Paul McCartney opened up his illustrious catalog of over 40 years of songs last Friday night when his Driving USA tour made its stop at Madison Square Garden.

Love ballads mixed with rock numbers from The Beatles, Wings, and his solo years, all some of the best of their genres, mixed together seamlessly during the two-and-a-half hour set.

Through the entire concert, McCartney showed the sold out crowd that he still has “it”- the quality to not only play his fantastic songs, but to put on a good show while doing so.

Opening with the old Beatles single “Hello Goodbye,” McCartney quickly lead off with a tone that would resonate through the performance; this would not be a normal Paul McCartney concert.

The idea of a “normal” McCartney concert is a rare one as it is, this being his first tour since 1993. “Hello Goodbye” was one of the many songs played that had rarely, if ever, been preformed live.

“Sometimes, especially when The Beatles stopped touring, you would go into the studio, record a song, and you never played it again,” McCartney explains in an interview on his website. “So there are a lot of songs that I wanted to bring back and play again, and a lot of songs I haven’t played in years.”

The crowd reacted in near hysterics when these “live rarity” songs were played, which also included “Blackbird,” “Every Night,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” “Here, There, and Everywhere,” and the Sgt. Pepper’s classic, “Getting Better.”

The night took a tone of remembrance when McCartney played several songs as tributes to some of the friends he has lost along his career. McCartney played a song called “Here Today,” an imaginary question-and-answer conversation with slain friend and fellow Beatle John Lennon.

During the acoustic segment of the show, McCartney also played a cover of George Harrison penned “Something” on ukulele in remembrance of the recently passed Beatle.

Paul also dedicated the performance of his song “My Love” to his wife Linda, who died in 1998 of cancer. In addition, McCartney played his song “Freedom”, written for those who lost their lives in 9/11 and played at the concert for New York City held last October.

McCartney proved to be entertaining throughout the entire evening. As many know, the usual banter from performers in between songs can sometimes prove to be tedious, however, McCartney was as funny and charming as billed.

While he did let a few of the cliché “Rock and Roll!!!” exclamations slip, most of the stories told were genuinely entertaining, with subjects ranging from bad massages to the inspiration for writing “Blackbird.”

The crowd was not ready to go home at the end of the night, and erupted in applause when McCartney came out for a second encore to perform one of his most acclaimed songs, “Yesterday,” and to close on the rocking and thoughtful Beatles track “The End.”

McCartney’s trademark violin style Hofner bass was traded for a Gibson Les Paul on the few songs where he decided to play lead guitar.

His excellent playing was backed by an equally impressive band, with Abraham Laboriel Jr. on drums and Rusty Anderson handling most of the lead guitar duties.

As an obsessive Beatles fan, I was prepared for some part of the night to be disappointing to me, since I walked in expecting so much. However, I can honestly say the concert lived up to expectations.

The songs never played live before were a wonderful surprise, and all of the 30-plus songs were played very faithfully. The crowd sang along to every song, as if we were all sharing in a mutual life dream.

To see someone like McCartney who transcends the world of music to become almost a historical figure was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and everyone in attendance was more than pleased to have partaken in it.

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