Paul McCartney played a surprise mini-concert for thousands of New Yorkers in midtown Manhattan yesterday from the top of the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater, where he was taping a performance for Late Show With David Letterman. News of the event spread via Twitter and word of mouth, and nearby street corners were closed off to accommodate fans for the 5:30 p.m. set that recalled the Beatles’ famed Savile Row rooftop gig, when the Fab Four played atop the former building that housed Apple studios. In 1964, the Beatles made their U.S. television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in the same studio Letterman now inhabits.
McCartney, in town to inaugurate the Mets’ new home at Citi Field with three concerts beginning tomorrow (stay tuned to Rock Daily for a full report), played the Beatles “Get Back” and “Sing the Changes” off his latest CD Electric Arguments for the broadcast, which aired last night. “Well, that was the end of the show you can see on the telly if you stay up that late,” McCartney told the crowd gathered below — a mix of tourists, die-hard fans who skipped out of work early and a few dozen residents of nearby buildings who perched in their windows to watch the free show — before launching into an additional five songs including “Band on the Run,” “Helter Skelter” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
Between tunes McCartney joked with his audience, asking, “Shouldn’t some of you be at work? What’s that?” and imploring of a police officer, “Can we stay a little longer? Please?” — he even waved to passengers on a tour bus heading down the street during “Let Me Roll It.” As 6 p.m. approached, McCartney wished the crowd a good night and a good life, before flashing a peace sign and ducking back into the building.
On the broadcast, Letterman jested that he’s been begging McCartney to be on the show for years, to which Paul deadpanned, “I don’t like the show.”
Dave Matthews Band and Bon Jovi have previously performed on the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater, which is located at 53rd Street and Broadway, and Phish played atop the studio’s Broadway marquee.