Paul McCartney lets it all roll in 3-hour show at Joe

Susan Whitall
The Detroit News

If playing Beatles and Wings hits for three hours wasn’t enough entertainment, all it lacked was for Paul McCartney to invite the Joe Louis Arena audience out for breakfast pancakes late Wednesday night.

As he said sometime after 11 p.m., before breaking into the “Golden Slumbers” trilogy from the Abbey Road album that he ends his show with, “there’s not much else to do but go home and maybe eat something.” (We’ll have the Grand Slam.)

The former Beatle came on at about 8:35 p.m. with “Eight Days a Week,” and went back and forth between his Beatles and Wings catalogs, mostly organized around what instrument he was playing: One of a number of guitars, his famous Beatles Hofner bass, a grand piano (for “The Long and Winding Road,” of course) and a funky decorated spinet.

While some acts are all about the music, with little patter, McCartney enjoys talking to the audience, and telling stories about each song. Some of the stories, such as the genesis of “Blackbird” (he wanted to send a message of encouragement to black Americans fighting for civil rights in America) are familiar from his 2011 Comerica Park concert, and indeed, the format of the show — more than 30 short-ish songs — the band and McCartney’s own look (simple dark-blue jacket and pants over white shirt) was much the same.

The cheeky humor some of us first got to see in 1963-64 was in full effect.

“You might wonder why we keep switching around all the guitars,” he said at one point. “It’s because we’ve got them and we’re showing off.”

The crowd roared.

McCartney’s band was tight in 2011 and the ensuing four years has only made them better. The band sings behind him seamlessly, giving a Beatlesque sheen to the ’60s material, much as Brian Wilson’s backing singers replicate the Beach Boys’ rich vocal mix.

And it’s something for them to play music as different as “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” (featuring a wonderfully trippy light show) from “Sgt. Pepper,” and “Band on the Run,” from his Wings years. When Brian Ray breaks into George Harrison’s solo in “Something,” it was hard not to gasp, and the audience reacted instantly. (The rest of the band — keyboard player Paul “Wix” Wickens, guitarist Rusty Anderson and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. — also deserve mention).

“Thank you,” McCartney said to the applause. “And thank you to George for writing such a beautiful song.”

The energy on the Wings rockers such as “Live and Let Die” and “Band on the Run” was palpable, making one wonder what would happen if he did a tour of all Wings material. Why not? Drop “Uncle Albert” into the mix and step back.

It would be nice to see him stretch out a bit on some of the numbers, and maybe drop some (such as the song he wrote for a videogame, “Hope for the Future,” or perhaps “All Together Now,” the Beatles’ kids song). Then again, the show is so tightly formatted, with intricate video displays of photos and video, that it must be difficult to change anything.

The photos and video deserve a mention, as they are cleverly edited to go from still photos to film. So after looking at the famous “Band on the Run” photo for much of the song, suddenly the band members are moving, adjusting themselves, laughing.

McCartney’s voice isn’t the pure instrument of his youth, but it’s a deeper, more emotional tool now. It fits, as he’s not the feckless youth of 1963. When he sings “Here Today,” the song he wrote as a conversation he didn’t have in time, before John Lennon died, he expresses the love for his boyhood friend that would have been scoffed at when they were young.

Set list

Eight Days a Week

Save Us

Got to Get You Into My Life

One After 909

Temporary Secretary

Let Me Roll It

Paperback Writer

My Valentine

Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five

The Long and Winding Road

Maybe I’m Amazed

I’ve Just Seen a Face


We Can Work It Out

Another Day

Hope for the Future (from the Destiny videogame)

And I Love Her


Here Today


Queenie Eye

Lady Madonna

All Together Now

Lovely Rita

Eleanor Rigby

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite


Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Band on the Run

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Let It Be

Live and Let Die

Hey Jude

Encore 1

Another Girl


I Saw Her Standing There

Encore 2


Helter Skelter

Golden Slumbers

Carry That Weight

The End