May 8, 2022
Photos by Raymond Ahner (IG – raymond_ahner)
Turn me on dead man. That is exactly what the legendary Sir Paul McCartney did to the Oakland Arena, playing a nearly three-hour set to the delight of a Mother’s Day full house. Apparently, McCartney tickets were a popular Mother’s Day gift as there were scores of mothers in attendance either on a mother/child date, or with the full family in tow.
Playing the exit show for his quick two-show Bay Area weekend, McCartney along with bandmates Rusty Anderson (guitar), Brian Ray (guitar/bass), Wix Wickens (keyboards), and Abe Laboriel (drums), set off on a musical journey that touched on songs from the Beatles, Wings, and McCartney’s solo career.
It was on from the moment the lights went down as Sir Paul and mates sparked the fuse with a rousing singalong rendition of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love.’ Those mothers I mentioned that were in attendance went bananas, screaming those type of high-pitched wailing cheers that were a signature reception for The Beatles.
From there McCartney held court as the mega star he is, eliciting a ‘story tellers’ vibe while still maintaining the boy innocence/sex appeal that he has carried with him throughout his career.
When he stopped to lose his sportscoat early in the set, he preened as the crowd roared. He then casually dove into tales about encounters with Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton like they were friends that lived around the corner that he saw at a neighborhood BBQ. That all added to the gravity of his stature as one of the few remaining living treasures of rock and roll royalty.
As the set exploded and organically spread out, much like the giant psychedelic fractals that were projected across the stage, Paul expertly moved from bass to guitar to piano to ukulele (on a fab version of ‘Something’). All the while lending his unmistakable voice to tell the stories of his deep well of songs.
Playing in front of a backdrop that was continuously transforming (akin to his lengthy career), the set took an aura that oscillated between front porch sing along and all out rockstar spectacle.
The lights dimmed, and in the blink of an eye the band was situated in front of a log cabin on a starry night to blast out iconic tunes such as ‘Love Me Do’ (which was accompanied by a fabulous tale of how George Martin got Paul to take lead on the ever famous chorus).
The hits just kept rolling, with the cheering crowd growing louder and holding up signs to Paul as each new song began. Another eye blink and suddenly the crowd was in the midst of the rousing beer barrel polka of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,’ or ultra-heavy takes of ‘Helter Skelter‘ or Wings’ ‘Band on the Run’ or McCartney’s own ‘Queenie Eye.’
While the crowd went wild with Paul’s every move, it was the twists and turns of the set that brought out sheer amazement and adoration.
Playing solo guitar on a vulnerable and poignant version of ‘Blackbird,’ the stage elevated Paul about twenty feet in the air. Grabbing on to his wispy vocals, it wasn’t long before the spirits of the crowd were up there with him.
Another dimming and raising of the house lights, and Paul was behind the piano belting out an emotional version of ‘Hey Jude’ to close out the main set, with the entire crowd waving arms back and forth above their heads as if in a ‘We are the World’ type of unity.
After a brief stroll offstage, the band returned for perhaps the most emotional song of the set. Emerging toting the Ukrainian flag, Paul then strapped on a guitar to perform The Beatles’ ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’ as a duet with a virtual guest performer.
Through the magic of technology, suddenly the giant visage of John Lennon was projected onscreen. To the delight and delirium of the crowd the two Beatles were singing in harmony from across the decades (John’s bit from a 1969 rooftop concert).
After such a jaw dropping performance of McCartney’s hits across the years, the only way to properly end the evening was to quite literally blow up the joint. The band tore into an incendiary performance of Wings’ ‘Live and Let Die.’
It came not only with musical dynamics, but also lasers and pyrotechnics that loudly reverberated through the arena. 20-foot high spires of fire shot up from the stage as the band knocked it out, with a heat that could be felt to the back of the room. But that was still not as hot as Paul and the band’s performance on this evening. The crowd reveled in it all, and for those who brought their mothers to be turned on by Paul….very well played.