NEW YORK – Paul McCartney rocked Yankee Stadium two nights in a row this weekend, but only Saturday night featured a very special guest: Billy Joel.
The rock legends traded verses on the Beatles
’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” the Piano Man’s grin stretching ear to ear. The two bowed at the end of the tune, clearly quashing the hopes that Joel would play more.
But a show that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, with more than three dozen songs and often hit after hit… the demand for “more” from McCartney is futile.
“Who is this Derek Jeter guy? Somebody said he’s got more hits than me,” the showman beamed out at the 45,000-strong crowd.
The former Beatle and Wings-man was backed by an expert quartet, all of whom could sing, and none of which could even try to outshine McCartney, who is just shy of 70 years old.
And not once did he show his age, with exception to the healthy crags in his famous face lining his mouth and baby blues. For most of the set, Sir Paul donned a crisp white shirt under suspenders and black dress pants, and he didn’t dare to escape from the stage even once, with exceptions going to the two times he flew to the edge for the three encores.
He hit all his bases, with solo, Wings and all periods of Beatles material. He’d back “Let It Be” with “Live and Let Die,” vroomed through “Drive My Car” but slowly and lovingly cruised through “Yesterday.” He’d diverge into “Jet” or “Mrs. Vanderbilt,” and then weave into “Eleanor Rigby” and “Magical Mystery Tour,” "Band on the Run" and “Maybe I’m Amazed,” hopping between piano, his signature bass, ukelele, acoustic and electric.
And throughout, McCartney would drop little historical nuggets into his banter, like how Jimi Hendrix played “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at his own concert, after only having learned it in two days. Or he’d tip his hat at his deceased friends and longtime cohorts – to John Lennon on meditative “Here Today” and George Harrison on “Something.”
Certainly big tracks like “Helter Skelter,” “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Hey Jude” had McCartney stretching, but he still delivered those signature yelps and rolling notes. He smiled a lot, would poke his instruments into the sky and do little jigs and dances just because, “I like to show off.” (He was showing off to the right crowd, too: I saw celebrities like recent New York transplant Ryan Gosling and “Crazy Stupid Love” buddy Emma Stone sipping a beer nearby, for instance.)
Considering the girth and relative variety of McCartney’s songs, I can understand why the production didn’t perhaps utilize a live orchestra or even just a string section particulary for the epic epicness of “Sgt. Pepper” tunes. But, I mean, the man has one of the biggest budget shows and largest stadium draws of all time, and sometimes the real thing beats the hell out of a keyboard sampler. Additionally, some of the background video – and there was one for every song – were trite at times, cheap at others (see: burning votive candles during “Here Today,” a static dorky peace sign for “Give Peace a Chance”, Archive.com-like b-roll of Russian dancers for “Back in the U.S.S.R”). But that’s a to-taste thing.
Because what I’ve always thought about Paul, compared to the rest of the Beatles, is that he was never the coolest of them. But he was the most pop, as in popular. He owns it so well, wears it with the highest dignity and acceptance in concert. He knocked it out of the ballpark.
McCartney's On The Run stadium tour continues throughout the summer. Here are the current dates:
July 24 Detroit MI Comerica Park
July 26 Montreal QE Bell Center
July 27 Montreal QE Bell Center
July 31 Chicago IL Wrigley Field
August 1 Chicago IL Wrigley Field
August 4 Cincinnati OH The Great American Ballpark