This isn’t a ring-a-ding thing, a Rat Pack thing, a Sands hotel thing. And that’s a very good thing. What you’re struck by, as Paul McCartney cuts a quietly emotional figure on this live companion to his standards set Kisses on the Bottom is how un-dashing he is, how un-Sinatra.
There’s no tie. No hat. No braggadocio.
In other words, it’s perfect.
Live Kisses, an Eagle Rock DVD/Blu-ray which follows McCartney’s February 2012 live broadcast from the Capitol Studios in LA, moves with an effortless brio from the nervy conversation between John Clayton’s bass and McCartney’s voice, hushed and confidential, at the beginning of “The Glory of Love” (where so often the song comes bursting in, with another arrangement) to the polished brush off of “Get Yourself Another Fool” (featuring a brilliantly attenuated turn by Joe Walsh of the Eagles) and then, on the original “My Valentine,” that twinge of fear that exists at the very bottom of any true love.
McCartney, as much as anything, captures the child-like wonder that he must have felt listening to the set’s age-old songs at his father’s feet — even amidst a crack group that also includes guitarist Anthony Wilson, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, conductor Alan Broadbent, guitarist John Pizzarelli, drummer Karriem Riggins and pianist Diana Krall. And that brazenly open-hearted sensibility, that willingness to let go, has always been McCartney’s most lasting charm.
Then, finally, for the encore, there is this: “My One and Only Love” — as suggested by producer Tommy LiPuma — and maybe McCartney’s most obvious opportunity to fail, so closely associated is this song with the iconic early 1960s version by Johnny Hartman. McCartney, staying in his highest, most emotionally fragile register, goes on to touch the very heart of the song — not its obvious romance, but its surrender, its sweet surrender — in a way that no rock singer could reasonably be expected to do.
In that way, Live Kisses and its studio counterpart are successes that McCartney could only have happened at this point in his career, a point in which he doesn’t wink at the material (as he so often did in period-piece songs like the Beatles’ “Honey Pie” and Wings’ “You Gave Me the Answer”) so much as warmly embrace it.