Some things, like fine wine, get better with age. The same might be said about Paul McCartney.
At age 79, McCartney, one of only two living Beatles, showed through his unwavering spirit, soaring voice and polished guitar licks that he is very much still alive and that rock ‘n’ roll isn’t dead. The performer dazzled a packed Camping World Stadium for nearly three hours filled with classics on Saturday night.
Joined by his touring band — Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards, Brian Ray on bass and guitar, Rusty Anderson on guitar and Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums — McCartney showed his talent as a multi-instrumentalist and singer while belting out hits such as “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Lady Madonna” and “Hey Jude.”
Though he has decades of experience under his belt, the larger-than-life musician at times yielded a humble, more vulnerable side. McCartney readily served up reminders that The Beatles started from humble beginnings and they were perhaps unlikely heroes when they emerged into the rock world.
“Now we’re going to take you back through the mist of time, back to Liverpool where four guys formed a band and did OK for themselves,” he said in between songs. “Back then, we were just a little gigging band and it was difficult to get noticed.”
In a more stripped-down portion of the set that recalled the band’s early days, McCartney performed “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” a 1965 tune that has notes of The Beatles’ contemporaries Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
At one point, McCartney stopped to scan the crowd for handwritten signs, choosing a few to read out loud.
“I’m married … But I want to hold your hand,” read one sign.
“I missed senior prom to see you,” read another.
“Well, are you having fun?” the performer queried the young fan. The answer was a resounding yes from the entire audience. Illuminated faces revealed a multigenerational coalition of fans, a reminder of how timeless and important The Beatles’ music is to so many, regardless of age.
Throughout the set, skilled musicians helped belt out harmonies and accent McCartney’s prowess on stage, which was heightened by production with stunning pyrotechnics, lighting and graphics. A three-piece horn section even joined for a number of songs.
About halfway through the show, the rest of the band disappeared offstage, leaving just McCartney and his acoustic guitar. From a stage that slowly ascended, the singer’s voice and fingerpicked notes reverberated throughout the stadium during a chillingly beautiful performance of “Blackbird” followed by “Here Today,” a tribute to John Lennon.
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The concert featured pleasant surprises, such as a ukulele intro to “Something” and a fiery display during “Live and Let Die.” The energy of the crowd heightened with the band as the audience joined in singing popular tunes, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Get Back.”
There was a palpable flow of emotion and a collective exhale throughout the crowd during a soaring rendition of “Let It Be,” as the stadium lit up like the cosmos with the twinkle of cellphone lights.
The band closed out the set with everyone chanting in unison, “Na-na-na, na, Hey Jude.” Pure joy and bliss emanated from the stage and throughout the seats.
As if 30 songs weren’t enough, McCartney and his cohort of musicians came back to rock out with six more songs, waving Ukrainian, American, United Kingdom, Florida and rainbow flags as they returned to the stage for their encore.
After jamming on “Helter Skelter” and “Carry That Weight,” the band fittingly closed out their nearly three-hour performance with “The End.” But there was a strong suggestion that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Paul McCartney.
“All that’s left to say is — We’ll see you next time,” McCartney said as he left the stage, confetti and fireworks bursting over the crowd.