“When I’m 64” passed years ago, but Paul McCartney, 72 in June, loudly and proudly celebrated his Beatles songbook and the best second act in pop history on Saturday at the Times Union Center.
Just 28 when the Beatles split, McCartney has led his current band longer than the Beatles or Wings. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr fronted C-list “All-Starrs” in June at the Palace, but McCartney and four bandmates (anonymous until late first-name intros) rocked through nearly three hours spanning 50-year-old hits to new tunes from “New.” Fans sang along even on the new “New” tunes Saturday, primed by a pre-show mass sing in the atrium.
Springsteen-trim, younger-looking than Mick or Keith and healed to impressive vigor from a virus that postponed weeks of shows before his delayed tour opened in Albany, McCartney and crew powered through more than 40 songs, featuring two encores but no breaks, including “When I’m 64” sung by a fan onstage in a marriage proposal. McCartney had to help the kneeling guy back to his feet but moved around easily, playing trademark violin-shaped Hofner bass, guitar and piano, and playing face to face at times with drummer Abe Laboriel. He sang well; little rasp or strain on the high notes, as the band all harmonized. Keyboardist Wix Wickens filled in the most heavily arranged tunes: strings in “Eleanor Rigby,” horns in “The Long and Winding Road,” for example.
See the setlist at http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/paul-mccartney/2014/times-union-center-albany-ny-2bc1fcfe.html — but for this past-64 Beatles fan, these high points hit hardest. “Eight Days a Week” harvested fans’ excitement, opening big. A bluesy bit of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” coda’ed “Let Me Roll It” and set up a funny story. But he was all business next, playing guitar in “Paperback Writer” as Brian Ray took over booming-bass duties. (Rusty Anderson played most of the guitar solos, though McCartney and Ray took their turns, too.)
New “New” song “On My Way to Work” set up Beatles’ classic “We Can Work it Out” beautifully. McCartney song-caressed both current wife Nancy on “My Valentine” and late first wife Linda on “Maybe I’m Amazed.” “Blackbird” honored our civil rights struggles poignantly; video aided “Lady Madonna” in face-checking Rosa Parks, Queen Elizabeth II, Liz Taylor and others.
“Back in the U.S.S.R.” rocked really hard, setting up funny/proud stories about Russian officials telling McCartney, playing in Moscow, they’d learned English from Beatles records. He paid tribute to departed bandmates John Lennon, in “Here Today,” noting sometimes the sadness creeps up on you, as it did in this heartfelt valentine, and to George Harrison in “Something” at a brisk tempo on ukulele.
McCartney feigned hearing damage after the powerful pyro in “Live and Let Die,” sandwiched explosively between quieter “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude,” which closed the main set.
Two encores rocked big, mostly, with a solo “Yesterday” that quietly opened the second encore and concluded with a “Abbey Road” sequence, completing the evening with “The End.”
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