Prolific Beatle Flies Solo at SF's AT&T Park

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After a conspicuous absence from San Francisco going on 44 years, Sir Paul McCartney returned with a bang. Backed by an extremely talented band with some of the world's best studio musicians, McCartney put on a hell of a show for some 40,000 fans at AT&T Park.

It didn't matter that the show began an hour late, which is typical of Macca - as McCartney's diehard fans affectionately call him. He immediately warmed up the crowd with a strong trio of songs: "Venus and Mars" and "Rock Show," followed by "Jet." This is the same opening McCartney played during his 1976 Wings Over America tour. But this flash to the past wasn't a bad thing. A concert couldn't possibly begin on a better note.

McCartney energized his audience with enthusiastic renditions of songs from throughout his career. During the first half of his set, he delved deep into his 1973 Wings album Band on the Run, which featured some of the show's strongest moments. But McCartney also reminded the audience that his creative output hasn't come close to running out by playing material from his current, electronic-music side project, the Fireman. The rollicking track "Highway" paired a catchy beat with unusually biting lyrics that critiqued McCartney's ex-wife, Heather Mills.

Unfortunately, McCartney, who is now 68, doesn't have the singing range he used to have. This limitation was evident on a vocally challenging track like "Got to Get You Into My Life." The audience didn't seem to mind though, since McCartney proved on other songs that his voice is still more powerful than most singers half his age. On "Letting Go," his voice took a turn for the beautifully ragged, making for an unforgettable part of his 40-song set.

Between songs, McCartney took the time to connect with his audience. After playing a cover of "San Francisco Bay Blues," he slyly commented: "OK, you have to throw that one in!" He noticed a fan carrying a sign that read: "I saw you in San Francisco in 1966. Remember me?" Paul raised his eyebrows. "Remember you? 'Course I remember you!"

That McCartney was able to form such a strong connection with his audience is a testament to his impressive skills as a performer. AT&T Park is a huge venue, and even from third base, Sir Paul looked to be no more than two inches tall. The merely passable acoustics sometimes reduced McCartney's signature, violin-shaped Hofner bass to a muffle. Fortunately, two screens flanking the stage provided much-needed detail of the band members.

These shortcomings were soon forgotten as McCartney plowed further into his classic material from the Beatles. While he missed an opportunity to pare down "The Long and Winding Road," which still retains Phil Spector hallmarks like ostentatious choruses and orchestras, he offered a fresh take on "I've Got a Feeling," with excellent guitar work and an extended jam session.

At 11 p.m., a friend told me, "Most 68-year-olds would be asleep by now." Two more encores followed, and by the finale, Sir Paul had been playing for three hours. He finished with a fantastic version of "The End," in which he and fellow guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray traded guitar solos for five minutes. After that remarkable send-off, a young boy in the audience told his parents, "I want to listen to Beatles songs all day now." Rarely can an artist kindle that level of enthusiasm in people of all ages. Hopefully McCartney will decide to revisit San Francisco soon - ideally in fewer than 44 years.

Wait a half-century for Paul's return with Max at [email protected]

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