Oh, the vitality of seniors these days.
When Paul McCartney played this part of town 50 years ago, he and the boys did about an hour and got out of Dodge before the girls ripped them apart.
Now, at 72, the ever-boyish Beatle continues to make it an evening, playing marathon sets of close to 40 songs. He returned Monday night for only his fourth visit here, at the sold-out Consol Energy Center, two shows into a U.S. leg of the Out There tour that was pushed back due to that mystery virus that threw Beatlemania into a brief Beatle panic.
We can confirm that Sir Paul is back in the pink. And we should just stop here and marvel at what a blessing it is to have a Beatle in our midst that can still represent at a high level.
On his last trip here, opening the venue in 2010, he eased in with Wings. This time, in a nod to the anniversary year, he hit the stage after 8:30 in vintage ’64 fashion with “Eight Days a Week,” launching a set generously stocked with more than two dozen Beatles, a side of Wings and a taste of the “New.” He established that ground early making the power-pop entry “Save Us” his second song and selling it hard.
Mr. McCartney wore the standard blue blazer, white shirt and black pants, Hofner bass and a smile fronting the unnamed band (guitarist Rusty Anderson, guitarist-bassist Brian Ray, keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr.) he’s played with for the past dozen years, longer than both Wings and the Beatles.
The cohesive players, who could do these songs in their sleep by now, established their heavy rock chops early, pairing “Let Me Roll It” and its nasty riff with a coda of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” before going into an ecstatic “Paperback Writer,” with Mr. McCartney on guitar.
The fanbase that sold out Consol howled in appreciation throughout, none more so than the 60-something woman behind me who could out-scream a whole row at One Direction. (When they talk about ear damage at concerts, it’s as much about people as amps.)
He went to piano to caress a tender “My Valentine,” dedicated to wife Nancy, pound out the Wings rocker “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” from 1974, and memorialize late wife Linda with a “Maybe I’m Amazed” that really taxed the old pipes. Brave move to tackle that one mid-set, and the likes of “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Another Day” and “And I Love Her” must have been a relief after that.
“Blackbird,” which sent him up on a riser with his acoustic, was typically lovely along with being the big cell-phone photo op of the night. He sent that out to the people who struggled over civil rights in the ’60s and evoked another struggle. “How many people struggled to learn that song on guitar? Well, you all got it wrong!”
He went off the standard set list to send a happy birthday to his dad and Ringo not with “Birthday” but a jaunty “Yellow Submarine.” “Here Today,” to John Lennon, was fragile and conflicted, and to beloved George Harrison he delivered a scratchy ukelele-led “Something” with audience sing-along.
Mixed into the hit parade were a few offbeat goodies in “All Together Now” (“that one was for the kids!”), “Lovely Rita” (with divine harmonies) and a magical laser-filled “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”
The heavy hitters raged at the end of the set with a loud, explosive run of “Band on the Run,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Let It Be,” “Live and Let Die” (Fourth of July all over again) and the ultimate swaying song “Hey Jude.”
Long after most artists’ catalogs would have been spent, he had plenty more for a pair of encores that started with “Day Tripper,” “Hi, Hi, Hi” and “Get Back,” and built up to a guitar- and throat-shredding “Helter Skelter” and a stunning slice of the “Abbey Road” medley.
Long ago, he wondered if we’d still need him when he’s 64. Now, we can only hope and wonder if the ageless Paul McCartney will come back here and knock our socks off when he’s 74! And beyond.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.