Think Paul McCartney’s a medical and musical phenomenon, performing at full-tilt, these days and nights, at age 71?
Take a look at him in McCartney at Knebworth.
That June, 1990 night at the Knebworth House, north of London, the future Sir Paul had just turned 48, already ancient by rock and roll standards. As he is today, he was in great spirits, kicking things off with Wings’ “Comin’ Up,” then serving up some Beatles tunes (“Yer Birthday,” “Hey, Jude” and “Can’t Buy Me Love”) to the huge crowd of about 120,000, most of them planted at Knebworth all day and night – and a rainy, windy one, at that – for a procession of rock acts. They appeared to have endured rainy, windy weather (When do they get to go to the porta-potties?)
This was a benefit two British organizations involved with enabling disabled children to learn and perform music, and McCartney offered a shout-out to them, for “helping kids reach out and touch the world,” before playing a luminous, seven-minute version of “Hey Jude.” Paul’s intro gave the song even more of a glow than usual.
Alongside members of his band (which included Linda McCartney on second keyboards), you could see a setlist, with perhaps eight or nine titles. Only four are included in this film, and that’s because this was a well-packed all-star festival which required a three-DVD release. In Vol. 1, McCartney is preceded by Tears for Fears, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, and Phil Collins. Check out the other volumes for Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Dire Straits, Robert Plant (with guest Jimmy Page), and Status Quo.
Besides McCartney, the highlights of Vol. 1 are provided by Phil Collins. He follows Cliff Richard, Britain’s answer to Elvis, who looked out of place, decked out in a hot pink suit, strutting, spinning, posing, and dancing through three songs. The audience seemed more puzzled than excited, but got into it when he did his hit, “We Don’t Talk Anymore.”
In contrast, Collins wandered onstage in a white dress shirt and slacks, sat on the apron of the stage and sang “In the Air Tonight,” looking more like a teacher than a rock star. As he sang, he made his way to his drum kit just in time to slam into the climactic chorus. I love drummer-singers, whether Collins, Levon Helm or Karen Carpenter, and Phil is among the finest. He wrapped up with a sizzling “Sussudio.”
And then, as night fell, McCartney and his band appeared. “Good morning,” said Paul. And it was.