Paul McCartney had a feeling deep inside about the capacity crowd he was playing to at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on Sunday night, and he didn’t keep it to himself for very long. “We’re going to have a bit of a party here tonight,” he told the crowd early on, pausing at the lip of the stage while the audience roared its abject approval of the top-drawer music it was hearing from the man and his five-piece band. “This is so cool,” the legendary songwriter said with a smile. “I’m going to take a moment to drink this all in.”
It was a well-deserved basking. During an essentially nonstop 2-hour, 40-minute set jam-packed with 38 songs characterized as being “old, new, and in-between” material, Sir Paul was in top form, delivering a relentlessly upbeat set that ran the gamut from the first song he ever wrote and recorded in 1958 with the Beatles precursor The Quarrymen (“In Spite of All the Danger”), long lauded Beatles perennials (“We Can Work It Out”), Wings-era gut-rock (“Band on the Run”), recent solo work (the quite trippy “Queenie Eye”), and even his 2015 collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West (“FourFiveSeconds”).
McCartney’s vocals were quite strong throughout the night. Although he couldn’t quite hit all of the Hi, Hi, Hi notes like he used to, his ace band — guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. — ably assisted in filling in the harmonies. Macca (as he’s also nicknamed) pulled off a fine falsetto with the line, “who could ever help me,” from “Maybe I’m Amazed,” his first post-Beatles solo single from 1970 that he dedicated to his late first wife, Linda McCartney.
He also feted his current wife, Nancy Shevell — whom he was more than pleased to point out was herself “a Jersey girl” (she’s from Edison) — with the touching ballad, “My Valentine.” Sir Paul also showed his mastery of every instrument he put his hands on, from that vintage lefty Hofner bass (“Can’t Buy Me Love”) to searing electric guitar (bristling lead work on “Let Me Roll It,” complete with a “Foxy Lady” tribute jam to Jimi Hendrix serving as its coda), acoustic guitar (a purely solo turn on the always heartfelt “Blackbird,” while a giant platform elevated him many feet above center stage), ukulele (while performing the George Harrison-penned “Something” as a tribute to the late Beatle) and, of course, piano (on the Wings classic “Live and Let Die,” dramatically punctuated with literal balls of fire shooting skyward during the frenzied choruses).
You could essentially play setlist roulette and land on a winner every time, whether it be the calliope-driven of-era psychedelia of the Sgt. Pepper gem “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” to the ahead-of- its-time electronic burbling of the cult-favorite deep cut “Temporary Secretary” (from 1980’s McCartney II) to the feel-good audience-pleaser “Hey Jude,” which featured Macca leading various factions of the deeply engaged MetLife audience in singing the song’s infamous “Na Na Na, Na-Na- Na-Naaaa” chorus as loud as I’ve ever heard at a stadium show. (Many people in the floor sections were shown on the big screen holding up pink and/or white signs with the two-letter word emblazoned on them.)
All throughout the set, McCartney delivered on the promise of the tour’s billing as being a “One on One” event by making the stadium setting often feel like an intimate affair, with his many personalized stories — like the time Jimi Hendrix tried to make Eric Clapton tune his guitar for him — acting as warm preambles to many of the evening’s highlights. And on Sunday night at MetLife, the once and forever Beatle further cemented his reputation as being the consummate performer of his generation, now going on six decades and counting. We love you, Sir Paul — yeah yeah yeah.
Mike Mettler (@MikeMettler), a.k.a. The SoundBard, is the weekly Audiophile columnist for Digital Trends, the music editor of Sound & Vision, and is currently writing the authorized biography of the band Styx. In his spare time, he dreams of owning a turquoise 1967 fastback Mustang, just like the one his parents owned while he was growing up. (This would mean cleaning out his garage, but that’s a Jersey resident’s conundrum for another time.)
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