O2, DublinIn Magical Mystery Tour, the opening song to this very fine show, Paul McCartney sings the words “satisfaction guaranteed”. If there was one member of the audience who went home in a grumpy mood, then truly they were the Christmas Grinch.
In short, Macca arrived in Dublin, gave a self-deprecating thumbs up and conquered one and all with what was, in effect, a showcase of the brilliance of The Beatles as much as a testament to the humble showmanship of that band’s former bass player.
Of course, one could argue that after over 50 years of regular gigging McCartney is by this stage (he turns 68 next June) trotting out the hits and going through the motions. Well, maybe he is and maybe he isn’t. What seems more of a certainty is that for quite some time now he has comfortably settled into the role of rock’s sensible, venerable elder statesman, and is therefore at ease with his unfeasibly substantial back catalogue to the point that his renditions of Beatles’ songs come from a place of self-awareness rather than self-aggrandisement.
For example, the solo acoustic renderings of Blackbird, Yesterdayand Here Today(written for John Lennon, and from McCartney’s 1982 album, Tug of War) highlight not just the simplicity of pop music itself but also a songwriter unafraid to address specific things that truly make the world go around: friendship, relationships, the admission of regret and the necessity to make amends.
Notions such as these, however, quickly fall by the wayside when you are presented with a set list that features around 85 per cent Beatles’ tunes. Not fussed about a twee Wings song ( Wonderful Christmastime), or a humdrum solo track ( Highway, from his obscure 1990s Firemanside project)? Not to worry, chums – heritage pop of the calibre of Eleanor Rigby, Something, Let it Be, Day Tripper, The Long and Winding Road, Paperback Writer, Get Backand A Day in the Life(and much more besides) will be with you within a few minutes.
It ended as perfectly as it began: in an Abbey Road coda to the evening’s final song, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, McCartney sang, “and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”, which is surely a Christmas message as meaningful as any we’ll hear this or any other year from any politician or church leader you care to think of.