Paul always was the cutest Beatle, and Mr. McCartney wears his nearly 50 years better than a lot of people his age. But the real issue is how he sounds, and if "MTV Presents Paul McCartney Up Close" is an accurate measure, he sounds terrific.
This is a new gig, a 90-minute concert-plus-interview-clips taped in December at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. And tonight at 10, it will be simulcast on MTV and VH-1.
The music -- 13 tunes in all -- mixes the very old with the very new and lots that came between. But it goes beyond Mr. McCartney's "Unplugged" show or even 1990 tour footage that's been aired all over the dial.
He performs the tune "that got me into the Beatles," a moss-backednumber with a rockabilly beat titled "20 Flight Rock."
There are renditions of "Michelle" and "Penny Lane" illuminated by reminiscences of how each one came to be written.
"Penny Lane is actually a real place," Mr. McCartney says. "It's kind of a bus stop transfer station in Liverpool, and the lyrics are just memories of the barber shop that's actually still there and the bank on the opposite corner."
"Sgt. Pepper" is accompanied by Mr. McCartney's best memory of that album's release. "It came out on Friday, and on Sunday night, we went to see [Jimi] Hendrix at this club in London. It was so great because he opened with 'Sgt. Pepper.' He'd learned it over the weekend."
Little vignettes about "My Love" and "Lady Madonna" provide tasty bits of Beatles-McCartney trivia, the former having been written "for Linda [his wife] in the early '70s," the latter, "a bluesy piano thing that was meant to be a tribute to mothers. I mean, how do they do it?"
Speaking of trivia, keep your ears open for the day of the week left out of "Lady Madonna" and the working title of "Yesterday."
The star drops names all over the place, including Chet Atkins ("ah, yeah, everybody tried to imitate that finger-picking thing"), Little Richard ("you are the king, baby") and the Rolling Stones ("all this rubbish about them being the bad boys and us being the good guys. There really was no rivalry").
And finally there are tunes from the newest McCartney LP, "Off theGround," due out Tuesday, including the first single, "Hope of jTC Deliverance" and the title track, which "almost didn't make it to the album. It was just a folky little song until 'Wix' [Wickens, keyboard player] and I worked on it."
It's a delightful time, and the touring band -- Mr. Wickens, bassist Hamish Stuart, guitarist Robbie McIntosh and Blair Cunningham on drums -- is in top form.