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Paul McCartney Plays Intimate Live Set for the BBC

'It's easy to get caught up in this idea that you must please everyone,' he tells tiny crowd

Paul McCartney performs in New York City.
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
October 16, 2013 11:50 AM ET

Paul McCartney got back to where he once belonged today by playing an intimate mid-morning set at the BBC's tiny Maida Vale studios, where the Beatles recorded several early sessions.

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Arriving onstage 25 minutes later than expected (despite the set being broadcast live on 6 Music, the BBC's modern rock station), a relaxed-looking McCartney cheerfully greeted the 200 "random citizens" who'd been selected from over 66,000 ticket applications. The crowd, which included Star Trek and Shaun of the Dead actor Simon Pegg, was certainly more up-close and personal than usual. McCartney had to turn down a mid-gig autograph request from one fan, quipping, "As if I don't have enough to do!"

The set began with a hard-rocking take on "Coming Up," followed by "Save Us," from his new album New. Backed by his full band, he also played a raucous version of 1974's "Junior's Farm" before the first Beatles song of the morning, "We Can Work It Out."

"I think we might have done this one in this studio many years ago," McCartney said with a smile. "But then again, we might not . . . "

But if his recollections of the Beatles' time here were a little vague, he was supremely focused on his new songs, sitting at the piano for foot-stomping versions of "New" and "Queenie Eye," the latter featuring some falsetto vocals.

He then returned to the Beatles for the grand finale, prompting a huge singalong on "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and "Get Back" before leaving to wild applause. With another set to do straight afterwards for Radio 2, another BBC station, he resisted calls for an encore.

During the set, McCartney broke off regularly to chat with presenter Lauren Laverne, telling her that his return to Maida Vale was "amazing" and pointing out a picture on the wall of "four very handsome young boys – and it's not One Direction!"

The Beatles would often record multiple tracks during short sessions at the studios, McCartney said. "We didn't know any better then. People said go there, do that – and we did."

He also revealed that he still gets nervous about how his new music will be received. "When you make a record, you do it for yourself," he said. "Then, towards the end, you realize you're entering it for an exam that you didn't want to do."

McCartney said it had been important to work with four strong producers – Giles Martin, Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns and Paul Epworth – on New.

"I say, 'I really need your feedback,'" he said with a laugh. "If I do a rubbish vocal, tell me . . . and I'll ignore you."

McCartney also took questions from the audience, advising one aspiring musician to "keep doing it. Because the more you do it, the more you learn, and hopefully you'll get better. You might not, though!"

Asked to suggest a Beatles-related name for one couple's unborn child, he chose Valerie, as mentioned in "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."

When asked the best advice he'd ever been given, he turned to Shakespeare. "To thine own self be true," he said, quoting Hamlet. "You have to follow your own instincts. It's very easy to get caught up in this idea that you must please everyone. You have to remind yourself that you've got to love it – then there's a chance they will love it as well."

Set list:

"Coming Up"
"Save Us"
"Junior's Farm"
"We Can Work It OUt"
"New"
"Queenie Eye"
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
"Get Back"

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