As I’m sure is the case for most of this blog’s readers, stadium shows are a necessary evil when it comes to live music — and one usually best left avoided. But if there were anyone that would be able to overcome the horrible acoustics of sporting arenas and the overall lack of intimacy that comes with a crowd 40,000 strong, you knew it would be one of the ultimate living legends: Mr. Paul McCartney. I had heard that Sir Paul put on a good show, and he probably has the most well-loved and deepest catalog of any performer on the planet, but I was certainly not prepared for the absolute smackdown that occurred at AT&T Park last Saturday night.

Paul hit the stage at 8:30, right as the sun started to set on the San Francisco Bay, and I spent the first couple of songs in awe of the fact that I was seeing a frickin’ BEATLE in the flesh — not an every day occurrence, to say the least. It didn’t even matter that the first hour of the show was for the most part second-rate Wings and Fireman material; the experience and spectacle of it all was more than enough. It goes without saying that Paul’s band was rock solid — they played each song with loving accuracy and rocked out when the moment called for it. Paul was his usual chatty and charming self, talking up the crowd between almost every song, and eliciting laughs on numerous occasions. The anecdotes were fast and furious, as only a former Beatle could deliver them: not just anyone can talk about meeting the Russian Prime Minister of Defense and having him admit that he learned the English language through your song lyrics, or releasing an album on Friday only to hear Jimi Hendrix covering it on Sunday. He also delivered touchingly heartfelt tributes to his fallen bandmates John and George — for the later of which Paul started performing “Something” solo on a ukulele that George had given him, only to have the rest of the band jump in right in time for the searing guitar solo.

By the time we got to the meat of the set, the crowd was completely fired up and eating out of the palm of Paul’s hand as he jumped from bass to guitar to piano and back again. As expected, the last dozen songs were the things that dreams are made of: “Band on the Run”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La,Da”, “Paperback Writer”, “Back in the U.S.S.R”, “A Day in the Life”, “Let It Be”, “Hey Jude” and “Live and Let Die” complete with pyrotechnics shooting from the stage. And that was just before the FIRST encore break. Just take a look at this setlist….all 40 songs of it:

1. Venus And Mars
2. Rock Show
3. Jet
4. All My Loving
5. Letting Go
6. Got to Get You Into My Life
7. Highway (The Fireman cover)
8. Let Me Roll It
9. Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix tease)
10. The Long and Winding Road
11. Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five
12. Let ‘Em In
13. My Love
14. I’m Looking Through You
15. Two Of Us
16. Blackbird
17. Here Today
18. Dance Tonight
19. Mrs Vandebilt
20. San Francisco Bay Blues
21. Eleanor Rigby
22. Ram On
23. Something
24. Sing the Changes (The Fireman)
25. Band on the Run
26. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
27. Back In The USSR
28. I’ve Got a Feeling
29. Paperback Writer
30. A Day In The Life > Give Peace a Chance (John Lennon)
31. Let It Be
32. Live and Let Die
33. Hey Jude

34. Day Tripper
35. Lady Madonna
36. Get Back

Encore 2:
37. Yesterday
38. Helter Skelter
39. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) >
40. The End


That’s right, when all was said and done, the band played for three hours, and with the intensity and ferocity of bands half their age. I found it hard to believe it at times that the man bouncing around the stage was in his late 60’s, or that the last time he had played San Francisco proper was in 1966 (the Beatles’ last public concert was down the road at Candlestick Park).

On a final note, this was Macca’s first show on his current U.S. tour, so if you were on the fence at all about going to see him this summer, do yourself a favor and splurge on a ticket. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a true music legend and genius performing some of his most cherished songs, and you’ll probably hear some good jokes along the way, too.

In Pictures: Paul McCartney in San Francisco, CA []
PICTURE THIS: Paul McCartney @ AT&T Park – 7/10/10 [The Owl Mag]