Nostalgia ran high on Wednesday night, as Paul McCartney took the stage of the SAP Center for a whopping 40-song set of classic cuts from an impressive catalog that spans over five decades. The three hours long show had McCartney belting out a series of Beatles and Wings hits as well as some material from his more recent solo albums, and he did all almost effortlessly.
It was a magical evening not only for its performance but also in its delivery. Reminiscent at times of VH1’s “Storyteller,” McCartney made it a point to recount old Beatles stories and other vignettes during breaks between songs. It was a welcomed gesture and one which created a strong sense of intimacy between him and his audience. A true testament to the gracious nature of this seasoned performer.
Backed by the usual suspects, Brian Ray, Rusty Anderson, Abe Laboriel, Jr., and Wix Wickens, the 77-year-old singer sounded stellar and performed with remarkable heart and gusto. At no point during the night did the performance feel canned or over-rehearsed. An impressive feat considering the endless hours he’s spent on the road throughout the years.
The setlist remained consistent from other tours, but with the welcome addition of a shelved classic, “In Spite of All the Danger.” After a brief introduction of how the song was passed along from bandmate to bandmate before coming to maturity, we learned that this is in fact the first song the Beatles ever recorded.
This revelation as well as the ode to his wife Nancy featuring an artsy performance piece by Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp for “My Valentine,” were the standout moments for me. That and a jam of Purple Haze after “Let Me Roll It,” which was preceded by a story of the first moment that McCartney first met Hendrix in a smokey filled club in London. It happened after “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” had just been released, and literally two days later Hendrix learned the song and performed it with McCartney and Eric Clapton in the audience.
These are the fables that legends are made of folks. And for all of us who were sitting around the campfire last night listening to them, one couldn’t help but wonder if a band like the Beatles could ever surface these days. Could a band coming out today command this level of respect and admiration 55 years into their career?
Photos by Louis Raphael