Concert Review: Paul McCartney, August 17, BOK Center, Tulsa
Paul McCartney does not sell out stadiums simply because he’s Paul McCartney. Sure, he could roll out a little over an hour’s worth of effort and generations of fans would be perfectly happy hearing a handful of Beatles classics and standout solo hits from his 50-year career, then go home and tell their friends and family that they had a nice, pleasant time with a legend. Instead, McCartney put his seemingly endless reservoir of energy to work ensuring that no one will forget the three hours they spent with him Monday night at Tulsa’s BOK Center, a concert that celebrated the venue’s first anniversary.
Beginning with “Drive My Car,” McCartney tirelessly powered through 34 songs with Beatles classics outnumbering solo tracks roughly two to one, but he delivered all his songs at full-tilt energy, whether it was last year’s “Highway” or “Eleanor Rigby” from 43 years ago. After recalling his recent driving tour of Route 66, which took him through Oklahoma, he paused in front of the 20,000-strong crowd “to take a moment to drink it all in.” Then, as he performed “The Long and Winding Road,” photos taken on “the mother road” flashed on the fiber-optic screen behind his band.
McCartney filled the set with historical grace notes, talking about how he wrote “Blackbird” during the Civil Rights Movement, “imagining a black girl going through all that,” and offering poignant tributes to his late wife Linda (“My Love” from 1972′s “Red Rose Speedway”) and fellow Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison. He began Harrison’s “Something” on ukelele, an instrument both men loved, then expandedthe song to its full “Abbey Road” arrangement as rare photos of Harrison flashed on the screen. When he played Lennon’s “A Day in the Life,” he effortlessly segued into his former songwriting partner’s protest hit, “Give Peace a Chance.”
Early in the set, McCartney offered a cheeky bridge from the distant past to the digital future, performing 1966′s “Got to Get You Into My Life” as computer-generated Beatles from the upcoming “Rock Band” video game installment played in the background. And he clearly enjoyed opening his archival footage to his fans: during the title track from “Band on the Run,” he played footage taken during that 1973 album’s cover shoot, including shots of James Coburn and Christopher Lee mugging for the camera.
While McCartney left out some key classics he played during his 2002 show in Oklahoma City, it was hard to be disappointed by the massive set list as his band, featuring guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., masterfully recreated the classic arrangements on “Paperback Writer,” “Hey Jude” and “Live and Let Die,” which was accompanied by massive flames and fireworks rising from the stage.
At 67, McCartney still takes few breaks during concerts. After leaving the stage following his main set, the band returned for wall-to-wall Beatles classics: “Day Tripper,” “Lady Madonna,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Yesterday,” an incendiary “Helter Skelter,” “Get Back,” and a medley combining the reprise from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “The End” from “Abbey Road.” He showed no sign of fatigue after the lengthy show, having given Tulsa an extraordinary survey of what is arguably the greatest songwriting career in rock ‘n’ roll history.
1. Drive My Car
3. Only Mama Knows
4. Flaming Pie
5. Got To Get You Into My Life
6. Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady
8. The Long and Winding Road
9. My Love
11. Here Today
12. Dance Tonight
13. Calico Skies
14. Mrs Vanderbilt
15. Eleanor Rigby
16. Sing the Changes
17. Band on the Run
18. Back in the U.S.S.R.
19. I’m Down
21. I’ve Got a Feeling
22. Paperback Writer
23. A Day in the Life / Give Peace A Chance
24. Let It Be
25. Live and Let Die
26. Hey Jude
27. Day Tripper
28. Lady Madonna
29. I Saw Her Standing There
31. Helter Skelter
32. Get Back
33. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
34. The End
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