All photos by Mike White
On Thursday night, Paul McCartney played the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth as part of his “One on One” tour, which started last April. It was obvious the venue was thrilled to have him, considering earlier this year it lured him to play by naming a new street, Paul McCartney Boulevard, in his honor. Upon arriving to the venue, I was greeted with a huge banner that read “Welcome to Duluth, Paul.”
At 75, it’s easy to imagine Mr. McCartney phoning in a 13-song set and calling it a night. However, this couldn’t be further from what took place Thursday. Those lucky enough to obtain tickets were treated to a three-hour set comprised of 39 songs. Yes, that’s right—39 songs that spanned the length of Sir Paul's career.
Calling an arena tour “One on One” seems rather absurd, yet McCartney is able to make an area show feel intimate. Part of how this is accomplished is by locking eyes with various members of the audience through his entire set. He also shares stories from his life between songs. Sure, these might be the same stories he tells at every show, but he has a way of making the crowd believe he is sharing an inside scoop. Finally—let’s face it—he doesn’t need to do this anymore. He has nothing left to prove, and is set financially. However, as soon as he takes the stage, it’s easy to see why he still tours: He loves it. Throughout the show, he was full of smiles, dance moves and lighthearted pokes at fans interrupting his stories with “woo!” or “I love you, Paul!”
The set started with Beatles classic “A Hard Day’s Night,” a song McCartney had never played as a solo act prior to this tour. Another surprise was the electropop song “Temporary Secretary,” from the album McCartney II—a song that people made fun of when it was first released but has since become a fan favorite. The song was accompanied by visuals that looked like they had been taken straight from a Kraftwerk show.
While the middle of the set included many classics, it was largely reserved to highlight the bookends of McCartney’s career, including “In Spite of All the Danger,” a pre-Beatles song from when they were known as The Quarrymen, and “New,” “Save Us” and “Queenie Eye” from the underappreciated 2014 album New. Surprisingly, he also played "FourFiveSeconds," a song he co-wrote with Kayne West and Rihanna. While McCartney barely appears on the track, he sang both Rihanna and Kayne’s parts for his live rendition.
At one point, McCartney told the crowd that he can tell when they don't care for a song. “When it’s a classic Beatles or Wings tune, everyone’s phones light up, but when it’s a new song, it’s like a black hole. But I don’t care, we’re going to play them anyway,” he said with a grin.
As mentioned earlier, McCartney is full of stories. After “Let Me Roll It,” McCartney and band proceeded to go into a jam of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” Afterwards, McCartney told the story of how Hendrix covered “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” days after the album was released. McCartney went on to say that Jimi’s guitar went out of tune after the song, so he called for Eric Clapton, who was out in the crowd, to help him retune it. Before playing “Love Me Do,” McCartney explained that originally John Lennon sang the lyric “love me do” after the harmonica part, but producer George Martin wanted the lyric to start on the one beat, so he asked McCartney to do it. “I was frightened,” McCartney says. “When I listen to that song today, I can hear the trembling in my voice. But not tonight.”
In addition to a loving tribute to Martin, McCartney also gave tributes to his late friends and bandmates Lennon and George Harrison, saying the song “Here Today” was written as a conversation to John that he never got to have, and “Something” was one of George’s songs he learned how to play on the ukulele.
If you were to close your eyes during a classic Beatles song, you’d swear you were listening to the Beatles. This is due to McCartney’s amazing band, which has played with him longer than he played with the Beatles. Rusty Anderson plays rhythm and lead guitar, and provides perfect harmony, along with bassist Brian Ray, to McCartney's lead vocals. Abe Laboriel Jr. spends most of the set behind a drum kit behind McCartney. While stylistically different than Ringo, he pulls off the songs beautifully while providing lots of smiles for the camera, sometimes to the point of being a ham. Finally, Paul Wickens, or “Wix,” sits behind an array of keyboards, laptops and synths. These tools enable the band to play songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” by using keyboards that song like strings or horns.
The One on One tour continues through North America and South America and ends in New Zealand at the end of the year.
A Hard Day's Night
Can't Buy Me Love
Let Me Roll It
I've Got a Feeling
Maybe I'm Amazed
We Can Work It Out
In Spite of All the Danger
You Won't See Me
Love Me Do
And I Love Her
Fool on the Hill
I Wanna Be Your Man
Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Sgt. Peppers Reprise
Hi Hi Hi
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End