By Wesley Orser
Who said rock ‘n’ roll was a young person’s game only?
The 75-year old music legend and former member of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, showed no signs of slowing down as he wowed audiences with a two-night gig at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 26 and 27.
The prized songwriter marathoned his way through a three-hour set list, consisting of 40 songs from a decades-spanning catalog.
Just as his encore presentation was seeming to wind down on the first night, McCartney welcomed a surprise guest onto the stage: fellow songwriter and Long Island resident, Billy Joel. The crowd roared as the two musicians jammed together on two Beatles classics, “Get Back” and “Birthday.”
With a treasure trove of hits to choose from, plenty of Beatles favorites were played from the early hits (“A Hard Day’s Night,” “All My Loving” and “We Can Work It Out”) to the studio years (“Lady Madonna,” “A Day in the Life” and “Helter Skelter”). He also had plenty to share from both his Wings era and solo career, including “Jet,” “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Band on the Run.”
Although McCartney played most songs with his iconic Hofner bass in hand, he brought out the acoustic guitar for stirring renditions of his softer tunes including “Blackbird,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yesterday.”
He also settled in front of the piano for his closing songs beginning with “Let It Be,” set the stage literally on fire during the James Bond theme “Live and Let Die” and encouraged the crowd to join in on the sing-along anthem “Hey Jude.”
McCartney has not forgotten the contributions of his former Beatles bandmates for their shared success, paying homage to the late John Lennon and George Harrison with two moving tributes.
Halfway through the show, McCartney played the tender “Here Today,” written for Lennon a year after his death. Later on, he performed one of Harrison’s most celebrated compositions, “Something.” McCartney opened his rendition by playing the ukulele, one of Harrison’s favorite instruments.
McCartney seemed to enjoy telling stories to the crowd just as much as playing the music itself, including telling the audience how the inspiration for writing “Blackbird” was to offer hope to those suffering in the South in the midst of the civil rights movement. He also explained how impressed he was when Jimi Hendrix learned how to play “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” for a live audience in 1967, only three days after it had been released.
Despite the many classics to choose from, McCartney enjoyed sneaking some deep tracks and recent material into the set list as well. These included going as far back to his pre-Beatles days by performing the Quarrymen’s “In Spite of All the Danger” and going as recent as his “FourFiveSeconds,” his collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna.
McCartney has been playing his work at countless concerts for decades on end. Unlike so many of his peers that have come and gone, however, the novelty has never worn off. The crowd’s enthusiasm is a testament to the timelessness of his greatest work, and the closest any fan can come today to a true Beatles experience.