Last Night: Paul McCartney at Cowboys Stadium

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Paul McCartney
Cowboys Stadium
August 19, 2009

Better than: a competitive round of Rock Band: Beatles, to say the least.

Download: For more pictures from last night's show, check Patrick Michels' slideshow from the night.

For the first hour or so of Paul McCartney's set at Cowboys Stadium last night, the show had a little trouble gaining traction.

Blame the set's start; though McCartney opened with the Beatles hit "Drive My Car," then immediately followed things up with one of Wings' best tracks, "Jet," the show seemed to stall in its efforts to really take off--even McCartney's performance of "Blackbird" seemed a little dry.

The fact that, now, with some of the glitz rubbed off of the new stadium, the sound issues in the cavernous space seemed even more noticeable than ever, certainly didn't help, either. It was a shame: Affable as he was on stage, McCartney's performance seemed destined to disappoint. Was this a rock show, or just a live tribute to the man that was?

Then, 16 songs into the night, McCartney addressed the crowd for a moment, just as he had been doing all night long.

"When we were kids back in Liverpool. one of the biggest influences on us was a man from Texas," he said, before calling out Lubbock, and then Buddy Holly, by name, much to the audience's delight. "Here's a song we don't do for everyone. It's special. So we're gonna do it for you."

McCartney and his band then launched into a cover of Holly's "It's So Easy," a performance the crowd lapped up with joy.

From that point on, he never looked back.

Suddenly, the Beatles catalog was ripe for McCartney and his four backing players' picking: "Eleanor Rigby"; "Back In The USSR"; "Paperback Writer"; "A Day In The Life" (which transitioned into "Give Peace A Chance"); "Let It Be"; "Hey Jude"; "Day Tripper"; "I Saw Her Standing There"; nary a hit the crowd could've waned to hear was passed over.

But that didn't mean there weren't surprises. Just as McCartney had lulled the crowd into a daydreamy, whimsical state with "Let It Be," he launched into what would prove his most surprising--and most thrilling--performance of the evening.

Seemingly out of nowhere during "Live and Let Die," massive plumes of fire rose from the stage and a fireworks display worthy of a Fourth of July celebration (remember, this was inside--and the roof of this stadium was closed) shot off during the song's heavy instrumental breakdowns, much to the crowd's delight. And, McCartney, proving his consummate showmanship, played it off like he, too, was surprised by it all, pretending to clutch his heart in shock at the song's conclusion.

It was a funny moment--if only because, at 67, McCartney is still quite exuberant on stage, and his voice (perhaps the only clear thing in an otherwise muddled mix) still sounds, for the most part, the same as it ever did.

And, for the final hour and 35 minutes of the show, McCartney, never truly showing his age, indeed put on a rock show--and a remarkable one, at that.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Uh, he's a Beatle. Everyone likes the Beatles.

Random Note: During the "Na na na na" portion of main set-closer "Hey Jude," McCartney asked various sections to sing the parts for him. They did, although, when McCartney called out on the top section to sing it for him, it seemed that they were refusing. McCartney, on stage, looked confused. Then, maybe two seconds later, the sound of their voices finally reached him on stage. That's how big this stadium is, folks.

By The Way: There were a lot of warnings before the show that, because the Rangers were playing baseball next door at essentially the same time, traffic would be a nightmare in Arlington. It wasn't; in fact, the only time my car got into a jam, it was within the Cowboys Stadium parking lot, which was backed up, because--get this--there were drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs checking out the cars as they pulled in. Unsurprisingly, upon entrance, this show proved to be the biggest whitebread draw I think I've ever seen. Oh, police...

Set List:
1. "Drive My Car"
2. "Jet"
3. "Only Mama Knows"
4. "Flaming Pie"
5. "Got To Get You Into My Life"
6. "Let Me Roll It"/"Foxy Lady" ending
7. "Highway"
8. "All My Loving"
9. "The Long And Winding Road"
10. "My Love"
11. "Blackbird"
12. "Here Today"
13. "Dance Tonight"
14. "Calico Skies"
15. "Mrs Vanderbilt"
16  "It's So Easy"
17. "Eleanor Rigby"
18. "Sing The Changes"
19. "Band On The Run"
20. "Back In The USSR"
21. "I'm Down"
22. "Something"
23. "I've Got A Feeling"
24. "Paperback Writer"
25. "A Day In The Life"/"Give Peace A Chance"
26. "Let It Be"
27. "Live And Let Die"
28. "Hey Jude"

Encore 1
1. "Day Tripper"
2. "Lady Madonna"
3. "I Saw Her Standing There"

Encore 2
1. "Yesterday"
2. "Helter Skelter"
3. "Get Back"
4. "Sgt. Pepper's Reprise"

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