Paul McCartney, Miley Cyrus, Paul Simon Captivate at ‘SNL 40’

Former Beatle busts out ''Maybe I'm Amazed,'' while the pop star covers ''50 Ways to Leave Your Lover''

Paul McCartney's performance of "Maybe I'm Amazed" marked one of several appearances by the Beatle on 'SNL 40.' Credit: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

Music played a big part of SNL's 40th anniversary festivities Sunday night, starting with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake opening song-and-dance number, which channeled years of famous catchphrases and characters. Kanye West also performed a medley of tunes — "Jesus Walks," "Only One" and "Wolves," — while Martin Short and Maya Rudolph (as Beyoncé) helmed a tribute to SNL's best musical-comedy moments, including Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer as Marty and Bobby Culp, and Bill Murray as lounge singer, Nick Ocean. 

Paul McCartney followed-up his impromptu duet with Paul Simon of the Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face" with a bombastic, bleeding-heart rendition of "Maybe I'm Amazed" during Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special. While the performance itself was appropriately celebratory and thunderous, a hat must be tipped to Keith Richards' sly introduction: "In the early Sixties a band came out of England and it changed the world But enough about the Rolling Stones: Ladies and gentlemen, Paul McCartney."

Miley Cyrus continued the festivities by paying tribute to Simon with an impressive rendition of "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Slinking through the verses, Cyrus took the chance to break out her booming, diva vocals during the song's soulful and stomping chorus — all of which was anchored by Fred Armisen's indispensable auxiliary percussion.

Simon returned to to the Studio 8H stage to close out SNL's 40th Anniversary special, though first he made sure the musicians of the Saturday Night Live band got the standing ovation they deserved. Backed by Lenny Pickett and Co., Simon fittingly performed a dulcet rendition of "Still Crazy After All These Years," accentuated by a blazing saxophone solo from Pickett.