Nearly 49 years after The Beatles became the first pop artist to play the Nippon Budokan, Paul McCartney returned to the hallowed venue Tuesday as a solo act. It was for the last show of the Japan leg of his Out There tour. The Japan leg was made up of a stop at the 40,000-seat Kyocera Dome in Osaka, three nights at the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome and a final gig at the Budokan, which seats around 14,000 for concerts.
The hall was originally built to house the judo competition at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, and when a series of concerts by the Beatles for June and July 1966 was announced, there was stiff opposition from right-wingers to a Western pop act defiling the holy judo and karate arena (“Budokan” means “martial arts hall” in Japanese). The celebrated Sir Paul raised the ire of the authorities again 35 years ago: Japanese immigration officials detained him for 10 days after marijuana was found in his possession when entering the country in 1980.
The current Japan shows are makeup concerts for a tour in November of last year that was canceled due to McCartney’s health.
Well-known radio DJ and classic rock expert Kamasami Kong raved about the Tokyo Dome sets, which took place April 23, 25 and 27. “Paul’s amazing! Every detail in every song was perfect and he has incredible energy, especially for a 72-year-old.” The shows at the Dome lasted for about 2 hours and 50 minutes, including two encores. Kong took special pride in Sir Paul’s rendition of the George Harrison-composed Beatles track “Something.” “Being from Hawaii the ukulele intro to ‘Something’ was a joy, and I was so happy he paid tribute to Hawaiian culture.”
The Budokan set mirrored the Tokyo Dome shows. It was heavy with Beatles songs, and the Band on the Run album contributed many of the Wings tracks he chose to play. For the Budokan edition, McCartney inserted the Beatles’ track “One after 909” in the set and “Birthday,” in the encore.
In addition, Sir Paul dropped the track “Another Girl” from the Beatles’ Help! album, marking the first time a Beatle had ever played the number live. (The Fab Four never performed the song in concert.)
McCartney released a statement through his publicist: “It was sensational and quite emotional remembering the first time and then experiencing this fantastic audience tonight.”