By Chris Tuite
SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — For an artist like Paul McCartney, the hardest thing about playing shows these days must be picking the setlist.
With the exception of the must play trio of songs — “Let it Be,” “Live and Let Die” and “Hey Jude” — the massive Beatles, Wings and his solo catalog allows for a great deal of variation and improvisation. As expected, McCartney and his band executed these three songs to perfection in San Jose last night.
Just before the encore, he brought everyone together with a timeless rendition of “Let if Be,” shook everyone out of their comfort zone with walls of pyro and loud explosions at the apex of “Live and Let Die” and then reeled everyone back in during the opening seconds of “Hey Jude” like a magician toying with the audience’s emotions. “Hey Jude” has a way of tugging at your heartstrings like few songs that have even been composed can do as thousands of people emotionally sing along to the chorus conducted by Sir Paul.
Last night’s setlist was crafted with a great variety of the catalog, including the set opening favorite “A Hard Day’s Night.” The first half of the set was scattered with Beatles hits including “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “Love Me Do,” and “Got to Get You Into My Life” and heavy on Wings and solo songs. The first highlight came midway as Paul started into “Blackbird” solo on a platform lit by a single spotlight. The platform slowly ascended above the crowd as it lit up with a video silhouette of a blackbird flying across the sky.
The show was full of classic stories told by Paul including seeing Jimi Hendrix for the first time alongside Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton in England, tales about John Lennon and George Harrison and early snippets from his pre-Beatles days with The Quarrymen.
As Paul reminisced about spending time in George’s house and jamming on ukuleles together, he grabbed one and started into a stripped down version of “Something,” which was some of George’s finest writing. As the song picked up and the wailing guitar solo began, the lights brightened up and the band joined the number as Paul walked back and grabbed his acoustic guitar. This provided a powerful effect and was the perfect tribute to George as he turned to the screens behind him displaying a large photo of the late Harrison and gave him a thumbs up.
Throughout the career-spanning, 3-hour set, Paul stopped to acknowledge some signs among the crowd including one girl near the front dressed in a walrus costume whose sign read “I sold my Mini Cooper for this ticket.” Much to her amazement, Paul brought her and her friend onstage to give him a hug after they finished “Birthday” to begin the encore.
Paul chatted with them for a moment and the girl dressed in the walrus costume asked him to sign her foot which she explained was going to have made into a tattoo. Paul obliged with a smile and granted their request to dance onstage next to him for the next two numbers, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and a fierce version of “Helter Skelter.”
The band concluded with the fitting trio of melding songs, “Golden Slumbers,”“Carry That Weight,” and “The End” with Paul on piano as they waved and walked off the stage for a final time. Classic rock is entering the final gasps of its victory lap and we are so fortunate that Sir Paul is still around to show us to the finish line.