Recorded on July 5, 2007 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and available for purchase exclusively on iTunes, Live At The iTunes Festival: Paul McCartney spotlights four tracks from McCartney’s current album, Memory Almost Full, along with raucous versions of two classic solo tracks, “Coming Up” and “Jet”.
Armed with his full touring band, which consists of guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr., and keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, McCartney sounds dynamic and invigorated in this intimate venue, which only holds 350 guests.
Loud and rambunctious, “Only Mama Knows,” arguably the best song on this collection, begins with an incongruous string arrangement, then plunges full-throttle into a rock song complete with a epitomic McCartney melody in the chorus.
“That Was Me,” an obvious allusion to his Liverpool adolescence and adventures with The Beatles, stomps along with a rollicking velocity. No longer “sweating cobwebs under contract,” as the song says, McCartney sounds as buoyant as he did at the height of Beatlemania.
Speaking of which, do you remember how McCartney’s throaty voice tore through early Beatles singles like “I’m Down” and “Long Tall Sally”? Remarkably, he has revived that rasp for “Nod Your Head,” a dizzy chunk of rock & roll that, before too long, has the listener doing exactly what the title instructs.
On the compilation’s most subdued track, McCartney dedicates “House Of Wax” to “every right-minded person in the whole world,” which gives the song’s abstract lyrics a more concentrated, social significance. One gets the impression that he’s not just playing with words when he sings, “Lightning hits the house of wax/Poets spill out on the street/To set alight the incomplete/Remainders of the future”.
Enjoyable versions of “Coming Up” and “Jet” fill in the EP, which may not offer anything drastically new if you already own either of the two live McCartney albums (Tripping The Live Fantastic and Back In The U.S.) that feature both songs. However, hearing these tracks in this intimate setting does add a certain context to the event.
The full show included choice Beatles cuts like “I’ll Follow The Sun,” “I’ve Got A Feeling,” and “Get Back,” along with a smattering of McCartney solo material. Thus, if the selected tracks that comprise Live At The iTunes Festival: Paul McCartney sound this phenomenal, one can only hope that the online retailer will inevitably release the entire performance.