Fresno Beehive

James McCartney brings angst rock style to Fulton 55

James McCartney takes the stage at Fulton 55.
James McCartney takes the stage at Fulton 55. Rick Bentley/The Fresno Bee

The small crowd that showed up at Fulton 55 late Thursday, May 12, saw how James McCarthy, son of Paul McCartney, has the musical skills of his dad when it comes to playing guitar.

That’s where the similarities end.

The last thing the younger McCartney needs is someone else comparing him to his famous father. It’s inevitable comparisons are going to be made seeing that his dad performed in Fresno a month ago. His father rolled into the massive Save Mart Center aboard a production filled with a stage that rose to the rafters, a lighting system that rivals most small airports and a backup band that could lead their own tours.

James McCartney stood alone on the small stage in the steampunk inspired club slamming his fingers up and down the black Stratocaster as he chugged his way through tunes from his CD “The Blackberry Train.” The show was so close and intimate, at the end of his 45-minute set, it would have been easy for James McCartney to have shaken the hand of everyone in the audience in under five minutes.

Whether you prefer the massive approach of the dad or the stripped down show of the son all comes down to taste. There’s something to be said about being able to up close and personal with an artist to really see what’s going through their mind as they play different tunes.

James McCartney’s album has all the ups and downs of a young solo artist with tunes like “Ring a Ring O’Roses” having the musical textures that would make the cut a perfect fit on a hard rock radio station. On the other hand, “Unicorn’s” forced lyrics and mix of sharps and flats defies any kind of commercial appreciation.

his is the kind of an album a young artist produces as a signature sound is sought.

All of his songs were presented with the kind of angst rock feel one would expect from a musician who has had to live under an imposing shadow. The problem is that too often the emotional angst can come across as a feeling of indifference. At least one Fulton 55 patron commented “Does he have to look so bored.”

McCartney didn’t little to suggest he was enthusiastic about performing. He walked to the stage - that featured only an amplifier, microphone and second guitar - and immediately started his show. His dad doesn’t need an intro but the son should at least take a second to say something to start the performance. His verbal connection with the audience rarely went past a couple of words.

Of course, no one goes to a performance for witty banter. McCartney provided a musical show that spotlighted his musical skills and that’s why tickets get sold. But, there is a difference between coming across as personable and having no personality.

McCartney’s time on the Fulton 55 stage, as raw and bare as it was, showed that if all he cares about is creating music, he was smart to follow in his father’s footsteps. If the local show is an example of the kind of stage presentation to expect from the younger McCartney then it is really unfair to compare him to his dad. Both are talented in their own way but this is a prime example of when it comes to showmanship, it’s not a case of like father, like son.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1