TORONTO - Nobody said it was going to be easy to be the only son of “the cute Beatle.”
And 34-year-old James McCartney, who played The Great Hall on Tuesday night in front of a small crowd of 100 people, certainly waited a long time to follow in dad Paul’s enormous footsteps.
Really, not until the last three years has James really pursued his own music.
After playing and composing on a couple of Paul and late mom Linda’s solo albums, and graduating from school in art and sculpture, McCartney started releasing his alt-rock-pop sound via two digitally only available EPs in 2010 (Available Light) and 2011 (Close At Hand), which were eventually combined into The Complete EP Collection that came out as a physical release in 2011 and was co-produced by Paul.
Cautious appears to be the name of the game.
Now he’s on the road with a four-piece band from England and if they’re still rough around the edges in a garage band sort of way, with a horrible sound mix on Tuesday night that did them - and particularly James' powerful vocals - no favours, you’ve got to give McCartney props for bravery.
Comparisons to the old man, who he totally resembles in the face even if he’s got a bigger, taller body, and wispier strawberry blonde hair, are inevitable.
Particularly whenever he shook his head when hitting a high note.
So maybe it was on purpose when James covered Neil Young’s Old Man as in: “Old man, look at my life, I’m a lot like you.”
However, his voice - more nasal and higher than dear old dad’s - resembles John Lennon’s more than anything.
Only when James really let loose with a guttural roar did he become Paul vocally-speaking.
Otherwise, there is definitely promise in his songwriting, like the rawer, Nirvana-like Mix towards the end of the night, even if it’s unpolished and still a work in progress.
I’d say he just needs some time to develop.
Still, I’m not totally convinced he’s comfortable as a front man.
Whenever the shy McCartney spoke during his 15-song, 55-minute set which saw him play electric and acoustic guitar and electric piano, it was quickly and quietly and really only to introduce the title of the next tune, like he couldn’t wait to get back to the music.
It was a bit awkward.
And it was actually McCartney’s lead guitarist who was the first person to say: “Hello Toronto. This is our first week of a six week tour with James. How much do we love James?”
I’d say by the six and seven songs, Fallen Angel and Denial, McCartney finally started to relax and let the performer in him come through.
By song eleven, Else and Else But Dead, he even had his hands in the air over his head and was clapping, encouraging the audience - a mix of twentysomethings and older Beatles fans if I had to guess - to do likewise.