Paul McCartney's return to the stage in 1989 for the Flowers in the Dirt tour was heavily hyped, since it was not only his first extensive tour since the '70s, but also marked the first time he incorporated large portions of the Beatles' catalog into his set list. The double-disc, 37-track Tripping the Live Fantastic documents the tour, and it's a pleasant, if ultimately inconsequential, nostalgia trip that puts the weaknesses of Flowers in the Dirt in a little too sharp relief. In fact, most of McCartney's flaws are on display throughout the album, whether it's his excessive cutesiness (the album opens with Paul and the boys being told "heidy-ho, it's time for the show"), his fondness for oldies, and his persistent desire to charm the daylights out of the entire crowd. Nevertheless, he often does charm the crowd, whether it's through the effortlessly dazzling performances or his thoroughly winning catalog of pop classics. The new songs may pale next to the classics from his Beatles and solo days, and those classics may be delivered in versions that are a little too studied, but Tripping the Live Fantastic is a fine exercise in nostalgia.
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