Fort Worth — On Friday the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra presented Live & Let Die, A Symphonic Tribute to the Music of Paul McCartney in its pops series, featuring songs from the Beatles, Wings and McCartney’s solo work with classical instrumentation. The initially cold audience eventually warmed up.
Beatles tribute bands are everywhere. Like Elvis impersonators, there are professional Paul McCartney impersonators, too, and Tony Kishman is the best of them. He has made a career of recreating the persona and pop of “the cute Beatle.” If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery Kishman’s is the highest of compliments. More than a tribute, he sounds exactly like Sir Paul. In addition to sounding alike, he looks like him, plays an Höfner hollow-body electric bass and speaks between numbers in a passable Liverpudlian accent.
All his hits were there. Whether from the Beatles’ catalogue (“A Day in the Life,” “Hello Goodbye,” “Penny Lane,” “Got to Get You Into My Life”), or from his solo work or with his band Wings (“Band on the Run,” “Listen to What the Man Said,” “My Love,” “Let ‘Em In,” “Live and Let Die”), each song was a pitch-perfect transcription.
Sadly the symphony was at best underutilized. Most of the time the symphony merely added a clarinet, piccolo or trumpet solo. They came off like campy party favors. Only near the end of the first half on “The Long and Winding Road” was the FWSO allowed to sound like a symphony orchestra.
On that and other ballads like “She’s Leaving Home,” “Let It Be” and “Yesterday,” the music was strangely absent of emotion. Even on the deeply melancholy “Eleanor Rigby” the vocals and strings lacked pathos. This was largely due to the near concert-ruining sound engineering. The orchestra was amplified within an inch of its life, the mix was treble heavy and the volume turned up to 11. Glare from bright light produces after-spots in someone’s vision but unfortunately ears can’t squint. The usually warm and rich tone of the symphony sounded like it had been badly Photoshopped. Sound baffling panels separated the rock band down stage from the full symphony behind them. This uncoupled the musicians from each other and robbed the FWSO of collaboration.
Up-tempo songs like “Jet,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” were oddly boring. The songs did not seem personal to the performers. The audience had almost had enough of silly love songs and started to wonder if McCartney’s songs will still feed Kishman when he's 64. For a while the concert seemed to be coasting on the look-alike, sound-alike gimmick, investing in mannerisms instead of song meaning. Kishman said of Paul: “he is the greatest songwriter of all time.” This is because of his genius of craft and depth of heart. Kishman only once imitated the loveable Paul when he dedicated “No More Lonely Nights” to his fiancé.
The end of the night saw the relief of matching winning charm of a spot-on imitation with the unstoppable force of Paul McCartney’s songs. “Maybe I’m Amazed” hit the spot. And the medley that closes the Beatles’ album Abbey Road, of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End,” was gloriously executed. To close, Kishman lead the standing and waving crowd in the perfect rock encore singing, “Naaaa Na Na, Na Na Na Naaaa, Na Na Na Naaaa, Hey Jude.”
In the end, fun won.