Something Different: Tony Kishman celebrates Paul McCartney’s career

Tony Kishman says performing as Paul McCartney in “Live and Let Die: The Music of Paul McCartney” is like acting. (Tony Kishman/Submitted)

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Tucson native Tony Kishman knows there is an influx of Beatles tribute acts, but he’s found his niche celebrating the whole of Paul McCartney’s career. 

“Live and Let Die: The Music of Paul McCartney” comes to the Fox Tucson Theatre on Saturday, May 13. 

“The show is all about Paul McCartney’s career, from The Beatles days to Wings to solo material,” Kishman says. 

“It’s as if Paul himself was doing the show. The show is about his career. I’ve done Beatles tributes since the 1970s. I wanted to do something different.”

Kishman is a music and entertainment veteran. After attending Carson Junior High and Canyon Del Oro High schools, he briefly focused on music at Pima Community College. Eventually, he founded a top 40 band called Cheap Trix. When Cheap Trix was picking up steam, hitmakers Cheap Trick contacted the band and told it to stop using the name.

“It was about the time that Beatlemania was casting for members,” Kishman says. 

“I was in a top 40 band, and we were getting popular. Folks were asking me to audition for the show and I thought maybe I’d give it a shot. After several auditions, I ended up leaving the band. That was in 1978.”

When his time with “Beatlemania” wrapped in 1985, his love for the band didn’t stop. He played in Beatles tribute bands until 2006, when he segued to a McCartney show. 

“Paul, when he goes on tour, he sells out a stadium or arena in a couple hours,” he says. “I did it on Broadway, I figured now that that was over, why don’t I just do it for myself. That’s why I kept going.”

“Live and Let Die: The Music of Paul McCartney comes to the Fox Tucson Theatre on Saturday, May 13. It’s a hometown show for leader Tony Kishman. (Sal Gomez Photography/Contributor)

Initially, he performed around the United States with symphonies. In 2010, he switched to a five-piece band. 

“I found it was just as good and a lot easier to do,” he says. “With the orchestra, you have to rehearse, do the charts and bring a conductor. It’s fun to do the five piece because you get up and play anything. As long as you have a really good keyboardist, you can cover any song properly. We’ve done a lot of five-piece shows around the country. That’s what we’re bringing to the Fox.”

It’s common to hear “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves Me,” says Kishman, who moved to Syracuse, New York, three years ago. 

“I love those songs, too. But I want to do something different. I want to play a song that people haven’t heard in a while. We’ll do ‘Eleanor Rigby’ at the same time as ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ and ‘Band on the Run.’ Those are fun songs to play with a really great band.”

Kishman is joined by guitarist/backing vocalist John Merjave (Max Weinberg, Peter Noone, Weeklings); guitarist/bassist/pianist/backing vocalist Paul Averitt (Lawrence Juber, John Fogerty); keyboardist/backing vocalist Arne Wendt (Kings of Suburbia, The Motor City Revue); and drummer Brad Swiger (Hootie and the Blowfish, The Bellamy Brothers). 

“The band members I have in my group are seasoned players,” he says. “They work with the most famous people in the world. I feel cradled with talent on the stage.”

“Live and Let Die: The Music of Paul McCartney”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 13

WHERE: Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress Street, Tucson

COST: Tickets start at $35