Press reaction: Paul McCartney at Desert Trip

Saturday saw Paul McCartney take to the stage on the second night of Desert Trip's opening weekend. Here is what the press thought:

Rolling Stone

Paul McCartney, Neil Young Deliver Powerful Sets at Desert Trip Night 2

Paul McCartney has learned a few important things about his fans, and there were more than 70,000 in front of him Saturday on the second night of the Desert Trip festival in Indio, Calif. He has come to a profound understanding of the Beatles legacy, its connection to his solo career and the emotional resonance it has continued to have for generations of listeners for more than 50 years.

Like his 2009 headlining appearance at Coachella, McCartney arrived at Desert Trip prepared to connect not only with the most hardcore who travel across state lines to see him over and again but with other fans who are deeply connected in other ways. One of night's emotional peaks came late Saturday when McCartney brought out Neil Young, returning from his own explosive performance earlier the same evening.

Their choice of material was the Lennon-McCartney classic "A Day in the Life," which later shifted into John Lennon's anthem "Give Peace a Chance." Both McCartney and Young were all smiles sharing the stage, then tore into the raw Beatles oddity "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" leaving room for Young to set his guitar aflame with a joyfully ragged solo, a searing moment likely to be remembered long after this weekend.

As on other stops on his current "One On One" tour, McCartney opened with the distinctive opening clang from "A Hard Day's Night," plucking his old Hofner bass and going back to the early days of the Beatlemania. The urgent pace and upbeat vibe set a tone for his night, and he immediately followed with "Jet," from his initial post-Beatles career when McCartney was establishing an independent voice of his own.

His solo work (with and without Wings) was one of the defining sounds of the Seventies and rarely sounded like a rehash of Beatles ideas, which continues still. Among the newer songs was the quietly dramatic "My Valentine," a romantic ballad played on grand piano and dedicated to his wife Nancy.

Before his solo acoustic reading of "Blackbird," he explained the song's inspiration: learning of the civil rights struggle ongoing in America, he wanted to write something to comfort and inspire the movement. "How many of you tried to learn to play 'Blackbird'? See? And you all got it wrong," he said teasingly.

The early solo hit "Live and Let Die" (written for the soundtrack of a James Bond film) was accompanied with a staggering eruption of flames, lasers, smoke and fireworks in the sky as McCartney stood and pounded the piano keyboard. His Beatles anthem "Hey Jude" was big in a more profound way, connecting emotionally with the crowd as few acts can. A woman near the front held up a sign: "I'm Jude." And as McCartney led fans in a massive chorus of the song, the faces of people singing filled the big screens, both in closeup and in massive landscapes of waving arms. It was a picture of humanity as hopeful and affectionate as the Beatles legacy that is stronger than ever.

Los Angeles Times

Paul McCartney made good on Desert Trip’s all-star-jam potential when he invited Neil Young onstage Saturday night to duet with him on a pair of classic Beatles songs.

Employing the royal “we” to introduce Young as “a really good friend of ours,” McCartney brought out his fellow veteran (who’d played the festival earlier in the evening) for “A Day in the Life” and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”

At the end of the former, the two tacked on a bit of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” which set off a mass singalong in the Desert Trip crowd. And during the latter, Young scratched out a noisy guitar solo that pushed the White Album cut closer to the heavy blues McCartney was clearly emulating.

Not that the former Beatle needed help in traversing styles.

Leading his expert band through three dozen songs over 2 1/2 hours, McCartney was a keen — and lovable — musical explorer at Desert Trip, moving through a vast assortment of sounds and attitudes with the lightly worn assurance of a lifelong superstar.

He did indelible Beatles hits such as “A Hard Day’s Night” and “We Can Work It Out.” He did twisting, knotty Wings songs like “Jet” and “Band on the Run.” And he did solo tunes including “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which he said he’d written for his late wife, Linda, and “My Valentine,” which he dedicated to his current wife, Nancy, on what he said was the day before their wedding anniversary.

McCartney knew what audience he was playing to. Before “Blackbird,” he explained how he’d hoped the song would be a balm for those caught in the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. And he described “Here Today” as an imaginary conversation with Lennon, who’d been murdered not long before he wrote it.

Other songs triggered reminiscences of the Beatles’ first recording session and a long-ago encounter with Jimi Hendrix. And following the Rolling Stones’ rendition of “Come Together” on Friday at Desert Trip, McCartney returned the nod — well, sort of — by zipping through “I Wanna Be Your Man,” an early Lennon/McCartney ditty originally recorded by the Stones in 1963.

Yet McCartney wasn’t living in the past.

At one point he played “FourFiveSeconds,” the great folk-soul single he released last year as an unlikely collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West. He also did “Queenie Eye,” from his most recent solo album, 2013’s “New” — though in typical fashion he let the crowd off the hook for not knowing it, calling the song “a black hole” since it inspired so few to point their cellphones at him.

To close the show, which ended after midnight, McCartney returned to the blues for a bludgeoning “Helter Skelter” before finishing with a portion of the Side 2 suite from “Abbey Road.”

“Smiles awake you when you rise,” he sang, and he might’ve been describing the warmth his fans feel for him, a rock icon masquerading as a really good friend.


Paul McCartney & Neil Young Jam on 2 Beatles Classics & a John Lennon Anthem at Desert Trip Day 2

Even though Desert Trip doesn't play by the rules of most music fests -- there are only two acts per day, the first one doesn't go on 'til sunset, and there are more people sitting than standing -- there's one rule for music fests in the 2010s that Oldchella does abide by: You gotta have a surprise collaboration.

So for Paul McCartney's Saturday (Oct. 8) night set in the Indio desert, the former Beatle brought out his opening act Neil Young for a three-song collab that had eyes wide and phones in the air.

Describing him as "a really good friend," McCartney brought Young (fresh off a sick Trump burn) out to trade vocals on "A Day in the Life." Hearing Neil Young deliver "he blew his mind out in a car" in his unique timbre was treat enough, and the green fog swirling around the two as they sang the Sgt. Pepper's classic gave the existential rock song an additionally eerie layer. Instead of finishing the song with the usual orchestral climax, they transitioned directly into John Lennon's solo anthem "Give Peace a Chance," inviting the audience to chant along as peace signs flashed on the screen behind them.

After that mashup wrapped, Young stayed on stage, eliciting gleeful squeals from the crowd. As it turns out, the excitement was justified. While Paul and Neil have done the "A Day In the Life"/"Give Peace a Chance" mashup before, what came next was brand new.

"Come on Neil, you gotta solo on this one for me," Macca said before launching into "Why Don't We Do It In the Road." Aside from the thrill of hearing McCartney do a song that's not part of his typical set list, Young's guitar solo was an unhinged scorcher. While McCartney's live shows never disappoint, his onstage consistency means that a sense of musical spontaneity gets sacrificed sometimes. So when Neil Young unleashed a wicked, razor-sharp guitar solo on The White Album track, the set felt -- for a moment -- dangerous.

Entertainment Weekly

Paul McCartney needed a moment.

After firing up the audience in Indio, California Saturday with “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” the rock legend stopped the music to take a look around the colossal stadium that is home to Desert Trip. “This is cool to be here, right?” the 74-year-old giant asked. “I’m going to take a moment here to drink this all in for myself.”

Less than 24 hours after Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones served upthe weekend’s first and second course on the grounds where Coachella also takes place each spring, McCartney followed with a spectacular entrée — a two-hour-plus rock fest that was part sing-along and part Beatles music history lesson.

“We are going to have a party here tonight, Liverpool-style,” McCartney said before taking it old school with “In Spite of All the Danger,” “Back in the USSR,” “Day Tripper,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Hey Jude.”

Along the way, McCartney introduced his songs with engaging Beatles lore — like how the Civil Rights era inspired “Blackbird,” how he penned solo song “Here Today” after John Lennon’s death in 1980, and what George Martin contributed to the making of “Love Me Do.”

Even as he rollicked through the standards, McCartney called out the boomers for their (no doubt annoying) predictability. “We know what you like because [the oldies] light up your phones,” he quipped. “And when we play one you don’t know it’s like a black hole. So here’s one.” That’s when he performed his 2013 single “Queenie Eye” — and naturally, the place went dark. But the phones lit up again with classics like “Lady Madonna,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and “Live and Let Die.”

It was a terrific show.

Riverside Press Enterprise

Fans in the grandstands and on the field stood and cheered when the pair of music legends launched into "A Day In The Life," a song Young has covered in the past, and the two performers looked absolutely delighted to be singing that song, which segued into "Give Peace A Chance." Young then stuck around to join McCartney on "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" adding a bit of sizzling guitar licks to that tune as well.

"I love that boy!" said McCartney, 74, of Young, 70, proving, I guess, that age is relative when you rock and roll.

The Associated Press

McCartney’s headlining 2 ½-hour set was full of love. He paid tribute to his late wife and his current spouse during the performance, along with George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones.

He sang “Maybe I’m Amazed” for the late Linda McCartney, and dedicated “My Valentine” to his wife, Nancy, ahead of their fifth wedding anniversary Sunday.

He brought out a ukulele to perform Harrison’s “Something,” but stopped the song almost as soon as he started.

“I’m out of tune,” McCartney said, alone on stage. “I’m going to get another one.”

A stagehand brought him another ukulele and McCartney began again.

“At least it proves we’re live, right?” he cracked.

Backed by a five-piece band, he played a few bars of “Foxy Lady” to honor Hendrix, and recognized the Stones with “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which McCartney and Lennon wrote for their colleagues in the early 1960s.

(The Rolling Stones headlined the first night of Desert Trip and covered the Beatles’ hit “Come Together.” Mick Jagger introduced it by saying, “We’re going to do a cover song of some unknown beat group.”).

The second weekend of Desert Trip takes place Friday 14  to Sunday 16 October. Details here.