Last month, a BBC interviewer asked James McCartney if small and intimate gigs are important to him, as his US tour has him performing in such venues. His reply was “it’s realistic, it’s good to play in listening rooms, it creates a fan base.” McCartney had no worries about fans at last night’s appearance at The Cutting Room in midtown. The room was overflowing with eager and loudly appreciative fans of the humble and soft spoken singer/songwriter. His father, Paul McCartney, got his start in rough venues like The Cavern in Liverpool and the notoriously rowdy joints of Hamburg’s Reeperbahn district, where the elder McCartney and the other Beatles often had to duck hurled beer bottles and heavy glass mugs. The audience at The Cutting Room was decidedly more refined, sophisticated and obviously familiar with the younger McCartney’s body of work.
McCartney performed songs from his new album, “Me”, as well as a few from his earlier EPs, “Available Light” and “Close At Hand”, obliging audience members who yelled out requests during his set. He performed a cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man”, which is featured on his 2010 EP, “Available Light”. To hear McCartney sing Young’s lyrics, originally composed for an aged farm hand on Young’s California ranch, is a sort of inspired moment. A listener can transpose the line “old man, look at me now, I’m a lot like you were” onto a dialogue sung specifically for the elder McCartney. The rest of the night’s set was filled with a sort of communal reverence for the culmination of rock and roll history that stood on the stage, strumming an acoustic guitar with powerful authority.
Fans of live music in NYC can easily recall the former Cutting Room location in Chelsea, when the venue, on West 24th Street, was more raw and divey. The new location, which opened in January, is bigger, more upscale and has a touch of sophisticated saloon. The stage is gorgeous and vast, reminiscent of a baroque vintage theater. Lush frescoes, subliminally soft lighting and surreal original artwork adorn the room. There is balcony seating on both sides and the sound is ideal for intimate performance. The bar is long, winding, and comforting, and there are rooms tucked away above and on the first level for private dining and drinking. Original artwork abounds, all celebrating the art of music.
There are few who would deny that The Beatles represent a unique schism in the time space continuum. A brief and shining moment of creative genius that will likely not wink into existence in this dimension again. The younger McCartney ought not feel oppressed by this notion. It leaves him free to forge his own path. If last night’s performance is any barometer, he is well on his way. Catch him tomorrow night at City Winery.
The Cutting Room
44 East 32nd Street
New York, NY 10010
212 691 1900