Algonquin Arts Ends the Year with The McCartney Years
Yuri Pool will step on stage at the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan on Wednesday night and help ring in the New Year like it’s 1976 — while dressed exactly like Paul McCartney.
Pool, 37, is the leader of The McCartney Years, a tribute band that honors the most successful songwriter in pop music history by playing not only the classics he crafted with The Beatles in the 1960s but also his oft-underappreciated work with Wings in the decade that followed.
The group tours the world with its three-hour show, re-creating hits note-for-note. Pool plucks the iconic Hofner violin bass that McCartney played on “Ed Sullivan” and even dons the black jacket and long black hair that Paul sported on the famous “Wings Over America” tour in the mid-’70s. And, no, it’s not a wig.
“I come complete with the original hair — my own,” says Pool, who will play two New Year’s Eve shows at the theater, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. “We have all original instruments. We spent many, many months and a lot of money and time to find the original instruments. And we have the wardrobe to match the era. People are really coming to see Paul of the 1970s performing a large number of songs by The Beatles and Wings. All with original banter and accents. We even have a Linda.”
Pool was “born and raised in the tulip fields of Holland,” and like many kids across the universe, he got hooked on the Fab Four early. He and his family used to make a half-hour drive to his grandmother’s house every weekend, and one day a pair of Beatles songs came on the car radio: “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
“I’d heard music throughout my entire life up until that point,” Pool recalls. “My parents always had the radio on. But for some reason, it was just that moment. I was old enough to understand music. It caught me.”
He asked his father if he had any Beatles records in his vast collection of LPs. “He taped them all onto little cassettes, and I played them until they disintegrated,” Pool says.
It was actually John Lennon — not Paul McCartney — who inspired him to take up guitar.
“I remember reading the backs of the albums,” Pool explains. “I remember reading John Lennon played rhythm guitar. I thought that was just a great word with all these consonants in it. That’s how I got into music. It was really John — I thought rhythm guitar was just a great word. That word just meant power and rock to me.”
Pool was in his early 20s when he started playing Beatles music professionally, as a member of a ’60s music cover band in Holland. He then moved to England in 2004 and traveled across the world with The Cavern Beatles, a well-known Fab Four tribute act. He started The McCartney Years in Canada in 2007, when he realized “nobody was doing any Wings.”
Many Beatles fanatics and music snobs are known to have a difficult view of the music McCartney made with Wings after The Beatles broke up in 1970. Some considered the group’s hook-heavy songs trite, especially for the man who wrote “Eleanor Rigby,” and especially compared to the weighty solo material of John Lennon’s solo years. Some laughed that McCartney was pretending to be in a band — with his wife, Linda, playing keyboards and singing harmonies at his side.
“A lot of bands were overshadowed by The Beatles,” says Pool. “People coming to see him and Wings expected The Beatles.”
But Wings produced a string of Top 10 singles and radio staples: “My Love,” “Jet,” “Listen to What the Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs,” etc. Their 1973 album “Band on the Run” is now hailed as one of the best works by a former member of The Beatles.
And in 1976, they hit the road for a famous tour of the U.S. called “Wings Over America,” which for many Baby Boomers was the first time they got to see a Beatle in person.
“McCartney himself wanted to tour,” Pool says. “He just wanted to play live stages. Really, that is why he got Wings together. It’s Wings — you flap your wings, go out, take to the sky. That was his whole intention of the band. Go back to live touring. He hadn’t done that with The Beatles since ’66.”
“Right now, I’m at the age McCartney was when he toured with Wings,” he says. “Everyone in the band is the same age as well. It adds to the whole experience. People actually see the original ages that all these musicians were.”
Pool wanted to play more than Beatles songs. By adding Wings to the mix, he had another decade of music to cover. The McCartney Years plays rarities like Wings’ “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” and they recreate the celebrated acoustic set of the “Wings Over America” tour, in which McCartney sat down and played stripped-down versions of his songs.
Sid Berstein, the legendary concert promoter who helped bring The Beatles to America, called The McCartney Years “the most astounding and accurate vocal representation I have heard in many years.”
Pool’s favorite song to play?
“It changes almost day to day,” he explains. “Because there are so many songs. I suppose one of my favorites to play is ‘Band on the Run.’ It’s so versatile. There are lots of changes. Great vocals. Great instrumentation. The whole album was great.
Beatles classics like ‘Good Day Sunshine’ — that’s one of my favorites. So many harmonies. The record itself had more than just basic three-part harmonies.”
The hardest to play?
“A song like ‘Live and Let Die,’ with all the instrumentation that went on,” Pool says. “We were spending hours trying to figure out every little part. The song is timed very strangely, in a very technical manner.”
Pool himself has never played in an original band. He did write and record an album of his own material in 2001 called “Out Of Thin Air.”
“I went through this time of wanting to express my own musical interests,” he says. “So I put an album together. But it was really just something I wanted to do for myself.”
Right now, Pool has a busy schedule as Sir Paul’s doppelganger. The McCartney Years has shows booked in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Canada and Nevada over the next few months. They return to New Jersey on May 3 with a show at the Berrie Center at Ramapo College in Mahwah.
And at some point next year, they expect Denny Laine — an original member of Wings — to join them at a number of performances.
“It’s a project that is still currently building,” Pool says. “We will make some major announcements early next year. It’s one of those pinch-yourself moments. We’re really excited.”
Close out 2014 at Algonquin Arts Theatre, 60 Abe Voorhees Drive, Manasquan, with The McCartney Years: The Premiere Paul McCartney Concert Experience. For tickets or more information, visit www.algonquinarts.org or call (732) 528-9211.