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VANCOUVER - It took close to half a century for Paul McCartney to step on a Vancouver stage for the second time in his musical career, and in the span of nearly three hours at BC Place, Sir Paul closed the gap, looped the loop and gave his fans a timeless experience.
By comparison, McCartney's 1964 concert at Empire Stadium with the Beatles was a mere blink of an eye, a shambolic mess that lasted under half an hour, security breaking down and the Beatles being rushed off the stage and flown out of the Lower Mainland in about as much time as it took McCartney to sing Hey Jude along with 40,000 or so fans that had come from far and wide to see the 70-year-old legend Sunday night.
With a playlist comprising close to 40 songs and covering pretty much every corner of his career, with heartfelt nods to old pals John Lennon and George Harrison along the way, McCartney never even paused to take a break, commanding the stage with more power, presence and stamina than pop stars half his age.
It's no mystery why McCartney's output with the Fab Four, Wings and on his lonesome will be loved and appreciated by past, present and future generations: McCartney's pop songwriting mastery is virtually unmatched, and the execution Sunday night was near-flawless.
Backed by an ace band consisting of guitarist/vocalist Rusty Anderson, keyboardist/guitarist/percussionist Paul Wickens, guitarist/bassist Brian Ray and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., McCartney kicked off, quite fittingly, with Magical Mystery Tour, the stadium transported back in time to rainbow-era Beatles, back when the Walrus was Paul.
And off Macca was, "On The Run" as his tour is called, handing out memory-filled classic after another, mixing things up early on -- Wings' Junior's Farm, Jet and Let Me Roll It; the Beatles' All My Loving and Paperback Writer; a few solo tracks including Maybe I'm Amazed -- before truly settling into a Beatles-centric groove and sticking mostly to the Fab Four's greatest cuts from the halfway mark on.
McCartney was indeed in a form that makes you wonder where he stores all that energy: He still shimmies and shakes and flashes his trademark pouty grin, wielding his signature Hofner bass like only he can, and barely pauses for a drink of water or to catch his breath, telling anecdotes about departed friends like Hendrix.
The fans that braved the bottleneck madness at Gate A and eventually made it through unscathed (while most of the other gates were a breeze) were originally greeted by a remixed mashup of some of the Beatles classics and an animated memorabilia display on the giant screens on both sides of the stage, the concert eventually kicking off about 45 minutes after its scheduled start time.
"It's been a long time, Vancouver," McCartney said a couple numbers in. "It's good to be back. I have a feeling we're going to have a real good time here tonight. Oh yeah."
Looking rather spry in his sharp blue jacket (which he would later remove during "the evening's only wardrobe change"), McCartney's voice took a few numbers to really warm up, fully finding its spark in a fist-pumping Jet and Drive My Car, which he prefaced by saying, "It can't have been 48 years. I'm not even 48!"
From the stands, the sound was punchy and crisp, with minimal distortion. You have to hand it to both McCartney's and BC Place's sound techs, this was a great sounding gig.
McCartney sounded especially at home behind the piano for The Long and Winding Road. The Wings material was particularly snappy, with Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five stirring up quite a groove, while the tender My Valentine paid tribute to his wife Nancy, with Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman providing a video where they signed the lyrics. And then there was Maybe I'm Amazed, dedicated to Linda, which lifted the stadium high.
The pacing of the concert was expertly conceived, McCartney spending the middle part of the concert on the acoustic, playing a disarming And I Love Her, and taking a solo turn on Blackbird, which echoed beautifully in the building, dedicated to the civil rights movement in the '60s.
Nods to Lennon (an acoustic Here Today) and Harrison (Something, which evolved from a tender ukulele re-up into a gloriously electric rendition of the classic) were instant highlights.
The second half of the show was where McCartney and his gang really let loose: Band On The Run, Back In The USSR, a great stadium sing-along for Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, and a jammy I've Got A Feeling.
A Day In The Life morphed into Give Peace A Chance, peace symbol shining bright in the screen behind the stage, while Let It Be brought out the lighters in the stands.
Speaking of fire, McCartney almost literally set the stadium ablaze with crazy blasts of pyro during Live And Let Die, some high flying sparks bouncing off the brand new roof at BC Place, which led to a Hey Jude played amidst a thick cloud of smoke.
That also meant a hazy double set of encores that included Day Tripper, Get Back, Yesterday, a strobe-filled Helter Skelter and a spectacular Mull of Kintyre, complete with the Delta Police pipe band providing the bagpipes and percussion. Flat-out amazing.
It would culminate with the closing medley to Abbey Road, with The End capping off the concert the only way it could've ended.
"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," McCartney sang, before a shower of confetti rained down on the fans.
Rumours that were started by radio station CKNW on Friday said Bruce Springsteen was slated to join McCartney Sunday night to resume the joint set that had been interrupted earlier this year at London's Hyde Park when police shut down the concert due to a curfew.
There would be no sign of The Boss, who is scheduled to play Rogers Arena Monday evening.
Still, McCartney's was a concert for the ages, and one that will have touched Vancouver's history as much as Sir Paul's first "on the run" show here close to five decades ago.