DETROIT -- Open less than three weeks, the new Little Caesars arena has already hosted a hometown hero (Kid Rock) and the hottest pop star of the moment (Ed Sheeran).
On Sunday night, Oct. 1, the venue had its first bona fide icon moment.
Paul McCartney plays the part of legend well. Keenly aware of the enduring impact heâ€™s made with his music, especially as part of the Beatles, he both honors and delivers that history without a great deal of gratuitous milking but fully conscious that his audience knows all the words to the vast majority (weâ€™re talking 90 percent or so) of the material he plays.
Over the course of nearly three hours on Sunday he and his facile four-piece band served that heritage well with a comprehensive and nimbly staged magical musical tour. During the first of two shows at Little Caesars he was both elder statesman and keeper of the flame -- and, at 75, McCartney also made a case for continuing creative potency alongside an old-shoe comfort to his retelling of many stories, from 60s encounters with Jimi Hendrix in London to writing the Rolling Stonesâ€™ first U.K. No. 1 hit â€śI Wanna Be Your Man.â€ť
McCartney is first and foremost a Beatle, of course, the reason 26 of the showâ€™s 38 songs. with many keys judiciously changed, came from the Fab Four canon -- starting with â€śA Hard Dayâ€™s Nightâ€ť and finishing the triple guitar rave-up of â€śThe End.â€ť In-between were a few deep digs into the catalog, including â€śIâ€™ve Got A Feelingâ€ť and â€śBeing For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite,â€ť as well as a romp through the â€śSgt. Pepperâ€™s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)â€ť during which the albumâ€™s famed cover was animated on the LED screen behind the band.
And there was an abundance of favorites -- â€śCanâ€™t Buy Me Love,â€ť â€śAll My Loving,â€ť â€śLove Me Do,â€ť â€śEleanor Rigby,â€ť â€śBack In The U.S.S.R.,â€ť â€śLet It Beâ€ť and a greatest hits albumâ€™s worth of others. McCartney -- sporting a dark Army-style jacket and white shirt and switching between bass, guitar and piano -- played â€śSomething,â€ť partly on ukulele, as a tribute to his late Beatles mate George Harrison. He twice saluted the late John Lennon with his own â€śHere Today,â€ť performed on a hydraulic platform that lifted him above the stage, and with the first half of â€śA Day In The Life,â€ť which segued into Lennonâ€™s â€śGive Peace A Chance.â€ť â€śHey Judeâ€ť was its usual singalong highlight, while McCartney and company roared through â€śHelter Skelterâ€ť with a metallic urgency before preceding â€śBirthdayâ€ť by bringing a mother and daughter, the latter celebrating her 15th birthday, on stage for a visit.
During â€śYesterday,â€ť meanwhile, McCartney strapped on the acoustic guitar with a Detroit Red Wings logo sticker on its face, which he was given when the Beatles played Olympia Arena during the mid-60s.
McCartneyâ€™s Wings span got its due, too, with â€śJuniors Fram,â€ť â€śJet,â€ť a fierce â€śLet Me Roll Itâ€ť (followed by a vamp through Jimi Hendrixâ€™s â€śFoxy Lady,â€ť â€śNineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five,â€ť â€śBand On The Runâ€ť and the pyrotechnic orgy of â€śLive And Let Die.â€ť He dedicated â€śMy Valentine,â€ť from his 2012 standards album â€śKisses On The Bottom,â€ť to his wife Nancy Shevell, who he said was at Sundayâ€™s show,, and remembered his late first wife Linda with his first solo hit, â€śMaybe Iâ€™m Amazed.â€ť
The entire evening wasnâ€™t past-tense, although McCartney was adroit enough to recognize the limited popularity of his newer material. He noted that while the Beatles favorites bring out the cell phones, â€śwhen we do a new number itâ€™s like a big black hole.â€ť Nevertheless, he said, â€śWe donâ€™t care, weâ€™re gonna do them anywayâ€ť and nicely cherry-picked strong material from this decade, including the Mersey-flavored â€śQueenie Eyeâ€ť and â€śNewâ€ť and his easygoing version of the Kanye West/Rihanna/McCartney collaboration â€śFourFiveSeconds,â€ť with the chorus lyrics on the video screen to help out those moved to sing along to it, too.
It was hard for any of that to compete with the resonance and nostalgia of the rest of the show, however. But while McCartney and his fans may have reveled in this past on Sunday, he certainly made sure it sounded wonderful in the present.
Some tickets remain for McCartneyâ€™s second concert at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2, at Little Caesars Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
Call 313-471-7000 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.
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