Thursday, May 23, 2013

Put The Boot In: 'Getting Closer'-The Last Flight of Paul McCartney and Wings 12-17-79




      This evening in the 'rock room' I am spinning a crispy soundboard recording from December 17th 1979 featuring the final line up of Paul McCartney and Wings. This recording was originally recorded for and destined to be a live LP release, but due to McCartney's untimely arrest for Marijuana in Japan, the album was shelved and Wings eventually ceased touring. McCartney would eventually continue as a strictly solo artist, but at this point 'Wings' were still flying high in Glasgow, the last live show of their career. The 1979 UK tour featured diverse and eclectic set lists a punk rock attitude, and a stripped down 'Wings' with Steve Holley on drums, Laurence Juber on guitar, McCartney main man Denny Laine on vocals and many instruments, and of course Paul and Linda McCartney.
      The 'boot' I am using for my review is by Vigotone and titled 'Last Flight', the only track from the concert to see an official release is the version of 'Coming Up' from the Glasgow show which was released as a single in the UK and US reaching the top of both charts. Reaching into all of the dusty corners of McCartney's solo career the 1979 Wings UK tour shows a willingness to keep the 'band' aspect of Wings alive, and to develop a show based on the groups merits as opposed to past Beatles glories. The quality is that of an official release with all instruments audible and mixed well.
      Opening the show with 'Got To Get You Into My Life' McCartney gets the crowds hope for a 'Beatles' tune out of the way early. What follows is a rhythmically stomping version with chorused guitars and a fresh, eager and raspy rock throat Macca. The small horn section tastefully plays the song as it was originally recorded over Paul's throbbing and rotund bass lines. The crowd explodes in appreciation as 'Wings' then jumps into the opening track of the LP 'Back To the Egg', 'Getting Closer'. A song that would never be played again by McCartney, 'Getting Closer' is a rocker will fully amped Macca bass lines that melodically back stroke through the jagged rhythm waters of the tune. The chorus is classic McCartney, smooth and cutting edge, building to a crashing conclusion with swirling laser shots from Linda's keyboard set up. A great opener to the show spotlighting two distinctly different aspects of McCartney's career.
      McCartney tells the crowd 'thank you' and after a quick pause the group strums their way into 'Every Night', a standout song from McCartney's first solo LP. Soft and dynamic, the song coasts like a cool evening breeze appearing at dusk after a steamy summer day. Paul sings gloriously, with Denny and Linda joining in on the three part 'Oooohhhh's". A nice distorted representation of the guitar solo is layed down by Juber mid tune adding to the tight knit instrumentation of the track.
     The concert's song choice gets even more interesting with the string of songs that follow 'Every Night' each one unique and well played. 'Again and Again and Again' jubilantly bounds from the speakers a beautifully melodic and infectious Denny Laine penned number. A song featured on the new 'Back to the Egg' LP, McCartney was always sure that Laine's best songs got their full airing live in concert. Juber plays some ticklish scurrying guitar lines that creep underneath the vocals with a shaky confidence.  One of my favorite Wings tunes and a highlight thus far.
     Paul wanted this line up of Wings to have a more serrated edge to their music, so it is fitting that he gives 'I've Had Enough', one of the harder rocking tunes from 'London Town', a great workout on this tour. Opening on a start and stop chopping guitar figure, "Ive Had Enough' swaggers on a quintessentially 'Macca' vocal melody that harkens back to his throat shredding with the early Beatles. A nice dual guitar figure nestles itself in the middle of the song, prior to McCartney's spoken warning to the subject of the tune.
     Another round of 'thank you's' and then Laine introduces the next song 'No Words' as one of the first tunes he and Macca penned together. A true collaboration, as the song was two different tunes joined together by Laine and McCartney. The song first appeared on 'Band On the Run' and gets a live work out here that spotlights the smooth Wings vocal blend and Laine's composing abilities. The horn section squeaks and moans in all the right places contributing to a well played version.
     A chance for Linda McCartney to show off one of her own songs comes next as the rare and fun 'Cook of the House' gets a live airing. A goofy rock number with swinging horns and adequate vocals by Linda, 'Cook of the House' was originally the 'B' side of 'Silly Love Songs', Wings 1976 single. Here it gets a horn drenched, old fashioned rock and roll performance with Linda finishing the tune with a crowd pleasing 'Yelp'!
      After some humorous on microphone voice inflections my Paul, he introduces my personal favorite performance of the concert thus far.  'Old Siam Sir' is another track from 'Back to the Egg' which was released as a single in the UK. One of the hardest rocking Wings tunes in recent memory, this song is a thick sludgy rocker that stomps with heavy feet. McCartney is in full 'Oh Darling' voice as he shreds his vocal lines naming different locations in the UK in which his female protagonist searches for her 'Sir'. The track swells on dual guitar lines, Macca's reverberating bass, and 'jack in the box' piano lines that contrast with the distorted backing. The song slowly builds in momentum until it crashes to a well received ending. Sweet.
     In what feels like an end to a first set to me, the preceding tunes set the stage for a triad of McCartney's most beloved and famous piano ballads that follow an introduction by drummer Steve Holley. McCartney messes with the crowd in his usual fashion, then begins the recognizable introduction to 'Maybe I'm Amazed', which is followed by versions of "The Fool On the Hill', and 'Let It Be'. McCartney is in perfect throat with just enough satin smooth, and a touch of sandpaper rough. The band provides a backing that frames and spotlights Paul, but still is aggressive enough that they can put their stamp on songs that are so recognizable in their composition and arrangements. After 'Maybe I'm Amazed', Paul asks the crowd to 'Whoohoo!" a bit, then delicately strikes the introduction to "The Fool on the Hill', in my opinion a fantastic choice for this slot in the show. Denny is on bass, and Linda is adding touches of percussion, and during the middle eight of the song the band clip clops to Paul's falsetto additions and the flute punctuations flavoring the musical stew. The conclusion to Paul's piano trilogy is a emotionally charged 'Let It Be' introduced by Laine. 'Let It Be' has a very secular vibe with Linda's church organ underpinning Paul's gospel piano. What really makes this 'Let It Be' a unique version is the addition of the horns, sympathetic drums, as well as the climatic guitar interlude. Midway through the set and there are no signs of the band letting up.
     Leading into the second half of the show comes another run of rarely played and enthusiastic tracks from Macca's career. A tropical and icy cool 'Hot as Sun' flaunts itself with a jittery groove and groovy horns. A rarely played instrumental song from McCartney's first solo LP makes a welcome appearance with a celebratory beach party vibe. Kudos to the band for a collaborative and amazing version!
     Following 'Hot As Sun' comes the UK single 'Spin It On' which Macca introduces as a song from their last LP. 'Spin It On' slices through the stratosphere with a high octane turbo charged cadence. Encapsulating the direction that McCartney was looking for from his 'rock' edition of Wings,'Spin It On' soars breathlessly through its changes with semi automatic drums and churning punk guitars. Again, McCartney is in fine voice, screaming in his interminable fashion.
      It makes sense that the next tune is the song that helped usher Paul into the world of rock and roll, and the song that brought Lennon and McCartney together all those years ago. Eddie Cochran's 'Twenty Flight Rock' is a tune that McCartney has held close and busted out at different moments over the course of his career. Wings swing their way through the slippery sliding central lick as Macca counts off the flights he climbs. At the songs conclusion he replies, "Thank you rockers everywhere!'
     Going in a different direction and slowing down the show slightly, Paul gives the spotlight to Denny Laine who performs his well known classic 'Go Now' which Wings always got its teeth into. With Laine on Piano and Paul and Linda sharing the backing vocals 'Go Now' reaches into the blue for some misty peaks containing a couple of nice solos by Juber. Laine's voice, one of the key elements in the 'Wings' sound is highly under appreciated. While the song choice is not super unique, it is a well played and always welcome addition to the set.
     Another 'new' song comes up next, which happens to be the last song on 'Back To the Egg', 'Arrow Through Me'. The tune springs on a minimal and squishy keyboard lick that forms the central melody of the tune. Containing a slight R and B flavor with its soulful groove and melodic horns, McCartney harmonizes with the aforementioned horn licks in his chilling falsetto. This may be the 'loosest' performance of the night, but in no way does this deter the performance.
     Because of the concerts proximity to the holidays, the next song performed is a singalong version of 'Wonderful Christmastime' which was also Paul's recent single. This really is a great version with on point harmonies, and even the dated synth sounds are absolutely perfect. A definite crowd pleaser, and is the case with Paul, a perfect call.
     The only song officially released from this show follows with an off the rails version of 'Coming Up' filled with fat full bass and ass shaking 'disco' guitars. It's obvious why this song made it to wax as it levitates off the ground with lunatic playing and nothing less than perfection from McCartney vocally. Linda's contributions throughout the song, and the performance in gerneral are pivotal and add a good amount of ambiance to all the tunes. If you have ever heard this version of 'Coming Up', (I'm sure you have) you can gain an insight into the grandiose aspect of this concert.
     The last four songs of the show are the perfect climax, perhaps a bit suspected, but with the excellent playing that has occurred, and the amount of rare goods being busted out anything Wings could do at this point would be fine! A fitting 'Goodnight Tonight' gets everyone in the mood. Starting with a ethnic drum machine rhythm, topped with spinning fan acoustic guitar by Laine, one of McCartney's finest bass lines leans in close and squeezes tight. The energy and vocal asides contained in this version make it a must have, taking the studio version to school. Stretched like bubblegum in the sun the song sticks counter punctual melodies against synthesized samples, James Brown guitar slaps and McCartney's unmistakably classic melodies. Beautiful.
     Paul and the horns stand alone for a version of 'Yesterday', McCartney's most well known song, and a standard in the songwriting pantheon. The crowd sings and swells joining in a chant of 'Paul McCartney!' in joyous ecstasy, to which Paul asks if they would like to join in a singalong. With that he begins strumming like a forest minstrel on acoustic, 'Mull of Kintyre'. Another perfect song choice, being that the concert is in Glasgow, the band trickles in, soaking rain on dry earth, seeping into the fabric of the song. Bag pipe players join the stage, adding to the celebration which plainly translates through the recording and brings a smile. A crowning moment to a concert brimming with shining performances.
     After another few minutes of the crowd going bonkers, Paul returns to the stage for what is the 'last song of the show, and last song of the tour'. Paul thanks everyone, lets out a few hollers, and ends the journey of 'Wings' with a perfect 'Band On the Run'. With Paul's voice starting to show some wear, and the band I assume feeling exhausted, they finish with a multicolored and multifaceted version for the books that concludes in a singalong.
     With a career as long and expansive as Sir Paul McCartney, there are countless LP's, shows, and momentous moments throughout his life that can be looked at with a critical eye. The era in which this performance hails from is rich in peak, yet underrated McCartney songwriting, as well as amazing live performances.This concert acts as the signpost to a new era for McCartney, concluding his second band, and ushering in his future career as a 'rock legend'. It's a shame that only one track from this night of music has ever been officially released,(Addendum: now that the McCartney Remasters have been released 3 of the Glasgow songs appeared on the McCartney I bonus disc) but it is fortunate that the concert is available for those who are willing to search.




Every Night-Glasgow Audio With London Video

Coming Up-Glasgow-12' vinyl

Glasgow Concert Link PART 1

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