Paul McCartney throws a party at Utah's ESA
Paul McCartney can play the bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano and even the ukulele.
However, as he demonstrated in a nearly sold-out EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday night, the instrument Sir Paul plays most expertly and impressively is the audience.
McCartney could make the audience cheer, dance, jump in surprise, laugh, occasionally cry and frequently sing. Mostly, he made them have fun.
"Hey, Salt Lake City!" McCartney said the first time he spoke to the audience. "I have a feeling we're going to have a bit of a party here tonight."
The Salt Lake City stop on his "Out There" tour spanned McCartney's 50-year-plus songwriting and performance repertoire as a Beatle, as a member of Wings and as a solo artist supporting his most recent album, "New" and an astonishing range of musical styles, from gentle ballads to hard rock.
McCartney, 72, and his four-man backing band opened with two bouncy songs that span his professional life: The Beatles classic "Eight Days a Week" and the song "Save Us" (off of "New").
The whole show, 37 songs over nearly three hours, went on like that, with McCartney jumping decades of his songbook with a youthful energy that belied his years.
McCartney also shifted moods rapidly and smoothly. A rocking "Back in the USSR" was followed by the soaring grace of "Let It Be," and then with the propulsive force of the James Bond theme "Live and Let Die" which was accompanied by a fiery pyrotechnic show that blew the audience away.
The stage was backed by a massive video wall that displayed colorful animation, archival photos, and even a film of actors Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp speaking in sign language (for "My Valentine," a song McCartney wrote for his wife, Nancy Shevell).
The show was populated by ghosts. Early on, McCartney ended a Wings song, "Let Me Roll It," with some licks of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" which prompted a story about how The Beatles met the guitarist, and how Hendrix performed covers from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" only two days after the album came out.
Two of the concert's most touching moments involved tributes to his late Beatles bandmates: "Here Today," his 1982 song written to John Lennon as "a conversation we never got to have"; and playing ukulele to begin a cover of George Harrison's song "Something." Also moving was the performance of "Maybe I'm Amazed," which was written by McCartney for his first wife, Linda, who died in 1998.
The main set ended with "Hey Jude," in which McCartney orchestrated a joyous audience sing-along to the classic "na na na" extended chorus. It was the second "official" sing-along of the night, the first being "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," though many audience members couldn't help themselves from joining in to their favorites.
McCartney powered through two encores that had the audience screaming and on their feet. The capper in the second encore was a plaintive reading of "Yesterday," followed by a thrashing version of "Helter Skelter," and concluding with The Beatles' final medley of "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and (appropriately) "The End." Only then did McCartney finally let his audience go, spent but exhilarated, as he promised, "We'll see you next time."
McCartney's set list
"Eight Days a Week"
"All My Loving"
"Listen to What the Man Said"
"Let Me Roll It" / "Foxy Lady"
"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"
"And I Love Her"
"All Together Now"
"Everybody Out There"
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
"Band on the Run"
"Back in the USSR"
"Let It Be"
"Live and Let Die"
"Hi, Hi, Hi"
"Golden Slumbers" / "Carry That Weight" / "The End" (medley)