Concert review: Paul McCartney at T-Mobile Arena (June 28)

Paul McCartney, shown here earlier in the tour, played two shows at T-Mobile Arena June 28 and 29.

Four stars

Paul McCartney June 28, T-Mobile Arena

Nearing the end of his Freshen Up world tour, the legendary Paul McCartney kicked off back-to-back Vegas shows Friday at T-Mobile Arena with energy and gusto typically reserved for folks half his age. Given that the 77-year-old former Beatle has been on road—on and off—since September 2018, McCartney’s three-hour performance, which included a surprise cameo at the end, felt even more awe-inspiring.

McCartney and his band opened with Beatles classic “A Hard Day’s Night.” “Good evening, Las Vegas!” Paul said, greeting the crowd of mostly tourists. “I’m already getting a feeling we’re gonna have some fun in this place.”

From there, he ping-ponged between Beatles and Wings favorites, including a swampy, soulful rendition of Venus and Mars cut “Letting Go,” driven by McCartney’s prowling bass and a three-piece horn section that appeared in a spotlight in one of the arena’s aisles. The singer and bassist also carved out plenty of space for some newer numbers from latest solo record Egypt Station, like “Who Cares,” a song he said he wrote about bullying. “I know there’s a lot of it [that] goes on this days and you probably know someone who’s been bullied, maybe you’ve been bullied yourself … If you’ve been bullied, who cares? I do.”

One of the newer songs, “Come on to Me,” was as cringe-worthy as if your own wacky grandpa delivered its lyrics about shagging. As per usual, McCartney is his best when he isn’t attempting to keep up with the times or write another “I Want to Hold Your Hand” some 50 years later.

The group then segued into Band on the Run Wings cut “Let Me Roll It,” featuring McCartney on guitar, while guitarist Brian Ray played bass and Rusty Anderson played the central, electrifying riff.

McCartney frequently stopped to banter with the crowd and share old Beatles’ stories. But it wouldn’t be a Paul show without some cheesy, wacky moments, like a video montage of Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp signing the lyrics to “My Valentine.”

“Queenie Eye” again synced with a video featuring Johnny Depp, among other A-list celebs like Kate Moss, Meryl Streep and Sean Penn, all dancing awkwardly inside a recording studio.

It didn’t seem to matter, though. McCartney has rarely sounded better than during his powerful rendition of “Maybe, I’m Amazed.” Seated at a grand piano, he hit every high note and belted every howl and scream as the a moving montage rolled old photos of the famous father and his young daughters.

And while it’s incredible to witness a legend of McCartney’s stature in the flesh, it’s even more bewildering to see just how tuned in to the real world he seems to be. For every song or video that misses the mark slightly—it isn’t easy to stay current, even for a Beatle—McCartney delivers true zeal and integrity. A gut-wrenching, acoustic version of “Here Today” was dedicated to John Lennon; a montage of female athletes and mothers from all over the world played during “Lady Madonna.” Even in his life of luxury, he’s paying attention.

Guitarists Anderson and Ray are truly masters of their instruments, and their vocal harmonies—paired with wily drumming from Abe Laboriel Jr.—enriched every song, especially during the frenetic “Live and Let Die.” The group ushered in all the big guns for the onetime James Bond theme song, including fire blasts, explosions and indoor fireworks.

And while the setlists have largely remained the same throughout the Freshen Up tour, Vegas got something no one else has: a surprise cameo by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler—a Park MGM resident performer—during encore cut “Helter Skelter.” Everything’s over the top in Vegas, even Paul McCartney.

The evening’s most memorable show of solidarity also came during the encore, when McCartney and his bandmates arrived onstage waving giant flags, including the LGBT Pride flag.

The headliner ended the three-hour, 38-song set with his famous Abbey Road medley: “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “In the End.” After 35 shows, seven months and four continents, there’s simply no slowing down Paul McCartney—and that’s something for which we should all be grateful.

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