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Houston: Paul McCartney delivers night of legendary rock

  • Source: by Michael D. Clark, Houston Chronicle
Melissa Phillip/Chronicle
Paul McCartney performed Sunday night at Compaq Center in Houston.
It may be the last arena-sized concert the former Beatle will ever play in Texas.
Five months ago when Paul McCartney brought his Driving USA tour to Dallas it was conceivable it would be the last arena-size concert the former Beatle would ever play in Texas. It turns out Houston may log that honor after Sir Paul's stop at the Compaq Center Sunday night, the only Lone Star date on his current Back in the U.S. tour.

If this truly was the 60-year-old McCartney's Lone Star finale then it was a night that will live in Houston concert history. Through a 30-plus set of songs (the concert was not over at press time) spanning from 1963's Beatle classic I Saw Her Standing There to his post-9/11 anthem of strength and renewal, Freedom, the pop-minded songwriter covered his career in a tidy 2.5 hours.

How powerful is McCartney's reach? The sold-out crowd was as diverse as those at the Houston International Festival. Teenagers came with parents who were their age when the Beatles first drove fans wild on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Young adults not alive when John Lennon was assassinated, but who know the legend, came to participate in rock 'n' roll history. McCartney provided something for all of them.

Opening the show with Hello, Goodbye, he and his four-piece band took the crowd on the Magical Mystery Tour.

"Ooh, Texas," McCartney playfully growled at the crowd. "We have come to rock you tonight."

Clips of the Beatles' memorable first trip to the United States rolled on the two dozen video screens surrounding the stage as his band played early Beatles' gem All My Loving. For a brief moment the scream accompanying the opening notes was a hint at what those women fainting at the first Beatles shows might have heard before hitting the floor. He got a similar refrain when he switched from bass to guitar for the Sgt. Peppers' jam Getting Better.

It would be great if McCartney could spend hours reviewing the Beatles' songbook, but that would only be serving a third of his career. Gradually moving forward to his post-Beatles years with Wings on Let Me Roll It, he settled in on a four-song set from his latest album, Driving Rain.

Lonely Road and the title track were airy confections that, if McCartney tours again, should not be included in the set. Ballad Your Loving Flame, however, was stunning. Dedicating the song to his wife, Heather Mills, who was in attendance, McCartney sang the song from behind a grand piano, stretching his range to express his emotion. He followed the song with Blackbird, from the Beatles' White Album, performing it alone on acoustic guitar.

The crowd went dead silent for every note. Perhaps once or twice in a lifetime of concerts will one have a moment so goose-pimple inducing.

Sir Paul kept giving his subjects the songs they wanted to hear. He played the Beatles' You Never Give Me Your Money and The Fool on the Hill solo on a psychedelically painted organ. He played George Harrison's Something as a tribute to "the quiet Beatle" on a ukulele that Harrison gave him. Here Today was dedicated to Lennon, whose name got a standing ovation.

Set lists from Houston and Dallas were nearly identical except for four songs. The first was Midnight Special, a blues song exclusive to this show. Others played here but not in Dallas were Michelle, Let 'Em In and She's Leaving Home. Unfortunately White Album favorite Mother Nature's Son, a highlight of the Dallas show, was cut to make room. It's a minuscule gripe.

If musicians got their jerseys hung from the rafters of the Compaq Center like celebrated members of the building's two basketball teams, the Houston Rockets and Houston Comets, a red, white and blue tank top bearing the name "McCARTNEY" would be an appropriate addition.

Other legends, like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Rolling Stones, coming to Houston in the near future, have their work cut out for them.


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