Sir Paul McCartney was full of stories, jokes and trivia last night in Pittsburgh, Pa., at the Consol Energy Center, the final stop of his 2010 Up and Coming Tour in North America. The famed rocker even signed a woman's thigh on stage, blessed a recently engaged couple and got friendly with a baby.
Oh yeah, he played some songs, too -- 39 songs spanning five decades over the course of nearly three hours and two encores, more than half of which were Beatles tunes. At 68, McCartney might be giving Bruce Springsteen a run for his money in terms of performance length and endurance.
The show kicked off with Wings favorites 'Venus and Mars/Rock Show,' leading right into 'Jet.' McCartney and his band eased into the set with a variety of songs -- some, like 1975's 'Letting Go,' more obscure than others. As McCartney remarked, "We're playing some new songs, some old songs and some in-between songs."
But Macca only played two recent songs the whole night -- 2008's 'Highway,' from what he called his "alter ego" the Fireman, and 2007's 'Dance Tonight,' for which he busted out the mandolin to the crowd's delight. McCartney knew what his fans wanted -- Beatles tunes and stage banter -- so he amped up his efforts of both as the show progressed.
'Let Me Roll It,' from 'Band on the Run,' led into a jam session of Jimi Hendrix
's 'Foxy Lady.' Then came the outpouring of stories from McCartney. "Jimi Hendrix gave me one of the greatest tributes of my life," McCartney told the crowd. "We released 'Sgt. Pepper's' on a Friday and Jimi opened his set with it on Sunday."
McCartney's 'My Love' inspired one man in the front row to propose to his girlfriend -- and appear on the Jumbotron -- before the song even hit the halfway mark. Afterward, McCartney motioned a heart over his head and asked, "Did she say yes?"
A string of Beatles oldies like 'And I Love Her' and 'I've Just Seen a Face,' with Paul on the acoustic guitar, followed. He shook his booty toward the crowd before growing much more serious. "I wanted to write a song about how I felt about Civil Rights, and to bring hope to the people back in Little Rock," said McCartney, now alone in a single spotlight on stage. 'Blackbird,' admittedly a stripped-down acoustic song, inspired the most rabid applause of the night.
McCartney noticed, too: "When you sing something like that, it's very exposed and I'm focusing a lot. Then the signs in the crowd start to come up. I'm trying to do all this stuff at once and read the signs." Many signs asked McCartney to sign their tattoos, or more accurately, to sign their bodies so they could get a tattoo of his signature. One Philly woman was invited onstage toward the end of the show to have her thigh signed.
McCartney's performance was truly one of emotional ups and downs. Touching tributes to John Lennon and George Harrison proved to be high points during the evening, especially McCartney's ukulele rendition of the Harrison-penned 'Something.'
Beatle favorites like 'Ob-La-De, Ob-La-Da' and 'Let It Be' dominated the rest of the show, which say McCartney switching between bass, guitar and piano every couple songs. He made the ambitious choice to recreate 'A Day in the Life,' and although the more subtle transitions were lost because the orchestration was not played live, fans appreciated the song. 'Eleanor Rigby' suffered from the same problem of orchestral recreation later in the show.
McCartney's 1973 James Bond theme, 'Live and Let Die,' interrupted the run of Beatles songs -- and infused pyrotechnics into the show. Flames and fireworks burst from what looked like monitors at the front of the stage.
Several songs later, the band left the stage only to emerge again for the first of two encores, which included 'Daytripper' and 'Lady Madonna.' The second encore included 'Yesterday' and a chill-inducing 'Helter Skelter,' and ended with, naturally, 'The End.'
McCartney's backing band will never be the Beatles, but their vocal harmonies, riffs and stage energy were quite impressive throughout the night. And McCartney? He managed to keep up, rock out, and hit the high note at the end of 'Hey Jude' -- even at 68.Last Updated: 09/06/10 17:36