Review of Linda McCartney Tribute, Royal Albert Hall on 1999-04-10
The Times, 1999-04-12

Paul Sexton


Linda McCartney's most widely respected work was honoured at the Albert Hall on Saturday before any of her famous friends took a bow. Projected on to the back of the stage throughout this spangly celebration of her life were examples of her distinguished photographic endeavours, an eloquent legacy for a woman villified for her individuality by those who thought Beatle wives should seldom be seen and never heard.

Linda's soulmate Chrissie Hynde gathered with a dozen artists to send a celebrity bouquet to mark the first anniversary of her passing, with the proceeds earmarked for Carla Lane's Animaline charity. The sentiment was warmly endorsed but, as the evening was to show, not so easy to articulate. Star turns are dab hands at tribute shows which simply call for the reinterpretation of a body of music. Without such a catalogue at their disposal, how might they express their love and respect, short of breaking open the veggie bangers for a celebrity grill-fest?

The best answer was to conjure songs that offered some lyrical resonance with Linda's public and private personae. So after the first of host Eddie Izzard's what-am-I-doing-here links, Hynde, still feisty at 47, opened with her admirable Pretenders on Message Of Love. Johnny Marr joined them, drily inviting us to sing along with the Smiths' Meat Is Murder.

Lynden David Hall tiptoed through Here, There And Everywhere but found his own space with Abraham, Martin And John. Des'ree contributed a common or garden Blackbird before teaming with the increasingly ubiquitous Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Sinead O'Connor's erratic submission included her tribute song to Princess Diana, and while one thought she may have wandered in from the wrong tribute, there was a roundabout poignancy in the juxtaposition with McCartney, since both women were the targets of tabloid bile in life, yet were never mentioned without the sobriquet "brave" in death.

Neil Finn lent renewed grace with She Goes On and Don't Dream It's Over, even if an audience of infrequent concertgoers were struggling to remember who he might be. They were soon to have their moment of furry-dice soul with Heather Small. Tom Jones upped the ante with his customary indomitable magnetism, notably with She's A Woman. Marianne Faithfull exuded weatherbeaten splendour, joined by Marr for a charming As Tears Go By.

Elvis Costello provided the night's most open-hearted testimonial with his reminiscence of Linda's kind attentions while he was working with Paul some years ago. His touching set included one of those collaborations, That Day Is Done. But the mood moved up two gears once George Michael breezed on. He underlined his immense charisma and warmth of spirit during painstaking readings of Eleanor Rigby and The Long And Winding Road, before leading the party on Faith.

The appearance of a moist-eyed Paul was the final emotional endorsement; before we shambled through an inevitable Let It Be, he had found the fortitude to play All My Loving and Lonesome Town, the Ricky Nelson chestnut that he and Linda had loved thousands of miles apart as teenagers, years before they became Mr and Mrs Macca.