Paul McCartney wrapped his 50-date North American arena tour Oct. 29 at America West Arena in Phoenix, having grossed about $100 million, and left a trail of house records in his wake. "Nobody goes ou

Paul McCartney wrapped his 50-date North American arena tour Oct. 29 at America West Arena in Phoenix, having grossed about $100 million, and left a trail of house records in his wake. A critical and financial winner, the tour will likely end up the top-grossing trek of 2002, averaging about $2 million per night. "Nobody goes out [on tour] to lose money, but the main thing is the audiences are having fun," McCartney tells Billboard in the Nov. 9, 2002, issue. "In some ways, [the response] has reminded me of the early Beatles tours."

The tour comprised two legs, in the spring and fall. The spring leg, under the Driving USA banner, grossed $53.2 million from 27 shows and drew 407,183 people. The top-grossing stop was a two-night stand at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas that took in $5.6 million. The 23-date fall run, called Back in the U.S., began Sept. 21 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee and primarily played markets that were missed during the spring leg.

"This tour [was] the ideal size," McCartney says. "After the first leg, we said, 'What we need is a nice holiday,' so we took some time off; I got married [to model/activist Heather Mills June 11] and had my honeymoon -- a wonderful time."

Ticket prices were mostly in the $50-$250 range, easily the highest the artist has ever charged; McCartney last toured in 1993, when his New World stadium tour grossed more than $35 million from 30 shows, drawing more than 1 million people. Tickets in 1993 were $16.50-$32.50 in most markets. "I suppose some people would balk at [ticket prices], but no one who has come to the show wants their money back," McCartney says.

McCartney's band for the tour included Paul "Wix" Wickens on keyboards, guitarist Rusty Anderson, guitarist/bassist Brian Ray, and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. The 35-song sets tilted largely toward Beatles material but also included tunes by Wings and solo cuts. "I've played with most of these guys before, and we have a nice selection of songs," McCartney understates. "This band has really taken off."

While he has wrapped things up in North America, McCartney has not concluded his concert work for the year. The tour goes to Mexico City for concerts at Palacio de los Deportes Saturday (Nov. 2), Sunday, and Tuesday and then Japan for shows at the Tokyo Dome Nov. 11, 13, 14 and the Osaka Dome Nov. 17 and 18. McCartney is no stranger to Tokyo, the site of his notorious 1980 pot bust. "I'll be better prepared this time," he jokes. "I know how to pack now."

McCartney postponed what was to be his final concert of the year --and his only Australian show -- out of consideration for the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Bali. The Nov. 23 date in Melbourne was to be his first date in Australia in more than a decade. As previously reported, highlights from the tour will air Nov. 27 on the two-hour ABC special "Back in the U.S." A DVD and concert album of the same name will street the day before via Capitol.

There is also talk of more dates in 2003, including a run through Europe, a possible performance at Red Square in Moscow, and a tour of Australia. "The thing with the Beatles was that we were all just kids and had never done it before," McCartney says. "At Shea Stadium [in New York in 1965], we were playing through the baseball PA system. We're a little more at home now; this band is a great live band, and I'm surprised I still love doing this as much as I do."