July 18, 2009— -- "I just want to take a second to drink it all in."
That's what Paul McCartney said Friday night as he christened Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, performing more than 30 songs for an rain-soaked but ecstatic sold-out crowd.
McCartney, who famously performed at the Mets' former home of Shea Stadium with the Beatles, had joined Billy Joel last year to play the final concert ever at that venue, so of course, he was the natural choice to be the first one to play the new one.
McCartney, looking far younger than his 67 years in a dark suit, white shirt and black suspenders, told the crowd, "I've got a feeling that we're going to have a little bit of fun tonight."
And a splendid time was guaranteed for all, as the former Beatle rocked through songs from every phase of his career, paid tribute to his late wife and bandmates, and even brought Billy Joel out for a surprise encore of "I Saw Her Standing There."
Throughout the night, McCartney had the audience eating out of his hand, following his every instruction. At one point, he actually had them barking like dogs.
As you might expect, McCartney's set list was heavy on Beatles tunes, from early numbers like "I'm Down," "Day Tripper" and "Drive My Car" to later material like "Paperback Writer," "The Long & Winding Road," "Let It Be," "Helter Skelter," "Get Back" and even the epic "A Day In The Life," which he performed as a medley with his old mate John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance."
McCartney also spoke about Lennon before performing the song "Here Today," which he'd written as a tribute after John's death.
But even more emotional was McCartney's tribute to the late George Harrison. He performed Harrison's masterpiece, "Something," on a ukulele that Harrison had given him, while photos of the two of them through the years flashed on a screen behind him.
McCartney also spoke of his late wife, Linda, dedicating the song "My Love" to her, and "all the lovers in Citi Field tonight."
In addition, McCartney paid brief tribute to Jimi Hendrix by throwing in the guitar riff from "Foxy Lady" at the end of "Let Me Roll It."
McCartney recounted a famous story about how the Beatles released the Sgt. Pepper album on a Friday, and by Saturday night, Hendrix had learned the title track and opened his London show with it. But notably, McCartney made no mention of the recently-deceased Michael Jackson, his duet partner on the hits "The Girl Is Mine" and "Say Say Say." However, the crowd did hear "Say Say Say" as part of a mix of songs that played over the P.A. system before McCartney took the stage.
In addition to the nostalgia-fest of Beatles tunes, McCartney also did a handful of WINGS classics. "Band on the Run" was a favorite of the crowd's, especially since the line "the rain exploded with a mighty crash" echoed the downpour most of the audience was sitting in during the show. "Live and Let Die" was also a highlight, as flames and pyro ignited on the stage, while an honest-to-goodness, full-on fireworks display erupted from the roof.
McCartney also included several not-so-well-known numbers from his most recent solo albums in the set, as well as material from his latest CD Electric Arguments, which he recorded under the pseudonym The Fireman. Some unexpected songs included the Band On The Run deep cut "Mrs. Vandebilt," and "I've Got A Feeling," from the Let It Be album. But the night's ender was a familiar one -- "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)," which McCartney then segued into Abbey Road's "The End," ensuring that the show would finish with perhaps the Beatles' most loved lyric: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
McCartney's opening act, by the way, was the up-and-coming young Irish band The Script, best known for their hit "The Man Who Can't Be Moved." Which means that technically, it was the Script who were the first act ever to play at Citi Field, not McCartney. But we won't tell him if you won't.