“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” — The Beatles, “The End”
TULSA — Well before the end, it was clear that Sir Paul McCartney was taking and making plenty of love at the BOK Center Thursday night.
Whether he was conjuring romance with his tender new ballad “My Valentine,” pulling out all the stops on a rowdy Beatles classic like “Back in the U.S.S.R.” or sending one out to the Wings fans, baby, we were amazed. No maybe about it.
In honor of the venue’s fifth anniversary, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, 70, played two consecutive hit-filled nights
at the Tulsa arena. As with Wednesday’s concert, Thursday’s stop on the music icon’s “Out There Tour” was a sellout.
The second gig of McCartney’s two-night Tulsa stand constituted a full-on rock ‘n’ roll spectacle, an almost three-hour revelry filled with flaming pyrotechnics, kaleidoscopic lights and high-tech, psychedelic video wizardry. But more importantly, it was filled with incredible, enduring songs from the Guinness World Records-setting most successful composer and recording artist of all time.
Not only did the sprawling set list range from the wistful Beatles standard “Yesterday” to Fab Four’s proto-head-banger “Helter Skelter,” it featured them back to back. During the second encore.
McCartney took the stage with his trademark boyish grin, waving his arms and playfully pointing to the unabashedly adoring audience before strapping on the first of many guitars. Dressed in a royal blue jacket and black pants, the Brit bopped through an opening salvo of prime Beatles and Wings material: “Eight Days a Week,” “Junior’s Farm,” “All My Loving” and “Listen to What the Man Said” before stripping off the jacket to reveal a white button-down shirt underneath.
“That is the only wardrobe change of the evening,” he declared, flashing another charming smile.
“It’s great to be back in Tulsa, and I’ll tell you what else: This evening I just got made an honorary Okie. All right.”
Music and charm seemed to flow out of Macca with equal ease and in equal measure: The Wings cut “Let Me Roll It” led into an instrumental version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” which in turn led into an enthralling story about the late guitarist’s wild cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that got his guitar so out of tune even Eric Clapton wouldn’t even try to sort it out.
McCartney topped that by strapping on the guitar he played on the original recording of one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs, “Paperback Writer,” and racing through a rendition even more raucous than the album cut. McCartney has been playing with the same band — Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens (keyboards), Rusty Anderson (guitar), Abe Laboriel Jr. (drums) and Brian Ray (bass/guitar) — for more than a decade, and their chemistry is outmatched by only their musicianship.
When the superstar sat at his grand piano for the first time — but thankfully, not the last — the band smoothly accompanied him in another fascinating career-spanning series: “My Valentine,” “The Long and Winding Road” and “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Pounding the keys like a masterful madman on “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” wasn’t enough for the energetic Sir Paul, who boogied on the bench throughout the number and then did a little victory dance after. He had to retuck his shirt when he switched back to guitar for the moody “Things We Said Today,” the fan favorite “We Can Work It Out,” the melancholy “Another Day” and the dreamy “And I Love Her.”
“One of the things that we love about these shows is the range of ages we see. You see people my age or even older. And then you see their kids and their kids again. It’s really cool,” McCartney said.
Even concertgoers who weren’t around during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement could appreciate his gorgeously stripped-down rendition of “Blackbird.” The performance proved Sir Paul didn’t need anything more than his acoustic guitar and supple voice to captivate the crowd, but he still performed the touching anthem, as well as “Here Today,” his emotional tribute to the late John Lennon, on a special part of the stage that slowly rose high above the audience.
“You know, sometimes you never get to say things to people and you don’t see them and they pass away,” he said. “So the next time you want to say something, say it.”
First, he gave the crowd more to sing, taking his place behind a colorfully painted upright piano for the show-tune-inspired “Your Mother Should Know” and the thunderous “Lady Madonna,” then switching back to guitar for the light-hearted ditty “All Together Now.” He and his fellow axmen couldn’t resist bouncing enthusiastically through the galloping “Mrs. Vanderbilt.”
“This is a song we haven’t done in many a year … so this is a first for Oklahoma,” said McCartney, who had his sleeves rolled up by the time he launched into a particularly jaunty version of “Lovely Rita.” Another “Sgt Pepper” album track getting its first live performance in the Sooner State, the surreal “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” came with an appropriately dizzying laser show.
McCartney dedicated his heartfelt piano ode “Let It Be” to those affected by last week’s deadly and devastating Oklahoma tornadoes and earned an appreciative standing ovation for the gesture.
The former Beatle stuck with the familiar arrangements for most of his selections, but he started his rendition of
“Something” with a ukulele solo as a tribute to his late bandmate George Harrison, who loved the Hawaiian instrument. Without a classical string ensemble, “Eleanor Rigby” naturally sounded different, but thanks to McCartney’s impassioned delivery, it was actually even more resonant live.
“There’s a bit of this next song we’d like you to sing along with. So I’ll say ‘OK, now you,’ and then it’s up to you,” McCartney said, as if he needed to invite fans to sing along with the ridiculously infectious “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”
Still, the sing-along invitation seemed to embolden the crowd to participate even more enthusiastically with “Band on the Run” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” and by the time plumes of flame and bursts of fireworks exploded onstage for “Live and Let Die,” the fans were in a full-blown frenzy. When Macca launched into his beloved Beatles ballad “Hey Jude,” it was clear that his devotees would keep “nah-nah-nah”-ing as long as he was willing to let them.
After McCartney and Co. took their bows, the crowd put up such an ear-numbing racket that the superstar soon declared “we had to come back” and returned to the stage waving a large Oklahoma flag. The Beatles classic “Day Tripper” and Wings ditty “Hi, Hi, Hi” were mere warm-ups for the explosive “I Saw Her Standing There,” which got everyone from grandparents to 30-something couples and even a few stony-faced teenage boys dancing along.
Again, McCartney and his cohorts exited the stage but were lured back by the crowd’s persistent cheers.
“You have been a fantastic crowd here tonight in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but there does come a time when we gotta go home … and there comes a time when you gotta go home, too,” the rocker cautioned the crowd after delivering the weirdly wonderful combo of “Yesterday” and “Helter Skelter.”
“We’ve had a great deal of fun tonight.”
Fortunately, he and the band had close to 10 minutes worth of fun left in them, finishing the show with the sweeping and satisfying Beatles triple-header “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.”
After the parting wisdom “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make,” McCartney had one more even more uplifting message to share: “I’ll tell what, we’ll see you next time.”
The big blast of confetti at the finale seemed superfluous compared to the prospect of another visit from Sir Paul.
See the set list for Thursday’s Tulsa show after the break.
Paul McCartney set list, May 30, 2013, Tulsa’s BOK Center
“Eight Days a Week”
(The Beatles song)
“All My Loving”
“Listen to What the Man Said”
“Let Me Roll It” / “Foxy Lady”
(Wings / Jimi Hendrix cover)
“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”
“The Long and Winding Road”
“Maybe I’m Amazed”
“Things We Said Today”
“We Can Work It Out”
“And I Love Her”
“Your Mother Should Know”
“All Together Now”
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
“Band on the Run”
“Back in the U.S.S.R.”
“Let It Be”
“Live and Let Die”
“Hi, Hi, Hi”
“I Saw Her Standing There”
“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End”