He’s the act we’ve known for all these years. At last, Sir Paul McCartney’s New Orleans concert is upon us.
The former Beatle performs Saturday at the Smoothie King Center, a sold-out stop on his two year-running “Out There” tour.
Originally scheduled for June 19, McCartney’s Crescent City appearance is one of seven U.S. shows he postponed after he contracted a viral infection in May. The illness forced the star to cancel all five of his scheduled shows in Korea and Japan.
McCartney’s U.S. tour resumed July 5 in Albany, New York. It continues through Oct. 28 in Louisville, Kentucky.
An international star even before the Beatles’ landmark American television debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, McCartney has been performing, writing and recording new material continuously for more than 50 years.
“If people ask why I bother, I say, ‘Come along to one of my shows and just stand in the wings and look at the faces, look at the interplay between me and the fans,’ ” he states on his official website.
Saturday’s show will be McCartney’s second appearance at the Smoothie King Center. He played the venue, then called the New Orleans Arena, in 2002.
He also appeared in concert at the Superdome in April 1993. He returned to the Dome in 2002 for a performance at Super Bowl XXXVI.
Saturday’s show arrives less than a month after the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sept. 16, 1964, concert at City Park Stadium, the Fab Four’s only New Orleans appearance. Memories of that riotous visit remain vivid for New Orleanians and fans from the Gulf Coast region who attended.
Although McCartney’s 2014 appearance in New Orleans probably won’t inspire a melee of the kind that pitted police against Beatles fans in City Park in 1964, his recent American appearances have drawn excited audiences and enthusiastic reviews.
“And when he starts to sing ‘Hey Jude’,” Chicago Tribune reviewer Mark Caro wrote of McCartney’s July 9 concert at United Center, “or the ‘Once there was a way…’ beginning to “Golden Slumbers, he’s so unmistakably Paul that you may suddenly feel a giant lump in your throat. He is, after all, the living songwriter-performer who has done the most to shape popular music — and in many ways the culture surrounding it.”
A review of the Sept. 28 “Out There” concert in The San Diego Union-Tribune reported: “The sustained roar of cheers and applause rising out of Petco Park Sunday night was loud enough to suggest the San Diego Padres had, improbably, just won their first World Series.”
The “Out There” tour also stopped in San Francisco on Aug. 14, where McCartney performed the final concert at the soon-to-be-demolished Candlestick Park. For McCartney and many in the 50,000-strong crowd, the show must have had special resonance. The Beatles played their final concert at Candlestick Park in 1966.
“It’s sad to see the old place closing down,” McCartney said from stage, “but we’re going to close it down in style.”
As for the “Out There” set list, McCartney’s Chicago concert featured 39 songs during a nearly three-hour concert. He opened with a Beatles hit, “Eight Days a Week,” and ended with “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End,” the medley that ends the last album the Beatles recorded together, “Abbey Road.”
Other Chicago selections included Beatles, Wings and solo material as well as four songs from McCartney’s 2013 album, “New.”
For “New,” McCartney collaborated with producers young enough to be his kids: Paul Epworth (Adele), Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse), Ethan Johns (son of Beatles engineer Glyn Johns) and Giles Martin (son of Beatles producer George Martin).
The “New” album blends classic McCartney-isms with fresh energy. Rolling Stone praised its “eternal youth” and “joyous rock and roll invention.” A two-CD, one DVD collector’s edition collector of the album, which debuted in the Top 10 in 17 countries, will be released Oct. 28.
“It all comes down to the fact that I love it, I love the whole process,” McCartney said of making the album. “When I was a kid, I started getting into music and I got a guitar. Then when I got into a group I was fascinated by the whole thing, this idea of trying to make music and later trying to write songs. It’s become an eternal fascination for me.”