If there ever comes a day when Paul McCartney can’t outperform any twentysomething musician on the road, the opening date of his new One on One tour at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., Wednesday night (April 13) certainly was not it.
Armed with his signature lefty Hofner bass guitar, the spunky 73-year-old effortlessly delivered a nearly three-hour set at the 16,000-capacity arena that spanned his untouchable five-decade career with The Beatles, Wings and as a solo artist. Backed by his rock solid band of Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards, Brian Ray on bass/guitar, Rusty Anderson on guitar and Abe Laboriel Jr on drums, Sir Paul breezed through a staggering 38 “old songs, new songs and in between songs” (see full set list below) without batting an eye. He even opened with The Beatles’ hit “A Hard Days Night,” a song he’d never began with on his solo tours before.
Wednesday’s concert — McCartney’s first since completing his 2013-2015 Out There tour, which grossed $196 million from 60 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore — marked his first-ever visit to Fresno and his only California tour date announced so far this year. The sold-out show drew fans (some of which donned colorful Sgt. Pepper costumes) from across the state, including such major cities as Los Angeles and San Francisco, where McCartney performed stadium shows on this last outing.
Boasting brand new stage production with massive screens, mind-blowing psychedelic visuals, spectacular laser and fireworks displays, the stunning evening was also full of nostalgic storytelling, touching tributes to fallen bandmates, shout-outs to family members in the audience, and some other unexpected pleasant surprises.
Below are the top 5 moments from the opening date of McCartney’s One on One tour.
1. Dedication to late George Martin
About halfway through his set on Wednesday, McCartney took a moment to remember the recent passing of George Martin, the “Fifth Beatle” who signed the Fab Four to a label contract and produced virtually all their songs. As the massive onstage screens lit up to create a blue-tinged barn under a starry sky, McCartney and his band performed a touching rendition of the Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do,” which was also the very first track recorded by Martin.
2. ‘FourFiveSeconds’ sans Rihanna and Kanye
Although Rihanna and Kanye West didn’t make a surprise appearance for “FourFiveSeconds,” their 2015 collaborative track with McCartney, Sir Paul had no trouble taking on all vocal parts with the greatest of ease. RiRi and Yeezy were there in spirit, however, appearing in candid black-and-white recording studio photos as McCartney performed the Billboard Hot 100 hit solo on acoustic guitar. The song’s lyrics were also displayed on the large screens for those who wanted to sing along.
3. Storytelling behind Beatles classics
McCartney was very chatty during his One on One opener, telling brief and often comical stories behind such classics as “In Spite of All the Danger” (he remembered making early Quarryman recordings for only five pounds in Liverpool); “Blackbird” (before moving up halfway to the arena’s ceiling on a riser, Macca mentioned penning the track after being inspired by the U.S. Civil Rights movement during the 1960s); “Here Today” (written after John Lennon died as a way to have one last imaginary conversation with his friend); “Being for the Benefit Of Mr Kite!” (inspired by a circus poster on Lennon’s wall); “Something” (performed on ukulele after telling a story about how George Harrison was an excellent ukulele player); and “Back in the USSR” (in his best Soviet accent, McCartney reminisced about a Russian military official telling him “Love Me Do” was his first album while backstage at Red Square).
4. Shout-outs to wife Nancy Shevell and daughter Mary McCartney
Eight songs into his lengthy set, McCartney took a breather at the piano to dedicate his 2012 song “My Valentine” to his wife Nancy Shevell, who was in attendance for the tour’s opening night. As he performed the heartfelt Kisses on the Bottom track, Oscar-winners Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp, who appear in the official black-and-white video for “My Valentine,” were displayed side by side on the large video screen using sign language to translate the lyrics. Later in the evening, McCartney dedicated his top 10 hit “Maybe I’m Amazed” to his daughter Mary, who was also watching from the audience. “This is a song I wrote for your mum, Mary,” he said, referencing his late wife Linda McCartney.
5. Audience participation and playful banter
Before bursting into Beatles classic “We Can Work It Out,” McCartney made mention of all the signs being held up fans in the crowd, including one that read, “My Mom Named Me Jude Because of You.” “We love the signs,” he joked, “but the thing is, you try to remember words and chords and your mind says, ‘Don’t read the signs.’ Another part says, ‘Go on and read them.’” Later, during the encore, McCartney brought up the family holding the aforementioned signs and had them say a few words to the audience. The son told the story of his mom naming him Jude, the daughter said her nickname is Jet and another daughter said she was “this close” the being named Penny Lane. The mother was on hand to get her shoulder signed by Sir Paul.
Here’s the full set list:
“A Hard Day’s Night”
“Can’t Buy Me Love”
“Let Me Roll It”
“I’ve Got A Feeling”
“Here, There & Everywhere”
“Maybe I’m Amazed”
“We Can Work It Out”
“In Spite of All the Danger”
“You Won’t See Me”
“Love Me Do”
“And I Love Her”
“Fool on the Hill”
“Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!”
“Ob La Di Ob La Da”
“Band on the Run”
“Back in the USSR”
“Let It Be”
“Live & Let Die”
“Hi Hi Hi”
“Golden Slumbers”/”Carry That Weight”/”The End”s