Paul McCartney Rogers Area, Vancouver BC, April 19

Paul McCartney Rogers Area, Vancouver BC, April 19
Photo: Joshua Peter Grafstein
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When Paul McCartney performed in Vancouver in late 2012, it was his first show in the city since his days as a Beatle, and most local concertgoers probably assumed that they would never get to see him again. But, lo and behold, there he was just three and a half years later, performing on the first of back-to-back nights at Rogers Arena.
 
As the opening DJ spun a mashed up mix of McCartney material, folks near the front swarmed on Elvis Costello, who happened to be sitting near the front and graciously posed for photos with anyone who asked. Once the lights went down, though, all eyes were on the stage, as Sir Paul sauntered out clutching his signature Höfner bass and launching into the sprightly "A Hard Day's Night."
 
The stage was framed on both sides by two towering LED screens, with additional screens making up the backdrop. Throughout the night, they lit up with psychedelic animations, real-time footage of the performers, and even shots of the Fab Four from their '60s heyday. Despite the snazzy setup, it was a relatively straightforward rock show without many unnecessary bells or whistles.

McCartney was flanked by his longtime band of four backing players, and they tore into a wide-ranging selection of material that spanned from the songwriter's pre-Beatles days with the Quarrymen all the way up to selections from 2013's New. They even did a rendition of McCartney's recent collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West, "FourFiveSeconds." Naturally, it was the Beatles songs that got the most adoring reaction from the predominantly grey-haired crowd, as McCartney and company played classic hits like "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude" alongside comparatively deep cuts like "Birthday" and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" The 73-year-old singer's voice was noticeably craggy and shaky in spots, but he didn't shy away from the high notes on a thrilling version of "Maybe I'm Amazed."
 
For the most part, the arrangements were extremely faithful to the originals, as the keyboard player used faux-orchestral patches to recreate the strings of "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby." On the other hand, Macca put an intriguing acoustic spin on "You Won't See Me," took up a ukulele for a luau-flavoured rendition of "Something," and Diana Krall graced the stage to guest on piano for "My Valentine."
 
Other than those curveballs, the night was low on surprises — particularly for those who were at McCartney's 2012 gig. He recycled many of the same jokes and anecdotes, "Live and Let Die" once again featured the show's lone pyrotechnics display, and he again brought out the Delta Police Pipe Band for "Mull of Kintyre."
 
The performance didn't feel stale, though, thanks to McCartney's impish, youthful energy. He shamelessly hammed for the crowd between every song, waving and performing goofy dances. During the encore, he bantered with a family who were ushered onto the stage wearing elaborate Sgt. Pepper's outfits, and he even agreed to sign their skin (presumably for future tattooing). Most of all, it was a thrill to be in the presence of the world's most legendary living songwriter — he was in the Beatles for fuck's sake!