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Concert Reviews:
Paul McCartney carries that weight, and then some, at Joe Louis Arena

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015

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DETROIT -- "Hey Detroit! We're gonna have a ball here tonight," an exuberant Paul McCartney told the sold-out crowd in greeting on Wednesday night, Oct. 21, at Joe Louis Arena.

Truer words have seldom been spoken.

Then again, you'd have to work hard to NOT have a good time when McCartney and his band take the stage these days. After all, the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, bona fide pop culture icon and, oh yeah, a Knight of the British Empire (so it's SIR Paul to you) only has one of the world's most popular song catalogs to draw from -- i.e., the Beatles. And he hasn't exactly slacked off since starting his solo career in 1970.

There's plenty of first-rate music to draw from, in other words, and that allowed McCartney to make his nearly three-hour show -- one of just 10 North American dates on his itinerary this year -- both intriguing and crowd-pleasing, and to balance those potentially polarized agendas of giving the fans what they wanted -- i.e., all Beatles, all the time (OK, maybe with some Wings thrown in) -- and still showing that he's an active and vital music maker (if, quite audibly, not quite the singer he once was) at the age of 73 and in the sixth decade of his career.

Over the course of whopping 41 songs, McCartney, making his first Detroit visit since the summer of 2011, was able to satisfy both sides of that equation, with plenty of help from the sublime arrangements by his crack band, superior sound quality and a dazzling visual display that featured plenty of eye candy on three massive screens, lasers and a full concert's worth of pyrotechnics during the bombastic "Live and Let Die."

Even Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder braved the state's controversial roadways to sit in Joe Louis' lower bowl and sway along to "Hey Jude" with everybody else -- still one of the live music world's most stirring moments of communal euphoria.

McCartney fed the crowd's Beatles appetite with 27 of the night's songs, bolstering a formidable selection of chart-toppers -- Eight Days a Week," "Paperback Writer,m" "Lady Madonna," "Something" (a tribute to George Harrison featuring McCartney playing a ukulele his late bandmate gave him), "Let It Be," "The Long and Winding Road" and wonderfully delivered renditions of "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yesterday" -- with deeper tracks such as "One After 909," "All Together Now," "Lovely Rita," "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and "Another Girl."

"Birthday" also made an appearance during the encore, after which McCartney brought onstage a sign-bearing young woman celebrating her 17th birthday (a nice segue into "I Saw Her Standing There") and a newlywed couple. McCartney honored the request on the latter's sign to Sign The Bride, inking his signature on her right shoulder.

McCartney and comany touched on Wings world too via "Let Me Roll It" (followed by a quick jam on the Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Foxey Lady"), "Nineteen Hundred and Eight-Five" and "Band on the Run," and he sampled his solo career with favorites such as "Maybe I'm Amazed" and his elegy to the late John Lennon, "Here Today," along with three songs from 2013's "New" album. He dedicated "My Valentine" from his pop standards set"Kisses on the Bottom" to his wife Nancy Shevell, who he said was in attendance, and played both his contribution to the video game "Destiny" ("Hope For the Future") and a stripped-down version of "FourFiveSeconds," this year's collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna.

The scope of the show was nearly dizzying, but McCartney -- who alternated between bass, piano and guitar throughout the night -- kept things tempered with a few well-chosen stories but not much extraneous between-song chatter. There were no tributes to Motown as there were during the 2011 show at Comerica Park, but McCartney made sure to show off the Red Wings logo sticker on his acoustic guitar before playing "Yesterday."

Best of all, McCartney ended the night, amidst a flurry of confetti, by promising the Joe Louis crowd that, "We'll see you next time." That can't come soon enough.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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