Review: The McCartney Songbook, The Riverfront, Newport

Andy Howells visits Newport’s Riverfront Theatre for a celebration of all things Paul McCartney for The McCartney Songbook.

“We sat down and made a list of all the songs we wanted to perform,” Peter John Jackson tells the Newport audience, “and then found we had a show that would be 12 hours long!”

Such are the complexities of building a live show around one of the world’s greatest songwriters.  However, when that songwriter is Paul McCartney, whatever the outcome of set-list choice spanning solo work, Wings and of course – The Beatles, you know a splendid time is guaranteed for all!

The McCartney Songbook delivers the songs as they were originally intended, performed with energy, passion, and love. This is evident from the moment Peter John Jackson and his band, Ollie Gray, Jarrod Loughlin, Mark Street and Al Vosper launch into The Beatles 1968 No.1 Hello, Goodbye.

Playing a Höfner Violin Bass, (left-handed, like Macca himself), Jackson leads the band through a Magical Mystery Tour of hits, gems, and oldies but goldies.

From rock and pop to the big orchestral numbers (thanks to Loughlin’s keyboard) the band recreate a selection of hits that helped shape music history. Jet, Day Tripper, Blackbird, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Calico Skies, Coming Up, Let Em In, Band on The Run, Got to Get You into My Life, all make the setlist. If you arent marvelling at the wondrous video backdrops, you are soon drawn to the precise guitar solos, riffs, drum rolls and vocal performances. The Riverfront crowd are wild for more and are not disappointed when a blistering version of the Bond theme, Live and Let Die, turns up the heat with on-stage pyrotechnics on an already hot evening!

The McCartney Songbook

My personal highlights included Jackson recounting McCartney’s first meeting with John Lennon and performing Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock as his audition piece. Plus, Ollie Gray’s faithful recreation of Henry McCullough’s classic guitar solo on My Love (sprung on Macca in the eleventh hour at the recording session) had to be seen and heard to be believed!

The audience embraced the opportunity to join in and dance to Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, shine their phone lights to Let It Be and add a strong Welsh chorus in the encore to Hey Jude! The encore itself also included electrifying versions of I Saw Her Standing There and Get Back, plus an essential acoustic rendition of Yesterday.

The band are keen to return to Newport next year for a second instalment of The McCartney Songbook. Judging by how warmly congratulated they were at the end of the evening, this would undoubtedly be a sure-fire hit, even if they returned with a 12-hour show!

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