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Spins: Paul McCartney • Amoeba Gig

| June 11, 2020

Paul McCartney

Amoeba Gig


Lots of artists play informal sets at record shops when promoting an album. These appearances offer the chance for fans to get up-close-and-personal with their favorites, but how memorable could they be without the pomp and production of a full-blown concert experience? If the artist in question is Paul McCartney, the answer is “pretty blasted memorable.” Amoeba Gig is well worth shelving alongside your tattered copy of #1 triple-live-album Wings Over America. As a double LP set with a “mere” 21-song set list (plus a bonus track on LP), this show recorded at Hollywood’s Amoeba Records doesn’t capture the nearly three-hour marathon of Macca’s stadium dates. Nonetheless, the set is full of surprises and fresh-at-the-time gems that are no longer featured in McCartney’s concerts.

Some of these songs have been available previously. 2007’s Amoeba’s Secret EP included four tracks. A 2012 CD included in an issue of the British newspaper The Daily Mail included 14 songs. Amoeba Gig, however, represents the first release of the entire performance and benefits from a vibrant new mix. Five then-fresh tracks from 2007’s Memory Almost Full album are included. The first is a rocking version of “Only Mama Knows,” followed by the whimsical mandolin feature “Dance Tonight.” McCartney reminisces about school days in the rollicking Memory Almost Full standout “That Was Me.” He praises the crowd for its ability to nod in time to headbanger “Nod Your Head.”

McCartney dips back a decade to the Flaming Pie album for the acoustic shimmer and uptempo waltz of “Calico Skies,” which the songwriter has described as “a gentle love song that becomes a 1960s protest song” in the vein of the Beatles “Blackbird.”

Other jubilant selections include the reggae-pop of Wings’ “C Moon.” McCartney shows his roots with a spirited cover of Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox.” “Ha, new ending!” McCartney laughs after flubbing the outro of an off-the-cuff run through Tin Pan Alley classic “Baby Face.”

The room buzzes with energy throughout the show, although McCartney brings the crowd to a hush with intimate solo acoustic performances of “Blackbird” and “Here Today.” The latter is dedicated to departed loved ones including John Lennon, George Harrison, and Linda McCartney.

The band comes raging back with “Back in the U.S.S.R.” Unsurprisingly, the scales of the song selections tip in favor of Beatles fare, with 11 selections from the Fab Four catalog. Highlights include a rowdy “Drive My Car,” wistful “I’ll Follow the Sun,” bouncing piano feature “Lady Madonna,” and rapturous “Let it Be.”

The band is bristling, perhaps because it’s a hometown gig for drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. and guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray. As the show winds down, you can feel the band getting into the swaying, communal vibe of “Hey Jude” along with the enraptured audience. McCartney leads a singalong that echoes around the cavernous warehouse, with fans packed between racks of new and used CDs. The room erupts when McCartney announces that former Beatle bandmate and “one of the great men of the world,” Ringo Starr, had been among the relatively intimate group of a thousand or so lucky fans. The show concludes with the spark and snap of “I Saw Her Standing There.”

As an encore to the encore, the LP set includes Wings’ disco-friendly “Coming Up,” recorded during soundcheck. The song features keyboardist Dave Arch, performing the R&B horn charts and standing in for longtime McCartney bandmate Paul “Wix” Wickens. The song’s third verse morphs into a tribute to Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme.”

While picking up Amoeba Gig, you can also upgrade your old copy of Wings Over America with a fresh 3xLP reissue. Capitol has also re-released 1993’s Paul is Live and 1998’s Choba B CCCP on heavyweight vinyl.

– Jeff Elbel

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