Good Evening New York City is Paul's fifth live album of his career and fourth live DVD since he resumed touring in 2002. While it may seem a bit like overkill on the latter count, the real question is, Has Paul finally made a decent concert film? I'm delighted to report that the answer is a resounding Yes!
The fact that these shows marked the opening of CitiField, the replacement for Shea Stadium, left the door wide open for yet another rehash of Beatlemania but they resist that tempation. Apart from a 60-second introduction, they leave the historical references to Paul's between-song anecdotes, some of which, we haven't even heard before. This is, finally, a complete two and a half hour concert featuring the music, all the music and nothing but the music. And too many shots of the audience too, but I guess you can't have everything. However, even these are mercifully brief compared to previous efforts. They appear to have been shot by fans and are probably part of bonus features on the DVD.
Also, given the setting, it would have been so easy to simply make it a Beatles show but the setlist in the first half is a good mix of Beatles, Wings, solo and even two Fireman songs. Come the second half, it's wall-to-wall Beatles with the one exception of Live and Let Die, but that's perfectly understandable for this particular show. Although this is the first live DVD to include Mrs Vandebilt and A Day in the Life, we've seen them on YouTube so much over the last year that the freshness they should have is gone. That's not so for Day Tripper, which by rights should always have been a live favourite but has had no post-Beatles performances until now.
It's a bit surprising to note that Paul's live band has now been together with the same lineup longer than any other band he has toured with. It certainly shows. They are completely relaxed and confident, not starstruck as they were on the earlier tours. Billy Joel shows up in the first encore to join in on I Saw Her Standing There, as Paul did at Billy's final show at Shea Stadium last year.
The presentation as a whole has the feel of a live television broadcast more than polished concert film. This is a good thing and actually adds to the live feel. The only place where things go a little awry is during I'm Down, where they try to cut back and forth between the 2009 show and the Beatles' shambolic but brilliant performance at Shea. If you're wondering if Wix plays the keyboard with his elbow, you'll just have to find out for yourself.
The other big surprise of Good Evening New York City comes as the credits roll. The concert film was directed by Paul himself. That makes it all the more curious that Paul spent most of the decade commissioning fawning fanboy pieces when he was perfectly capable of producing a great film on his own. For sure, it's a fairly no-frills production for such a big show, but that's what makes it so great. When you've got the man and his music, you don't need anything else. If you want a McCartney live DVD that really is a live concert, this is the one to get.
Highlight: Sing the Changes, Day Tripper
Feature: * * * * ½