McCartney’s tour setlists have become a little stale: while a handful of songs are moved and changed from tour to tour, there is always a set of ‘core songs’ that is always there. Hey Jude, Let It Be, Yesterday, Blackbird, The Long and Winding Road etc etc etc. All are undeniably great songs, but all are Beatles songs that have suffered from their overexposure.
One would not be blamed for thinking that Paul is resting on his Laurels, playing songs he’s comfortable with and that the average Beatles fan would want to hear. BUT when going to a Paul McCartney concert it seems a little silly that you get what is essentially a Beatles tribute act.
Yes The Beatles shot him to fame in the 60’s, but they had gone their separate ways by the end of 1970. For 40 years Paul has made albums both as a solo artist and in Wings, so it seems a little unfair around 60% of the songs he plays live are from that 1/5 of his career.
There are a glut of fantastic selling singles that have been criminally ignored: Wings songs including Helen Wheels, With a Little Luck, Goodnight Tonight, Magneto and Titanium Man, and Getting Closer, and solo songs including Ever Present Past, Figure of Eight, Press, From a Lover to a Friend, Young Boy, and This Never Happened Before have all been left by the wayside by the man himself.
But the fans haven’t forgotten! Many fans want to see some of there songs getting the attention they deserve. For example there is a sizable online movement petitioning that Macca plays one of his biggest hits: Silly Love Songs. Having being released in 1976 and reaching number 2 in the UK and number 1 in the US, it is one of his biggest and well recognised post-Beatles songs. He was on top of the world with Wings and Silly Love Songs capitalised on that overwhelmingly massive success.
Similarly the much loved piano-driven rocker Listen To What The Man Said also peaked at number 1 in 1975, however just like Silly Love Songs, after the critically acclaimed Wings Over America tour it was all but forgotten about.
Bafflingly he has opted to play the bluesy rock song Letting Go during his world wide Up and Coming tour. While you will hear no complaints coming from fans that the song found its way into the setlist, it only managed to limp its way to number 39 and 41 in the US and UK respectively.
So how does he choose the setlists? What drives him to pick some of the songs? Well his current touring band have had a hand in some of the more unexpected songs that he has played. Amongst others, Getting Better, Helter Skelter, Come and Get It, Too Many People, Juniors Farm, and I’ll Get You have all been suggestions of either Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, Abe Laboriel Jr or Paul “Wix” Wickens.
Yet while these deeper cuts have come and gone, the same ‘core (Beatles) songs’ have remained.
Regarding the setlist Paul has been quoted as saying:
“First of all what we think the audience might like; secondly, what we like — which is very important because we can’t throw in stuff that they like, but we don’t. And then we throw in a bit of things they may not know, but that we think would be interesting because they don’t know ’em. And then we look and see what we did last time and we try not to do too many of the same numbers. We try to open with something different, so a few little things like that.”
But despite what genuine fans that have intently followed his career over the years want to hear, at the end of the day it is down to the man himself to decide what he wants to play. It is after all him who stands there for 3 hours and sings his heart out and obviously sees many members of the audiences deep rooted love for his Beatles output. He is obviously grateful for the big break the band gave him, and that is pretty understandable.
But one can live in hope that Paul knows that there is a massive percentage of his fanbase that became hooked on Wings or solo-Paul music, and that one day he will set aside the Beatles bubble – for a little while at least – and give those fans the real rock show that they want and deserve.