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Somewhere, in one of his many homes, there surely must be a portrait of Paul McCartney that’s aging rapidly.
That’s the only explanation for the seemingly undiminished youthfulness and musical vitality of the former Beatle that was on ample display in his concert Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, one of the stops on his Out There tour. Performing more three dozen songs over the course of nearly three uninterrupted hours, McCartney, about to turn 71, delivered a career-spanning set that brought musical history to life before a rapt, multi-generational audience.
For many of them, it was no doubt the musical equivalent of attending a fiftieth high-school reunion and making out with the person who took you to the prom.
At this point in his career, reviews of his shows are superfluous. One merely has to scroll down to the set list below to fully appreciate the impact of his concert which culled from the greatest catalogue in pop music. And while the evening differed little from his tours of recent years–including much of the same between-song banter and the bombastic pyrotechnics accompanying “Live and Let Die”–McCartney carefully provided a few special treats in the form of several Beatles classics that he has rarely or never before performed live.
These included the rousing opening number, “Eight Days a Week,” as well as the jaunty “Your Mother Should Know,” the sing-along “All Together Now” (“One of my more intellectual songs,” he joked), and “Lovely Rita” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, both from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. For Beatles fans, these were alone enough to justify a return visit.
Displaying barely any vocal diminishment and constantly accompanying himself on different instruments, McCartney clearly seems to draw energy from performing his lovingly faithful renditions of songs from his Beatles and Wings days as well as his solo career, including the recent lovely ballad ”My Valentine.” His longtime band, with whom he’s performed for over a decade, provided stirring instrumentals and vocal harmonies that brought the music to life in pristine but never stale fashion. They deserve to be named: Paul “Wix” Wickens (keyboards), Rusty Anderson (guitar), Abe Laboriel Jr. (drums) and Brian Ray (bass/guitar).
Nostalgia bloomed in the air, whether it was the vintage film footage of the Fab Four in their prime; McCartney’s accompanying himself on “Paperback Writer” with the same guitar he used on the original recording; or his loving tributes to those who’ve departed.
Indeed, at times the show took on the air of a memorial, with songs dedicated to his wife Linda (“Maybe I’m Amazed”); John Lennon (the imaginary conversational “Here Today”), George Harrison (“Something,” which began with McCartney strumming on a ukulele) and producer Phil Ramone (“Another Day”).
But it was mostly an inevitably joyous affair, with the performer trotting out one classic after another with the sort of well-practiced exuberance that made it seem as if he was performing them for the very first time. His seemingly unquenchable desire to please his audience was evident from the first to last moments.
“You want to keep going, don’t you?” he unnecessarily asked the crowd well into the show’s third hour. He then listened to the responding cheers for several moments before taking a well-timed pause and deadpanning, “Okay.”
His second encore well demonstrated his musical breadth, as he effortlessly segued from the tender “Yesterday” to the raucous “Helter-Skelter” before launching into his usual show-closing triumvirate of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End.” It was, as always, a remarkable conclusion to a remarkable evening.
Eight Days a Week
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-five
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face
We Can Work It Out
And I Love Her
Your Mother Should Know
All Together Now
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hi, Hi, Hi
Carry That Weight
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