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Paul McCartney Delivers the Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Show on Earth

The Beatle performed classics songs that spanned his entire songbook in Adelaide last night

Paul McCartney performs in Adelaide

MPL Communications

Thirty minutes before showtime, three large screens light up the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Against a pop art montage, we see a roll call of Paul McCartney’s many, many career highlights. It’s not only McCartney’s life that’s on display – the clips reflect a large chunk of our shared cultural experience.

Then it’s time for the artist himself and the crowd react accordingly: this man could likely win a wager as the greatest living songwriter of the last 100 years, after all.

Where do you begin with a catalogue as rich as McCartney’s? Well, he starts near the beginning with a dizzying slice of Beatle-mania, “Can’t Buy Me Love”.

We’re only thirty seconds in and McCartney has delivered his first era-entrenched chorus, the band have achieved lift off, and now we’re rolling into songs that are hits from the – now – relative margins, “Junior’s Farm” and “Letting Go”.

Adelaide – for Australian’s at least – looms large in the Beatles narrative. It was here in 1964 that 350, 000 South Australians turned up to see the band (with Jimmie Nichol) wave from the balcony of Town Hall. Given the size of Australia at the time, it was equivalent to half the city’s population and surrounding suburbs crowding the streets.

There’s a lot of residual love for McCartney in this town, but tonight’s show is intimate by relative standards; compared to his last gig in June last year at Glastonbury, tonight is virtually a club show with just 8,000 in attendance.

As “Got to Get to Get You Into My Life” fades, McCartney completes his only costume change of the night and slips off his jacket, before getting to work on a stunning collection of songs that play on our nostalgia while being performed with a striking vigour that suggests they were written just last week.

Early highlights include “She’s a Woman”, enjoying its first outing since 2004, the Australian debut of “Come on to Me”, and a searing “Let Me Roll It” that invokes the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and allows McCartney to recall a gig from a near lifetime ago where Hendrix busted a string and tried to entice Eric Clapton out of the audience to change it for him.

“Getting Better” also makes its Australian debut, while “Let Em In” highlights the three-piece horn section that McCartney has added to his band since his last visit.

Paul McCartney plays in Adelaide

Credit: MPL Communications

While the McCartney legend was built on his work with the Beatles, he solidified it with a slew of radio hits with Wings. Since then he’s steadily been dropping jewels on his studio albums that are now standing up against his better known work. “My Valentine” – with actors Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman signing the lyrics – was a standout. A heartfelt “Here Today” takes on added poignancy as McCartney enters his 80’s – the result is the musician delivering what might have been his most moving vocal of the night.

As McCartney takes us back to the Quarrymen’s “In Spite of All the Danger”, you’re reminded that the artist has been writing great tunes since 1957 and pushing the parameters of our expectations – both in concert and on record – ever since.

There were times when McCartney and his band hit another kind of apex in Adelaide. “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Jet”, “Blackbird”, and “Band on the Run” took us somewhere else. The songs went to that space which Bruce Springsteen has described as rock’s beguiling magic trick “where one and one… somehow… makes three.”

By the time the band got through “You Never Give Me Your Money” and a rollicking “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”, McCartney looked as if he’d surprised even himself.

As with all McCartney shows, there are touchstones in the setlist that will always resonate. To hear an arena sing the “na na na’s” in “Hey Jude” is sheer joy; his tribute to George Harrison with a ukulele led “Something” is sublime; John Lennon appearing via Peter Jackson’s cinematic genius for “I’ve Got a Feeling” was profoundly moving – and further enhanced by a stunning new coda McCartney has added to the song.

To see him riffing on his 1963 Hofner bass or sitting at the psychedelic piano and leading us through his unparalleled catalogue is a thrill. The voice somehow became herculean as the night wore on – who else would drop “Helter Shelter” two hours in and tear it to shreds?

Publicist Derek Taylor may have been on the payroll when he called the Beatles “the greatest romance of the 20th Century,” but damn he was probably right. Bring your tissues and your singing voice next time you see McCartney play – this is a big-hearted show that tugs at the strings.

In Adelaide last night, McCartney delivered the greatest rock and roll show on earth. A triumph.

Paul McCartney 2023 Australian Tour

Ticket information via Frontier Touring

Saturday 21 October
Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, VIC
Lic. All Ages

Tuesday 24 October
McDonald Jones Stadium | Newcastle, NSW
Lic. All Ages

Friday 27 October
Allianz Stadium | Sydney, NSW
Lic. All Ages

Saturday, 28 October
Allianz Stadium | Sydney, NSW
Lic. All Ages

Wednesday 1 November
Suncorp Stadium | Brisbane, QLD
Lic. All Ages

Saturday 4 November
Heritage Bank Stadium | Gold Coast, QLD
Lic. All Ages