Liverpool is the place that usually comes to mind when Paul McCartney’s name is mentioned, but he’s also inextricably linked to Flushing, Queens — the home of Shea Stadium (where he and the Beatles played the first gig at a major outdoor stadium and where he joined Billy Joel for the venue’s last show) as well as the spanking new Citi Field, which he’s in the midst of christening as a concert site.
From the first notes played on Friday — the intro to a surprisingly fierce version of “Drive My Car” — it was clear that the new stadium is far superior to its predecessor as a conduit for music, with sound coming through crisp and clear even on acoustic numbers. McCartney himself alluded to the fact, jokingly noting that the Beatles’ Shea perf was all but drowned out by the audience’s screams.
Holding court for more than 2½ hours, McCartney evinced terrific energy — with no “for his age” caveat — and the sort of spot-on vocal acuity that played up the rawness of “I’m Down” as well as the delicacy of “My Love” (a song he dedicated to his late wife Linda, a Gotham native).
Perf was rife with such touches — McCartney performed “Something” on a ukulele bequeathed to him by deceased bandmate George Harrison and referenced John Lennon in the tender-but-treacly “Here Today” — and while nostalgia did dominate the proceedings, there were a few forays into (no pun intended) left field. Most interesting among the obscurities were a gently percolating “Sing the Changes” — a song from Macca’s Fireman alter-ego and a sharp take on the Band on the Run deep-cut “Mrs. Vandebilt.” Whispers about potential guest appearances abounded pre-show, and one did materialize during the first encore — in the form of Billy Joel, who pounded the piano and harmonized, after a fashion, on “I Saw Her Standing There.”
McCartney’s Citi run will no doubt be seen as a financial success — all three shows sold out quickly, although brokers were asking face value or below as show days approached. More importantly, the shows proved an artistic success as well — an affirmation that McCartney still has that amorphous combination of star quality and regular-guy charm that’s buoyed him all these years.
McCartney completes his Citi Field run Tuesday night.