Live: Paul McCartney, Houston

Paul McCartney’s stage filled the outfield of Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Paul McCartney’s recent set of concerts on his current “On The Run” tour are epic, full of breathtaking singing and instrumental virtuosity on faithful renditions of some of the greatest songs in the rock and roll canon. His show last night (11/14) at Houston’s Minute Maid Park was exactly that.

But there’s also a sense – certainly fleeting – of wistfulness and summing up of a brilliant, unparalleled career belonging to one of the greatest entertainers of all time. At one point of the show in Houston, Paul said “These events are so cool … I just want to take a moment for myself and drink it all in.”

Then he stepped aside from the mic and just stood there, surveying the nearly sold-out crowd (about 39,000) as it cheered him on.

He did that same thing when we saw him in 2011, at the beginning of this tour in New York’s Yankee Stadium. I can’t help but think this may be a victory lap for the 70-year-old ex-Beatle but who knows? He can keep this going for quite a while.

Because it’s obvious McCartney is clearly invigorated by staging these grandiose rock shows. He played for three hours in Houston, staying on stage virtually the entire time and never once sipping a drink of water or wiping sweat with a towel. It helped that the ballpark’s roof was open, and it was a crisp, cool Houston evening.

The voice is still there: on “All My Loving,” hitting the same notes he did in 1963, crooning on the goofy “My Valentine” and rocking out on “Got To Get You Into My Life” and “Paperback Writer.”

And the dude can play: he strapped on an electric guitar eight songs into the set to take the lead on “Let Me Roll It,” which morphed into an impressive instrumental rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady.” He pounded the piano keys for Band On The Run deep cut “1985” and the Beatles warhorses “Lady Madonna” and “Hey Jude.”

Video screens made the Beatle’s show feel intimate, even from the cheap seats.

McCartney has proudly accepted the mantle of keeper of the Beatles’ flame, and in addition to his own compositions he paid deeply touching tribute to his fallen fellow Fabs George Harrison and John Lennon. Harrison was remembered fondly with a great rendition of “Something,” which started out on ukulele and wound up with a full-on band treatment.

After that highlight, McCartney mentioned that George wrote that one “all by himself.” And he capped it with “Frank Sinatra once said that ‘Something’ was his favorite Lennon/McCartney song,” Paul shrugged.

Lennon’s tribute consisted of the acoustic ballad “Here Today,” written by McCartney after his mate’s murder in 1980. Then, later, Paul wound up with Lennon’s “A Day In The Life” appended to a singalong “Give Peace A Chance.”

Fireworks both figurative and literal peppered the homestretch: “Get Back,” “Helter Skelter,” “Let It Be,” and the James Bond theme “Live and Let Die,” punctuated by an impressive pyrotechnics display.

Say what you want about McCartney’s cute/pop/cloying tendencies over the past 50 years – in 2012 this is the Cadillac of rock shows. To steal from another James Bond song (not written by McCartney), nobody does it better.

Paul McCartney setlist from Houston Minute Maid Park 11/14/2012

Found on YouTube: “Paperback Writer” from Houston (thanks pokabeb)

The pyro goes off for “Live and Let Die.”

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