At 8:22 p.m Wednesday, a new era of music in Pittsburgh was ushered in by one of rock music's legends.
Paul McCartney stepped into the spotlight, a grin on his face, waved hello and struck the first chords played in Consol Energy Center.
The song, for the record, was "Venus and Mars/Rock Show." It could have been any song by any band, and it would still have been a monumental moment. But because it was McCartney, because it was the christening of a new venue, it was greeted by a roar of approval unlike any heard in Pittsburgh since -- well, perhaps the Beatles' lone appearance in the Civic Arena in 1964.
It was loud, uplifting, and glorious, the crowd reveling simultaneously in something old and something new.
First, the old:
McCartney looked, as Billy Crystal would say, "mahvelous." Trim, his shock of brown hair almost to his shoulders, he only looked his age (68) in the jowls. Close your eyes, and it was 1964 all over again, especially given that he wore a black suit that seemed right out of "Hard Day's Night."
He also sounded better than one would expect for a guy who has been doing this for 50 years. On "Jet" and "Let Me Roll It" (which segued into Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady"), he especially showed he can rise to the occasion of an upbeat rock song.
But it was the Beatles' songs that seemed to resonate most with the audience. "All My Loving," three songs in, was a bit thin on the chorus, but still had a gravity and charismatic aspect that gave you chills. "The Long and Winding Road" was similarly affecting, sad even; you hear the song and look for Ringo, John and George.
McCartney seemed to grow energized as the evening wore on. A rousing version of "I'm Looking Through You" really matched the Fab Four's version, along with a sweet, touching version of "Two of Us."
McCartney wasn't the only star of the night, however: The Consol is going to be a jewel of a venue. The sound is crystalline, the sightlines are good from everywhere in the lower bowl (especially with the elevated, roomier stage) and there's much more room to roam on the concourses.
McCartney recognized the importance of the evening, noting that "we're the first band, and you're the first audience."
There may eventually be better shows at the Consol, but none more memorable.