Paul McCartney's divisive 'Saturday Night Live' performance: Why you should cut him some slack

Paul-McCartneyImage Credit: Dana Edelson/NBCPaul McCartney got way more screen time on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live than your average musical guest. In addition to very funny turns on “Weekend Update” and a digital short, the former Beatle performed “Jet” and “Band on the Run” (from the recently reissued Band on the Run album), “A Day in the Life” leading into John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” and “Get Back” to close the show. So how did he do?

Opinions are divided here at EW headquarters. Most everyone agrees that the sound mix was up (or down) to SNL‘s usual muddy standard, making it difficult at times to hear Macca’s voice over his backing band. Even when he was fully audible, though, some are complaining that he seemed a little hoarse.

To which I say, so what? The man turns 70 the summer after next. Of course his vocal cords aren’t quite as limber as they were in 1966. It’s still a pleasure to see him rocking out as enthusiastically as he did on Saturday night. He was having fun up there running through some all-time classic tunes, which made it a fun show to watch from home. And the “A Day in the Life”/”Give Peace a Chance” medley was just right, a tribute to a late friend that was touching without being heavy-handed.

Over to you now. What did you think of McCartney’s SNL performance? Sound off in the comments.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix)

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Comments (187 total) Add your comment
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  • Nikki


    • everyone

      You are a waste of space.

    • helen

      Are you all really serious? How can you judge the Master? Obviously you have never seen him in concert. This guy sings 3 l/2 hours straight and sounds unbelievable. The SNL Theatre is not made for sound you are looking for. Be real and appreciate the great artists for what they are.

      • jules

        Agree with helen. But I wish he’d stop coloring his hair. Truly. Wish he’d embrace his age.

      • SLB

        Why? Who the hell wants gray hair? Paul McCartney rocks.

      • Agree with SLB

        Who the hell indeed, and why should he “embrace his age”? That often means admitting that time has won, and Sir Paul is obviously still fighting.

      • Lady Gaga4Ever

        Oh, please. This fossil shouldn’t even be allowed on the show. He hasn’t been musically relevant in over 40 years, if he even ever was to begin with.

      • Person Who Talks

        @Lady Gaga4Ever: What?! You’re kidding me, right? Please say you’re joking!

      • L_Oz

        @Lady Gaga4Ever You’re certainly entitled to your opinion. However, I’m slightly reluctant to listen to someone’s opinions on music when their screen name has “Lady Gaga” in it. Let’s see how long she sticks around. I give her *MAYBE* another year. She certainly doesn’t and will not have the staying power of Paul McCartney.

      • wtf?

        (to everyone but Lady Gaga4Ever) I wonder if she actually knows who the Beatles are and/or has heard any of their songs… my guess would be not. In which case, I give her the condemning title of Gagabot and will not listen to anything she has to say when it comes to taste, ever. Ever.

      • kay

        to ladygaga 4ever.
        well that fossil sounds a whole lot better than ladygaga trash. ladygaga can only dream to one day be as big as paul was. and by the way she is how old? paul was famous by the time he was 25, very famous. look up Beatlemania.

      • Lora Lee

        Yes, what I savored about Paul’s performance on SNL
        is this great artist getting out there and sharing his Iconic presence after all these years for us to enjoy.
        The sound was bigger than the SNL stage, and I thought he did well inspite of the cramped surroundings.

    • Barb

      Yes, he was off pitch and hoarse…and I think it was intentional to have the band louder than his vocals. That said, its still a thrill to see any Beatles perform live.
      Who thought we would have the pleasure of seeing him perform up close and person on HD TV that makes you feel like you are with him? Quite a difference than seeing him on a b/w tv in the 60’s with the sound of transitor radio! GO PAUL GO!!!

      • Ali

        @Julia Love ringo starr is still a “living beatle”

      • polythenesam

        I was actually lucky enough to be there for the SNL show and I have to say, in person he was in pitch and didn’t sound hoarse at all. In fact, after the first song, the sound guys were running around frantically messing with the equipment; it was clear they had done something wrong.
        I listened to him play on the show once I got home (I had recorded the show) and he didn’t sound anything like he did live. It was absolutely technical difficulties at fault.

    • marcie bouley

      I love Paul, think he’s awesome, and I forever will. He is a true musician and while he doesn’t sound or look exactly like he did 30 years ago, isn’t it a little ignorant to expect him to? I respect him so very much not only as an artist but as a wonderful kind human being. For those who don’t like him, you are entitled to your opinion but wait and see if Lady Gaga or anyone else is still selling out venues within minutes 40 years from now. Doubt it.

    • Paulsucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      He sounded disgusting. I am still throwing up

  • Winona

    The online version doesn’t have the last two songs (“In My Life”/”Give Peace a Chance” and “Get Back”) – anyone know where those can be viewed?

    Otherwise, I thought he was amusing – loved the digital short and the Weekend Update bits – sure, his voice sounds a bit rough, but chalk that up to age – he still rocks like no other!

    • jen

      A Day in the LIfe. Not In My Life. Please tell us you know they are not the same song.

      • Winona

        Again, I still haven’t seen these – was trying to remember from a comment I read several hours ago and I chose the wrong song with “Life” in the title. Chill out!

      • Elbyem

        Here’s a newsflash: not everyone is old enough to know/care about the Beatles! I’m 48 – and I STILL don’t care. I thought the whole show was mediocre – not just the musical performances.

      • @ Jen

        Please tell us your day doesn’t hinge on whether or not Winona knows they are different songs.

      • @Elbyem

        Aren’t there some kids in your yard who you need to go yell at, grumpy?

  • marymary

    I thought he sounded absolutely horrible.

    • Chaz Winterbottom

      Yeah not only did he sound bad but the vocals by his backing band were pretty awful and those dudes are not about to turn 70 so they have no excuse.

      • Dana

        He sounded good to me. I don’t expect a 70 year old man to sound like he did at 30. But sounded better and better as his voice warmed up. Clearly the sound mix was messed up on Jet, though. Not Paul’s fault.

      • Deb

        I love Paul but he does need to get way better back up singers. They were awful and as Chaz said – they are not about to turn 70. Loving seeing Paul rock however

    • Person Who Talks

      Hahaha and @marymary, whats your definition of “good music” then?

  • Sean

    Did anyone else notice the guy on acoustic wasn’t really playing (or it was one helluva delay). I think McCarthney sounded fine. Wished his mic had been turned up though.

  • Mr. Holloway

    I know that you want to stick up for the guy (who is obviously an undisputed living legend), but I don’t know that you’re doing him that many favors with the “He was having fun up there” defense.

    That’s what they kept saying about Tim Urban on “Idol” last year.

    • David Good


    • Kat

      LOL. I’d forgotten all about Tim Urban. I’ve mostly tried to block the whole season though…in particular that time when Lee Dewyze won over Crystal Bowersox.

    • Diane

      It was excruciating to see him sing so badly. Maybe they could have had better back up? to cover up? And I agree that he needs to let the grey out. People of that age should not keep trying to look young.

  • Nick

    I’m sorry, if you just can’t hit the note, get a couple back-up singers who can cover. I understand he can’t sing as he did in his prime, but man it was painful. Those two guitar players with him were NOT singing in tune either. NYC is FULL of singers who can cover his ass at the Apollo. There is no shame in doing so, Paul. Peace.

    • Tv Food and Drink

      Agreed. I’m a big fan of Paul’s, and I was hugely disappointed in every aspect of the performances. No excuses – if you’re going to perform on television and ask me to watch, you have to perform well. I don’t care how old you are.

    • amylovesnewwave

      Paul McCartney can still hit those notes. Watch him in his PBS White House performance and you’ll be blown away by what a near-70-year-old can still do. Maybe he had an off night. Get over it.

    • Jal

      Sofern man Schuhe nicht gern bestellt, sronedn es vorzieht, sie vor Ort im Schuhgesch ft anzuprobieren, um sowohl die Passform des Schuhs als auch das pers nliche Wohlbefinden im Schuh vor dem Kauf zu testen, hat man es je nach Wohnortgr e u erst schwer, lederfreie Schuhe zu erwerben. In gro en St dten, so zumindest meine Vorstellung, wird das Problem deutlich geringer sein.

  • JLT

    I thought his performance of ‘Jet’ was a bit lackluster, but it seemed like he got better as the show went on. By the time he got to ‘A Day In the Life’ and ‘Get Back’ he sounded great. However, he’s Paul McCartney. He’s allowed to have a few bad performances every once in a while.

  • MB

    I noticed his voice was creaky. So what? I couldn’t figure out the lightweight song choices. But now that I know they’ve reissued “Band On The Run,” they make sense. Would rather he sang “I’m Down” and “Helter Skelter.”

  • Ralph

    His voice sounded bad (so did his backup singers’, however, so I don’t know how much of it was the mix). However, his voice seemed to improve throughout the show, which leads me to think he didn’t properly warm up before Jet, which is a hard song to sing at any time. Yes, he’s McCartney and he automatically gets slack, but I don’t enjoy a bad-sounding McCartney. It hurts. It’s sad. What I liked is that he seemed so much less smug than he used to, and so much more…well, grateful. It’s an admirable quality and it looked great on him.

    • Huw

      I agree. By Get back he was warmed up and ready to play for two more hours. They should have just let the whole show be a McCartney concert. Yes, he avoided the high notes except when in scream/falsetto – but as the songs went by, you could see it in his face – he knew a high line was coming up and grimaced in solidarity with his audience. No singer is ever going to retain the range he once had at his age. Agree totally with the people who said he should have had a couple real good backup singers in addition to those guitarists, who were obviously loving backing up our friend Paul.

  • wd

    any one out there thinks they could do better,, step up.

    • Alice

      EXACTLY. I can’t believe people are being so nasty. So basically you’re writing Paul off on the basis of 10-15 minutes of music? Are any of you nasties judged at work on the basis of 10 minutes of work? Ridiculous.

      Jet sounded rough but he sounded better on Band on the Run, and he sounded good on both Day in the LIfe and Get Back.

    • wakeforce

      I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that sound better than Paul McCartney, even at his prime. You guys act like the man is Pavarotti! Yes, he is a legend ,but he’s NOT the greatest singer who ever lived.

  • Katy

    He was awesome on the last two songs esp. Get Back. The first one the backgound was too loud and he was straining to be heard I think. Got better as the night went one. Would have loved to hear him sing Blackbird….my favorite of his.

    Anyway, the man is 68 and still going strong. I’ll cut him all the slack he needs.

  • Zoe

    Who knows–he could have been sick too. It’s not like you’re going to announce that before each song! I agree with the posters who said that he got better with each successive song. By “Get Back,” things were much improved. But I also have to say: even slightly hoarse, Paul is a million times better than most of the bands SNL puts on these days!

  • juniorhighrules

    Who is Paul McCartney?

    • Bob


    • wendeeloo

      Hey Junior High – When you graduate to High School – You migh want to check out the music that came out before “Glee” – Oh wait! Glee does mostly “Grandpa-style rock” So – no excuse, Junior.

    • angie

      We will never give up to tource to your generation!

  • Bee

    Like many that have commented, the music was way too loud compared to the vocals. Sir Paul needs to do what other older rockers have done: tune down those old songs into a more comfortable key. And yes, the back-up vocals were horrible!

    • I am who I am

      I agree with you. I have seen him in concert many times and always though he did a fantastic job at each concert. The sound system on SNL left a lot to be desired. The only time they have decent sound is when it is not “live” but taped along with lip synching. Too bad the writers of SNL could not write anything funny to have him in. This show has gone down hill years ago.

  • Stephanie T.

    It was not him, his band needs vocal lessons, stat!

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