Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road (60' concert)

In tonight's delightfully intimate "Great Performances" special on PBS, Paul McCartney holds a coffeehouse-style concert in Abbey Road studios - where he recorded not only his latest solo album, but his most famous recordings as one of the Beatles. In one genial hour, he not only points out and confronts ghosts ("John and George were over there"). He exorcises them.

"Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road" (10 p.m., WNET/Ch. 13) is a play on McCartney's recent, well received album, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard." There is, however, no chaos on view in McCartney's performance, captured live last July before a small group of invited friends and fans. It's like an episode of "Unplugged," but loose enough to be called "Unvarnished."

With Nigel Godrich, producer of his latest album, offering assistance, McCartney runs casually and charmingly through a set list that includes four songs from the new CD, several reworked old favorites, and some surprises - both very old and impressively new.
"Friends to Go," "How Kind of You," "English Tea" and "Jenny Wren" are the selections from "Backyard." In his introduction to "Jenny Wren," McCartney makes a musical connection to "Blackbird," then plays it - along with the pre-Ringo Starr Beatles composition "In Spite of All the Danger," and versions of two rethought Beatles classics.

"Lady Madonna," with McCartney on piano, is reinvented in a much slower tempo, the same way Eric Clapton transformed "Layla" on "Unplugged." In the same way, "I've Got a Feeling," stripped of all instrumentation but one acoustic guitar (and stripped, as well, of John Lennon's tight harmonies and shouting rejoinders) becomes almost a new song.
The sense that this "Great Performances" special truly is special kicks in after the first two songs. McCartney, explaining his fondness for the quaint four-track machines at Abbey Road, offers an on-site demonstration. Like Mr. Wizard doing an experiment for eager students, McCartney uses the tape deck's first track to record the sound as he wets the rim of a partly filled crystal glass. Track two is another glass, filled to a different pitch. On track three, McCartney squeezes a lingering tone out of a Mellotron.

Each time a track is added, we hear the combined effect. And on track four, to complete the experiment, he begins singing - and the wine-glass-and-harmonium backing suddenly becomes the perfect accompaniment for "Band on the Run," one of his hits with Wings.

McCartney closes the show with another experiment, this time using a computer program and Godrich to record and loop a song made up on the spot. McCartney starts with the barest of bones: him pounding on drums, and an audience encouraged to clap in time (otherwise, they're blessedly silent during the songs themselves, as much a throwback to another time as the mellotron McCartney plays). Then comes bass, piano, two guitar tracks - and then McCartney steps to the mike, to make up lyrics on the spot.

They're not great lyrics ("That's all for now"), but it is great fun. So is McCartney pulling out the upright bass played by Bill Black, Elvis Presley's bass player, for a solo version of "Heartbreak Hotel." The film "Let It Be" captured McCartney and company at Abbey Road at their most fractious, but tonight's special presents him, alone, blessedly at ease.

NY Daily News

About the concert
Paul McCartney’s
20th studio album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard received four Grammy Award nominations in 2006 and widespread praise from critics upon its release in 2005. It’s been hailed as his best solo work to date; an album of songs that critics have compared to many of the Beatles and Wings classics that have made McCartney one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Now, Thirteen/WNET New York’s GREAT PERFORMANCES is set to premiere a rare concert event; a listen to some of the new songs, and some of the old, as McCartney returns to his “creative backyard,” Abbey Road, with Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road, an intimate, concert exclusive.

Premiering Mon, Feb 27 at 10 p.m. (ET) on GREAT PERFORMANCES, the intimate, one-hour special finds the legendary singer-songwriter back at Abbey Road’s Studio 2, the cavernous room where Chaos and many of the Beatles’ most famous records were made. Performing solo before a small group of fans and friends, McCartney offers songs and reminiscences about the Beatles’ years, selections from his recent 4 Grammy-nominated Album of the Year, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, and a fascinating look at how various musical effects were achieved in both the early Beatles albums and on Chaos.

Viewers are treated to a virtual one-man McCartney band, as he plays right and left-handed guitars, drums, harmonium, bass, Mellotron, and even wine goblets. Fans will particularly enjoy the stories and the performances, which include McCartney’s rendition of one of the first song’s ever recorded by the Beatles, “In Spite of All the Danger,” as well as Beatles classics “Blackbird” “Lady Madonna,” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” Wings’ “Band on the Run” and new songs from Chaos And Creation In The Backyard, “Jenny Wren,” “English Tea,” “How Kind Of You,” and “Friends to Go.”

Other selections include Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” McCartney’s audition piece that “apparently got me in the Beatles,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” featuring Paul on bass and a special Jamming Track Finale, that somehow morphs from “That’s All for Now,” a song made up on the spot, into “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Recorded live, Abbey Road Studios, London: July 28, 2005.
Premiered, UK on BBC2: Dec 17, 2005.
Premiered, USA on PBS: Feb 27, 2006.

Creating Chaos at Abbey Road
(30' documentary)
Rehearsing & making-of the concert
C&C at Abbey Road
PBS microsite
Chaos and Creation in The Backyard
(DVD Companion to album)
Between Chaos and Creation
(30' documentary)
The recording & making of the album
Fine Line
(music video)
Jenny Wren
(music video)
How Kind Of You
(DVD menu film)
official site
The Beatles
official site
Dir: Simon Hilton
Prod: James Chads
ExecP: Paul McCartney
DP: Adrian Wild
Ed(concert): Philip Richardson
A Maguffin production

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