At times stirring, at times triumphant, and always irresistibly fun, this was Paul McCartney’s night in Detroit.
Comerica Park, one of five stops on McCartney’s summer stadium tour, was host to an evening of musical thrills and rich nostalgia for a spirited crowd of more than 30,000.
They’d gathered under the Detroit skyline for a long night of hits from the man who helped design the blueprint.
McCartney, trim and reciprocated with perhaps the most elastic and generous set he’s ever played here, steering through a staggering array of Beatles classics, Wings hits and solo tunes.
Foreboding clouds and rumbles of thunder had greeted the multigenerational audience of families, older couples and young friends as they streamed into the stands ahead of the show. But in the minutes before McCartney took the stage at 8:30 p.m. — as “With a Little Luck” fittingly played over the PA — the sun began to break out in the distance.
A little luck, a little magic, a lot of smiles, even a few tears, as McCartney served up a set that launched with a bright “Hello Goodbye” and wound through nearly half a century of music.
The 69-year-old star, looser and chattier onstage than he’s been in years, was a dependably delightful presence, pulling out the vintage Paul moves — fists pumping, fingers pointing, eyes winking at the audience.
“This is so cool,” he said, pausing early to scan the crowd. “I’m gonna take a moment here to drink in these Detroit vibrations.”
With fireball drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. an unmistakable presence in back, McCartney’s veteran band provided the crisp ooohs on “All My Loving” and dark ahhhs on “Eleanor Rigby,” wrapping their voices together for “Paperback Writer.”
There was highlight upon highlight: There was a sterling “Maybe I’m Amazed,” rousing “Let It Be,” winsomely brisk “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” punchy “Jet,” jaunty “The Night Before,” a charming “I Will,” a racing “Back in the USSR.”
The crowd roared as the regular set closed out with the reliable fanfare of "Hey Jude" and "Live and Let Die," punctuated with fireworks. As the show rolled past its 2-1/2 hour mark, McCartney led the band through an uptempo encore that included "Day Tripper" and "Get Back."
A second and final encore stayed on the Beatles theme, with the lilt of “Yesterday” rolling into the scalding energy of “Helter Skelter” into a glorious, show-wrapping run through the close of “Abbey Road”: “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and a crackling “The End.”
McCartney was energetic and versatile, heading to a piano when he wasn’t with his Hofner bass or tapping a yummy collection of vintage guitars.
The performances were roundly top-notch, the occasional cracks in McCartney’s voice more like little marks of ebullience, as on the high notes of “Let Me Roll It” and “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
With a mix of enthusiasm and reverence, he talked about his visit to the Motown Historical Museum — the former studio complex on West Grand Boulevard that he called “the holy grail.” (He’d spent about two hours there today, according to a museum official.)
“That took me back,” he said, going on to recall his younger years studying Motown records to learn parts. He and his band then launched into a lively cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike,” picked “especially for Detroit,” McCartney said.
He was in a reflective mood, dishing up anecdotes about Jimi Hendrix and late band mates John Lennon and George Harrison — including a ukulele-led rendition of the latter’s “Something.”
McCartney also referenced his first-ever trip to Detroit, with the Beatles in 1964.
“I was just thinking today about the first time we came over,” he said. “The people of Detroit gave us a beautiful welcome -- just like you’re giving us tonight.”Last Updated: 07/25/11 08:21