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NEW YORK — Paul McCartney stormed the stage of a small ballroom Wednesday and delivered a 20-song set featuring Beatles favorites and select cuts from his newly released album “Memory Almost Full.”
The free show for about 700 fans at the Highline Ballroom in New York’s Chelsea district was hastily arranged, with McCartney’s Web site announcing the gig only Tuesday. Passes were distributed through a giveaway on the site and to fans who lined up on Wednesday outside the venue.
McCartney played a dozen songs from the Beatles catalogue that included opening number “Drive My Car” and Fab Four warhorses “Hey Jude,” “Lady Madonna,” “Let It Be” and “Get Back.” The remaining songs came from the new album and other McCartney solo projects.
McCartney debuted at No. 3 — his highest spot on the U.S. pop charts in a decade — on Wednesday with his first album for coffee retailer Starbucks Corp.
“Memory Almost Full” marks the first release on Hear Music, the new label formed by Starbucks and privately held jazz specialist Concord Music Group. McCartney, who turns 65 on Monday, had spent most of his 45-year career with EMI Group Plc., which still distributes the Beatles’ catalog.
“Well, here we are in a little club in the Highline,” McCartney said, referring to the club’s neighborhood, which has a discontinued, elevated freight train line running through it. “We should do this more often.”
The show’s intimate setting had McCartney in a relaxed mood, and he reminisced about writing certain songs.
“I remember writing this next song in a little house we used to live in Liverpool. I was standing in the front parlor looking out through the little lace curtains and thinking, ‘I’m going to be a star,’ like you do, but it never happened,” he quipped before performing “I’ll Follow the Sun” from the 1964 release “Beatles for Sale.”
Before performing “Here Today,” from his 1982 album “Tug of War,” McCartney said the mournful ballad was originally written for his one-time writing partner and fellow Beatle John Lennon, slain by a deranged fan in 1980 just a few miles away.
“I’d like to dedicate it tonight to fallen heroes John, George (and) Linda,” McCartney said, referring to Lennon as well as Beatle guitarist George Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001, and McCartney’s first wife, who died in 1998.
“But as for me, I still remember how it was before, and I am holding back the tears no more,” he sang to a hushed crowd.
McCartney made no mention of fellow surviving Beatle Ringo Starr, the group’s drummer.
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