When tickets went on sale for Paul McCartney's first show in Kansas City in more than 17 years, the ticket prices -- as high as $250 -- made even some hard-core Beatles fans mutter and stew. Saturday night during his show at the Sprint Center, McCartney took some of the sting out of that sticker shock with some impressive numbers of his own.
The show lasted about 12 minutes shy of three hours. The setlist comprised more than three dozen songs and touched many phases of his Beatles, Wings and solo careers. McCartney, who turned 68 in June, sang every one of those songs in a voice that started off strong and did not falter all night.
He left the stage only briefly before each encore. He also played an array of instruments -- bass, guitar (lead and rhythm), ukulele, mandolin, piano -- and acted like a cheerleader, master of ceremonies and earnest curator of the music that made him a legend.
Of the 15,000-plus who attended this show, most, I'm assuming, will put it down as one of their favorite shows ever, and not because they're rationalizing the ticket price. It was one of those shows -- certainly the year's best, certainly among the best ever at the Sprint Center and probably among anyone's shows of a lifetime. Expectations were high coming in; he exceeded them.
He opened with some classic Wings, "Venus and Mars/Rock Show" and then "Jet," from the "Band on the Run" album. Then came "All My Loving," the first of 23 Beatles songs. For the first third of the show, he shuffled them among his post-Beatle catalog, songs like "Highway" from his "Fireman" album and "Let Me Roll It," which he appended with "Foxy Lady" as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
McCartney was all-business most of the night, but he sprinkled some light chit-chat and anecdotes into his performance. He talked about Hendrix performing live "Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" only days after the album had been released. He told the crowd he played "Paperback Writer" with the same guitar he used to record it, an Epiphone Casino. He kept saying how glad he was to be in Kansas (he was pardoned for that), but he also grunted a few lines of "Kansas City," the one from the musical "Oklahoma!"
He did not acknowledge Ringo Starr but he paid tribute to the Beatles who have passed on, first with "Here Today," a hymn for John Lennon. A few songs later, for George Harrison, he played a version of "Something" that started off as a jaunty ukelele number (Harrison was a master of the uke, he said), but turned quickly into something heavier and more like the original. All the while, black-and-white images of Harrison appeared on the video screen behind McCartney and the band. Later, he would end "A Day In The Life" with several choruses of "Give Peace a Chance."
He brought a four-piece band that added lots of bright, clean harmonies and played the best-known parts of the best-known songs close to the ways everyone knows them. The video screens showed mostly stage and crowd shots. During "Blackbird," the main screen shows an image of a tree in white silhouette, and a moon descended from above. During "Live and Let Die," flashpots and fireworks detonated from the foot of the stage.
The show, which plateaued a bit during the first hour, picked up considerable steam in the second, starting with "My Love," then a version of "I've Just Seen a Face" that had some Buck Owens flavor. When the crowd gave that one a big ovation, McCartney dubbed this "cowboy country."
He would toss in a couple recent numbers, like the frothy ditty "Dance Tonight," and then another "Fireman" song, the joyous "Sing the Changes," in which he proved he can out-anthem Springsteen and Bon Jovi combined.
The show took off from there, to another level of energy and connection between him, his band and the crowd. The mood was infectious. When he sang "Lady Madonna" and then "Get Back" during the first encore, a couple of KCMO police officers watching from the back of the lower level smiled and bobbed their heads gently.
It wasn't just the fail-proof pure-gold set list, songs that carry so much sentiment and so many memories -- including the dazzling performance of "Paperback Writer." It was the energy coming off the stage, most of it from a guy who seemed to be getting as much joy and satisfaction out of the night as everyone else. His stamina was astounding. So was his ability to change gears, dramatically and seamlessly. Like going from the warm and honeyed version of "Yesterday" to the primal screaming of "Helter Skelter." Or from "Let It Be" to "Live and Let Die" and then "Hey Jude," which ignited the loudest sing-along of the night.
He ended the evening with the reprise version of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" --- "we're sorry but it's time to go" -- then "The End" from "Abbey Road," which includes one of his most famous lyrics, the one about getting as much love out of life as you put into io it.
It was the perfect close to a show that will be enshrined by most who saw it and were stirred into a deep and warm sentimental state. In the end, maybe money can't buy you love, but it can sure buy you three unforgettable hours of nostalgia and joy.
Setlist: Venus and Mars/Rock Show; Jet; All My Loving; Letting Go; Drive My Car; Highway; Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady; The Long and Winding Road; Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five; Let 'Em In; My Love; I've Just Seen A Face; And I Love Her; Blackbird; Here Today; Dance Tonight; Mrs. Vanderbilt; Eleanor Rigby; Something; Sing the Changes; Band on the Run; Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da; Back in the USSR; I Got A Feeling; Paperback Writer; A Day In The Life/Give Peace A Chance; Let It Be; Live and Let Die; Hey Jude. Encores: Day Tripper; Lady Madonna; Get Back; Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)/The End.
| Timothy Finn, The Star