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Review: Paul McCartney’s Good Evening New York City live CD/DVD set

Paul McCartney’s new live CD/DVD, Good Evening New York City, was released on November 17. It features performances recorded at New York’s Citi Field on July 17, 18 and 21, 2009. McCartney’s shows were the first concerts ever held at the new Citi Field, which replaces Shea Stadium.

If you want to feel like you’re really at a live show watching the legendary ex-Beatle do what he does best, make sure you definitely watch the Good Evening New York City DVD first, BEFORE you listen to the CDs. On the DVD, you get to hear Paul tell a few stories in-between songs, like his experience hearing Jimi Hendrix play “Sgt. Pepper” only two days after it was released back in 1967. You also get to hear how Paul came up with the melody to “Blackbird.”

And most striking to this longtime Beatles fan was when McCartney sings “Here Today”, his tribute to the late John Lennon, and gets extremely choked up during the performance. As many times as I’ve seen Paul in concert or watched previous live performances, I can’t recall ever seeing him get this emotional during this touching song. “As you can tell, sometimes that song catches me out,” Paul explains to the audience afterwards.

But, warning, you don’t necessarily get the same experience on the live McCartney CDs. To me, the purpose of a live concert recording is to be able to re-live over and over the magic that was created that one special night. However, it seems like Paul doesn’t see it that way. On the CDs, all his comments in-between songs have been deleted. At the beginning, he declares, “Good Evening New York City,” and that’s the extent of his spoken words throughout the recording, except when he shouts out “Billy Joel” after their duet on “I Saw Her Standing There.”. This is not the first time he’s done this on a live CD. For the 2002 release of Back in the US, Paul did the same thing and deleted all his comments in-between songs on the live CD.

Not only that, but there are instances where a different vocal recording appears on the CD compared to the one that was used on the DVD. For example, the vocal used on the DVD for “Here Today”, in which I just mentioned that McCartney gets noticeably choked up, is a different performance on the CD where there is no crack in Paul’s voice whatsoever. As a result, while the live CDs are a great performance of McCartney’s solo and Beatles hits, they sound way too smooth and polished to offer the true, authentic live concert experience.

And in the end… the DVD (not the CDs) really recreates the magic of seeing Paul McCartney in concert. At the age of 67, he still puts on a great live show. There’s no mistaking that the man loves what he does. My recommendation is that you get the deluxe edition of the set (available exclusively at Best Buy) which also includes a second DVD featuring Paul’s news-making performance from July 2009 on top of the Late Show with David Letterman’s marquee in Manhattan.

TV alert: A Paul McCartney Thanksgiving special will air on ABC at 10 pm on November 26 featuring excerpts from “Good Evening New York City” as well as original footage from The Beatles Shea Stadium concert.

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Exclusive: Filmmaker Clay Adams reveals details about working with The Beatles on Shea Stadium film soundtrack

M. Clay Adams, the former owner of Clayco Films, produced many film segments for the Ed Sullivan Show during the 1960s. When Ed Sullivan’s production company collaborated with The Beatles to produce a documentary of their legendary 1965 performance at Shea Stadium, Clay Adams was the manager of production operations for the film.

At the time, Adams, who died last year at the age of 99, had been in the film business for over 25 years. He had a young teenage son, Michael, who was a huge Beatles fan. In February 1964, Michael was one of the lucky ones who attended the live February 9, 1964 Beatles debut on the Ed Sullivan Show as well as The Beatles dress rehearsal (the segment filmed for their third Ed Sullivan appearance which aired on February 23, 1964). He actually got to meet The Beatles after the dress rehearsal. He also attended both Beatles concerts at Shea Stadium in 1965 and 1966.

So after his dad, Clay, flew to London to work with George Martin and The Beatles on the over-dubs to the Shea Stadium film soundtrack, Michael was extremely anxious to hear about the trip. In the lost art of letter writing, Clay typed up a letter dated January 10, 1966 to his son, who was busy in school, and told him intimate details of working with George Martin and The Beatles in the recording studio. He also revealed his personal observations on each of the Fab Four.

For example, Clay Adams, describes his first impressions of Paul McCartney:

Paul was the first one to get there, right on the dot of 9:30. He came in with a short black fur coat and needing a shave. But he was full of fun and ready to get down to work right away. Actually what the boys and George Martin really felt was wrong with the Shea soundtrack was only that it was lacking in the “low end” and drums in some places. The bass guitar was not as loud as on their records. So while we were waiting for the other boys to arrive, we over-dubbed “I’m Down”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, and “Baby’s in Black” with Paul only.

Readers can get a sense of what the Beatles daily lives were like from this historic letter. This excerpt almost seems like a scene out of A Hard Day’s Night as Adams writes:

Meanwhile nobody seemed to know where the rest of the boys were. Every time I’d ask what has happened to John, George and Ringo – George Martin would say he hadn’t the slightest idea except that Paul was living in the city nearby while the other boys had to come from out of town. Finally at about 10:30 in bounced the other three, all laughing and quite unaware that they had been keeping us in suspense.

What’s most fascinating about Adams’ letter is how he truly was a “fly on the wall” during a Beatles’ recording session.

All four of the boys were really great. They worked hard, did anything we asked them to and cooperated in every way. Also, they are such great “pros” and know their own arrangements so well that the recording session went much easier and faster than I ever anticipated. John was quite anxious to do “Ticket to Ride” better so we did that completely over and our track of “Help!” had a big drop-out in it which we had tried to fix up in New York – so we did that one all over. The rest were merely fixed here and there to fortify the Shea track. Paul loved my word “fortify” and whenever there was a lull he would say to me, “How are we doing Clay – did we fortify that one okay?”

Adams’ observations about the individual Beatles are quite insightful as well:

It was fun between recording sessions. Almost invariably Paul and John would immediately start tinkering around with some new musical ideas for new songs on their guitars. As soon as one would play a few notes, the other would pick up an accompaniment no matter how complex the arrangement. Meanwhile, George Harrison – who I called a frustrated drummer – would be trying to teach Ringo some new trick beat that he had thought up. They are all constantly fooling around with the other’s instruments. Ringo fooling with a guitar or the piano. George on the drums, etc. I thought Paul was the most musical though. When we had finished the over-dubbing I sat with him at the piano while he improvised. He has a great sense of harmony and phrasing. You should have heard his improvised chords fooling around with that song that’s my favorite from “Oliver” – I can’t think of the title.

The Beatles at Shea Stadium 50-minute documentary concert film was first aired on the BBC on May 1, 1966. The film was aired in the United States on ABC on January 10, 1967. However, since then, the film has never been commercially released to the public.
Michael Adams commented on the status of the film:

The film was a joint Sullivan Productions and NEMS venture. My Dad provided the film and sound crew and everything that came afterward until it was a finished product. When both parties had signed off on the completed film, two masters were made. Copies were then made and were presented to Sullivan Productions and NEMS for their prospective broadcasts. My Dad hung on to the masters and waited for the companies involved to follow up and ask for them.

In 1987, Paul McCartney phoned my Dad and requested a master for Apple. At the time, Paul said that they were interested in releasing it. They subsequently released a few songs on the Beatles Anthology. They [Apple] still have that master and who knows, maybe one day they will release it. In the meantime it keeps getting bootlegged. There’s boot copies of the US and the UK telecasts floating around out there (as well as that 2nd master).

With the release of McCartney’s Good Evening New York City CD/DVD today (November 17) which was filmed at the “new” Shea Stadium, now known as Citi Field, ABC will be broadcasting a one-hour special on Thanksgiving night, November 26, featuring McCartney concert excerpts as well as original footage from the Shea Stadium film.

To read the entire letter that Clay Adams wrote to his son about his experience working with the Beatles, visit http://www.beatles-history.net/beatles-shea-stadium.html

Our thanks to Michael Adams for sharing such a fascinating piece of Beatles history.