Paul McCartney came to Fresno, California, Wednesday night to open his new One on One tour, and delivered nearly three hours of music that moved gracefully from the intimate to the explosive. There were bright lights and stirring images from his history, but the emphasis never drifted from the music, ranging from generational anthems ("Let It Be") to post-Beatles deep cuts ("Temporary Secretary").
Other elements of the show were kept simple, as McCartney noted when the removal of his jacket elicited cheers from the sold-out Save Mart Center arena. "That is the one and only wardrobe change of the whole evening," McCartney said, rolling his sleeves.
The night opened with the distinctive guitar clang of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" – marking the first time McCartney had performed the song as a solo artist – only the first of more than 35 songs that were faithful to the originals while remaining loose enough to feel fresh. Carrying his old Hofner bass, McCartney and his four-piece band dove into "Can't Buy Me Love," as vintage footage of the Beatles rolled on the big screen him: the Fab Four meeting the Queen Mother, recording at Abbey Road and playing their final full concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
Then came "Temporary Secretary," the previously obscure 1983 electro-pop tune that has since been embraced by DJ culture, accompanied in Fresno by Tron-era graphics. It was back to guitars and the ragged rock riff of the tough "Let Me Roll It," before slipping into a bit of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady."
The disparate sounds of McCartney's music from the Beatles, Wings and solo work were held gracefully together by his band of the past decade: keyboardist Paul "Wix" Wickens, bassist-guitarist Brian Ray, guitarist Rusty Anderson and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr.
McCartney stood at the piano to hold up the Wings handsignal before the drama and suspense of "1985," bouncing his head to accent the lyrics. Anderson dropped in a searing guitar lead different from the original that still captured the tension of the recording on 1975's Band on the Run album.
By contrast, there was a gentle, floating feeling to the Beatles "Here, There & Everywhere," and an emotional reading of "Maybe I'm Amazed," one of McCartney's first solo hits (and one that John Lennon openly admired). He said it was written for his daughter Mary, who was in the audience with her own son.
Fans had traveled from across the country to be in Fresno Wedesday, though McCartney looked pleased when the arena filled with cheers after he asked how many locals were in attendance. Many held signs with favorite lyrics and messages for the former Beatle: "It's my 64th show since '64. Autograph?" "Macca-Nificent!"
McCartney noted that "We love the signs," but reading them during a show can sometimes distract him from remembering lyrics. Late in the show, McCartney had one family and their signs brought up to the stage, and the affection he showed them was genuinely moving.
McCartney and band performed the early, early Beatles song "In Spite of All the Danger," written in the days they were called the Quarrymen. Like "Love Me Do," which he dedicated to the late George Martin, it was essentially a cowboy ballad, as McCartney plucked an acoustic solo.
There were many stories told during the night, including McCartney's recollection of his band being the first ever to perform in Russia's Red Square. One extremely serious official told him there: "We learned to speak English from listening to Beatles records," then reached out shake his hand with a "Hello, goodbye."
"It's true," McCartney said, laughing. "I swear it's true."
Near the end came "Live and Let Die," a song originally written for a 1973 James Bond film of the same name. It was just a few days after the reunited Guns N' Roses included a cover in their Las Vegas sets, but McCartney wasn't about to surrender it.
As the song erupted, footage of the British Parliament building exploding appeared on the wide screen in the style of V for Vendetta. McCartney essentially unleashed all the pyro and lasers he didn't use in the rest of the show. At the end, McCartney faced the cheers and playfully pointed to his ears, and mouthed the words "Too loud." Not nearly.
"A Hard Day's Night"
"Can't Buy Me Love"
"Let Me Roll It"
"I've Got a Feeling"
"Here, There and 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!"
"Band on the Run"
"Back in the U.S.S.R."
"Let It Be"
"Live and Let Die"
"Hi Hi Hi"
"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End"