Digging through Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles catalog for flowers in the dirt

Paul McCartney plays twice at T-Mobile Arena, June 28 and 29.
Annie Zaleski

Sir Paul McCartney needs no introduction. At age 77, the former Beatle continues to release albums and tour the world with marathon concerts that draw on indelible standards (the mammoth sing-along “Hey Jude”) and fan favorites (the psychedelic-pop trifle “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”). To get primed for McCartney’s return to Las Vegas, here are five albums from his extensive post-Beatles catalog to revisit—or spin for the first time.

Paul McCartney & Wings, Band on the Run (1973)

Considered by many to be McCartney’s finest n0n-Beatles album, Band on the Run—which merges his usual melodic folk and rock with woozier flourishes and zoned-out keyboards—also feels like one of his personal favorites. The pogo-stick piano-heavy “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” and the ragged soul-rock anthem “Let Me Roll It” remain setlist staples, while the psychedelia-streaked rocker “Jet” and self-referential title track cycle in and out of the show.

Paul McCartney & Wings, Back to the Egg (1979)

One of the lesser-explored corners of McCartney’s catalog—in fact, it has yet to receive deluxe reissue treatment, unlike most of his other albums—also served as Wings’ swan song. The full-length spawned two U.S. Top 40 hits (the gritty pub rocker “Getting Closer” and soul-funk lope “Arrow Through Me”) and is an extroverted collection of stomping, loose-limbed rock ’n’ roll. Exhibit A: the amped-up, all-star electric rockers “Rockestra Theme” and “So Glad to See You Here,” which feature contributions from David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, John Bonham, John Paul Jones and Ronnie Lane.

McCartney II (1980)

With Wings’ existence waning, McCartney stormed into the ’80s with the forward-looking, if polarizing, McCartney II. While the organ-heavy, hymn-like song “Waterfalls” exudes classic McCartney sentimentality, other moments—the Talking Heads-echoing chart-topper “Coming Up,” hyper-speed New Wave nod “Temporary Secretary” and robotic synth-pop gem “Front Parlour”—deliberately obscure his strengths. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as McCartney II offers plenty of interesting curveballs that remain intriguing curios today.

Flowers in the Dirt (1989)

In hindsight, Flowers in the Dirt marks yet another inflection point in McCartney’s career. On the music side, it was a creative comeback after 1986’s disappointing Press to Play, largely thanks to ornate orchestration, whimsical arrangements and the presence of Elvis Costello. The latter co-wrote four songs, including the power-pop gem “My Brave Face” and the colorful, horn-peppered rocker “You Want Her Too,” on which Costello also contributes vocals. Perhaps more important, the release of Flowers in the Dirt also spawned McCartney’s first tour since the mid-1970s, which allowed an entirely new generation of Beatles fans to finally see him live.

Egypt Station (2018)

The current leg of McCartney’s Freshen Up Tour supports his 2018 album Egypt Station, which includes newer setlist inclusions “Fuh You” and “Who Cares.” Dig past these songs, however, and you’ll find much to appreciate on the album, including a lovely folk-pop ode to finding a partner worth holding onto (“Dominoes”) and a feisty and lusty garage-rocker (“Come on to Me”).

PAUL MCCARTNEY June 28-29, 8 p.m., $50-$520. T-Mobile Arena, 702-692-1600.

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