Paul McCartney

Back in the U.S.

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Another album, another tour, another live album souvenir of the tour. Paul McCartney has essentially followed this pattern since his 1989 return to arenas for the supporting tour for Flowers in the Dirt, and each of the records is essentially the same: the big solo hits, some of the big Beatles songs, plus a few tunes from the latest solo album. The repertoire changes slightly over the years, with some Beatles tunes drifting in and out of rotation, but they all play exactly the same -- glossy, professional readings of the songs that you know and love, played in arrangements very close to the original versions. Comprised of highlights from his 2001/2002 tour, the double-disc Back in the U.S. is longer than, say, Paul Is Live, but that's the only difference, and there's really nothing notably different than the equally long Tripping the Live Fantastic. If anything, he's playing for the crowd even more than usual, filling out the set list with sentimental favorites, including a version of "Something" as a tribute to the recently departed George Harrison. There is an unflagging sense of showmanship here, and the musicianship is top-notch, and there's nothing wrong with the music -- but there's nothing interesting about it, either. Given the hot streak that he'd been on since 1998's Flaming Pie, it's a bit of a disappointment that this doesn't live up to those standards, but then again, this is no better or no worse than what you'd expect given his live albums since 1989. Unfortunately, it's exactly what you'd expect, which is certainly not as satisfying as a good live album and somehow more disappointing than a flat-out bad album. [For territories outside the United States, Back in the U.S. was released as Back in the World, with a slightly different track listing, taken from gigs outside of the States. "Vanilla Sky," "C Moon," and, mercifully, "Freedom" are dropped from the album and "Calico Skies," "Michelle," "Let 'Em In," and "She's Leaving Home" take their place, all on the second disc. This results in a slightly stronger album (only "C Moon" is really missed), but the overall feel of the record remains the same.]

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