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McCartney christens Consol with high-energy show

Along with being the cute Beatle and the ballad Beatle, Paul McCartney was always the jet-set Beatle. He liked to be where the action was and, all these years later, he still craves that big spotlight.

He opened the new Mets stadium last summer, he hits the big charity blowouts, and Wednesday night, he answered the call to christen the Consol Energy Center in a city he hadn't played in 20 years.

At 8:23 (fashionably late), he took the stage, answering the future trivia question of what would be the first song played at Consol to a live audience. Sticking to the script of his current tour, it was "Venus and Mars/Rock Show" right into "Jet," a fun show-setting blast from the most beloved of his Wings' albums, "Band on the Run."

Either it's the vegetarian diet or there's an aging painting of him in the attic, because, at 68, Sir Paul looks nothing like "a relic from a different age," while having a remarkably youthful voice to match. He looks the same as he ever did in a black Beatles suit and he passed the rock 'n' roll shouter test quickly.

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John Heller/Post-Gazette
Paul McCartney opens the Consol Energy Center and his concert with

McCartney set list
  • Venus And Mars/Rock Show
  • Jet
  • All My Loving
  • Letting Go
  • Got To Get You Into My Life
  • Highway
  • Let Me Roll It
  • Foxy Lady
  • The Long and Winding Road
  • Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
  • Let 'Em In
  • My Love
  • I'm Looking Through You
  • Two Of Us
  • Blackbird
  • Here Today
  • Dance Tonight
  • Mrs Vanderbilt
  • Eleanor Rigby
  • Something
  • Sing the Changes
  • Band on the Run
  • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  • Back in the U.S.S.R.
  • I've Got a Feeling
  • Paperback Writer
  • A Day in the Life / Give Peace A Chance
  • Let It Be
  • Live and Let Die
  • Hey Jude
Encore
  • Day Tripper
  • Lady Madonna
  • Get Back
Encore 2
  • Yesterday
  • Helter Skelter
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
The end

"We are the first people to play here -- and you are the first people to watch us play here," he said. "I think we look pretty cool."

When the Beatles played one of the first big rock shows at the Civic Arena in 1964, the Fab Four did their standard 30-minute set to 12,000 screaming fans, many of whom were there last night, and then ran for a plane.

Despite his age, the modern McCartney set runs nearly three hours and is packed with a Springsteen-sized 39 songs, about 22 of them from the Beatles catalog. The climax is pure Beatlemania, starting with a rousing "Ob-La Di, Ob-La-Da."

The early part of the set jumped through his career -- "Letting Go" from Wings (with a shredding solo by Rusty Anderson), the jubilant Beatles classics "All My Loving" and "Got to Get You Into My Life," and a contemporary shot with the noisy rocker "Highway" from his Fireman project.

The show was rich with tributes to fallen friends and loved ones. Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" was tacked onto a super-charged "Let Me Roll It," leading to a sorry about Hendrix learning "Sgt. Pepper" three days after it was released, which he called one of the greatest musical honors he experienced.

"My Love" was lovingly sung for Linda and "the lovers" in the house. The gentle acoustic "Here Today" was a love song for John Lennon, a "conversation we never had." Later, he even touched on his former writing mate's songbook with an abbreviated "A Day in the Life" (strange hearing his voice on that) paired with "Give Peace a Chance."

For George Harrison, he led a ukele sing along on "Something" that blossomed into a soaring Wings-like version. The gorgeous "Eleanor Rigby" was, of course, for all the lonely people.

As the show wore on, the Beatle never wore out, ripping through screamers like "Back in the USSR" and "I've Got a Feeling" -- 25 songs and two hours in. He climaxed the main set at the piano with a picture-perfect "Let It Be," a "Live and Let Die" that sounded like it blew up the Consol Center ("ay-yi-yi" he joked, holding his ears) and a joyous arm-waving "Hey Jude."

The hits kept coming through two encores highlighted by "Get Back" at a fast gallop and the bittersweetness of "Yesterday" quickly offset by the metal chaos of "Helter Skelter."

As for the evening's other star, the Consol passed its first test as a concert venue. As previously noted, it looks like a prettier Petersen Events Center on steroids and was able to accommodate the tour's screens, which were massive.

The long wait for Mr. McCartney to take the stage wasn't so bad as the arena was bathed in a soothing blue light -- with no clashing orange seats!

Did it sound better than the dome? Hard to say. It seemed shinier but so did everything about the place. Plus, the crew for this former Beatle would have made it sparkle in an airplane hangar.

When the singer yelled "How're the people in the back there?" they jumped up in a wave and seemed positively delighted.

Energy center indeed.

Last Updated: 08/20/10 06:47
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News Summary

Along with being the cute Beatle and the ballad Beatle, Paul McCartney was always the jet-set Beatle. He liked to be where the action was and, all these years later, he still craves that big spotlight. He opened the new Mets stadium last summer, he hits the big charity blowouts, and Wednesday night, he answered the call to christen the Consol Energy Center in a city he hadn't played in 20 years.