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Paul McCartney provides stories, memories and a Marvin Gaye tribute in an emotional Detroit show

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Sean Ryan
The Flint Journal Paul McCartney energizes the crowd during the "On The Run" tour at Comerica Park Sunday July, 24 2011.

Paul McCartney dodged the early threat of thunderstorms and brought a memorable three-hour show to Comerica Park in Detroit Sunday night. One would think that despite playing hundreds, if not a thousand concerts -- and being 69 years old -- you could expect a McCartney show to feel slow if not contrived. You'd be wrong.

Instead, there was electricity to this show, and it wasn't just the lightning that was streaking across the dark skyline. For his first show in the city since 1976, Sir Paul stalked the stage, told stories, smiled, pointed, and winked a lot while giving the crowd a memorable show.

The emotional high point was when McCartney told a story of George Harrison's love of ukuleles. He then pulled one out, saying it was from Harrison's ukulele collection, and began playing an acoustic version of "Something," a classic Beatles song penned by Harrison (video of the performance). Meanwhile, pictures of Harrison and McCartney scrolled on the screens in the background. Slowly, the drums came in, and then guitars, finally McCartney put the ukelele down and picked up a guitar  to belt out a hearty version while the audience sang along. During a lengthy standing ovation, McCartney called out, "Let's hear it for George."

McCartney even paid homage to Motown early in the show.

Detroit News, July 25, 2011: "We had a little time off today and we went to the Motown museum," McCartney told the crowd, six songs into the set. "Holy grail! When I was listening to records as a kid in Liverpool, learning the songs 'You Really Got a Hold on Me' (by the Miracles) and 'Money' (by Barrett Strong), wow! So we'd like to do a song we don't normally do, for Detroit and for Motown, one of my favorites by Mr. Marvin Gaye."

He then launched into "Hitchhike," one of Gaye's early hits (video of the performance). The talkative and engaged McCartney took time early in the show to "drink in these Detroit vibrations" and discussed his first trip here in 1964, where tickets went for $3 and $4.

"The first time I came here with the Beatles. I remember it, do you?" He said the band couldn't hear themselves through the screams. After the crowd went crazy at that comment, he admitted "I say that just to hear your scream."

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Bill Emkow |
Paul McCartney plays "Yesterday" on a guitar with Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins stickers at his Comerica Park show on July 24, 2011. The crowd roared its approval as the stage cameras zoomed in on the logo.

During one of two encores, McCartney came out to play "Yesterday" (video of the performance) on an acoustic guitar that sported a prominent Red Wings sticker. The same guitar has been spotted on concert DVDs dating back to the mid-2000s, so it wasn't a plant. The audience roared its approval upon seeing the Red Wings logo on the big screen.

McCartney played more than 40 songs. There were plenty of recognizable Wings and solo songs, such as "Jet,"(video of the performance)  "Band On The Run," "Maybe I'm Amazed," and "Dance Tonight." But, the majority of songs, approximately 26, were from The Beatles. Besides the obvious hits, including the always-emotional "Hey Jude," to "Let It Be" and "Eleanor Rigby", McCartney dropped a some slightly obscure tracks such as "I've Just Seen A Face" and "I Will" (video of the performance).

The climax of the show was "Live and Let Die", which included fire shooting up along the front and sides of the stage, as well as fireworks shot from the top of Comerica Park that timed along with high points in the song. It was the only song to feature pyrotechnics.

McCartney paid tribute to John Lennon with his 1982 song, "Here Today." (video of the performance) He also had a hard, and odd, transition from "A Day In The Life" into "Give Peace A Chance." As the song started revving up, the band stopped playing for the audience to sing along.

For the final encore, the band concluded with the Abbey Road medley starting with "Golden Slumbers" and finishing with "The End." All the while, extended animations that appeared in the Beatles Rock Band video game played on the back screen.

For those speculating whether this will be his farewell tour, McCartney grabbed the microphone before disappearing off the stage to thank the Detroit crowd and saying "We'll see you here next time!"

As confetti shot into the air and the lights returned, a boy that looked to be around 12- or 13-years old was overheard saying, "Live and Let Die was the best! The flames were one thing, but the fireworks?That was almost too much. This was the best concert I've ever been to."

More fan YouTube videos of McCartney's Comerica Park concert can be found here.

Last Updated: 07/25/11 11:59

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News Summary

Paul McCartney dodged the early threat of thunder storms and brought a memorable three-hour show to Comerica Park. One would think that despite playing hundreds, if not a thousand concerts - and being 69-years old, you could expect a McCartney show to feel slow if not contrived. You'd be wrong.