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Paul McCartney Rocks Milwaukee’s Miller Park

Paul McCartney‘s performance of ‘Hey Jude’ at last summer’s Olympics caused some people on social-networking sites to wonder if it was time for him to finally retire that chestnut. But his sold-out concert at Milwaukee’s Miller Park on July 16 proved why he shouldn’t: Nothing can unite a massive crowd like that famous coda.

If that means McCartney has to play that, and about 20 other classics at every single show for the rest of his life, so be it. Besides, if playing the same material night after night bothered him at all, he didn’t seem to show it. Barring the possibility of some unspeakably bad investments, the financial security of future generations of McCartneys is guaranteed even if he quits the business tomorrow. He can do whatever he wants with his time, and he chose to spend a ridiculously hot and humid Midwestern evening outside doing something he doesn’t need to do. And did it very well, indeed.

Granted, McCartney spent the first 20 years of his post-Beatles career trying to escape those songs. But since returning to the road in 1990, he’s positively embraced them. Two-thirds of his 36-song, two-hour-and-45-minute set was comprised of Beatles material, which opened with ‘Eight Days a Week’ and finished with the majestic sweep of ”Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End.’

Along the way, he hit all those anthems the crowd expects and demands, but he’s smart enough to change things up from tour to tour (see the full set list below). You may lose ‘Drive My Car,’ but you’ll also be reminded that ‘Another Day’ has possibly the greatest chord progression known to man. And while ‘Your Mother Should Know’ and ‘All Together Now’ won’t make anybody’s list of their favorite Beatles songs, they’re nonetheless impeccably played, with enough spectacle in video presentation to make it awfully hard to find a bathroom break at any point during the night.

All of that shows that, when you remove much of the dross (and he’s certainly written his share), you’re still left with the deepest and most diverse catalog of songs in all of rock music. And here’s why that’s important. If you see, say, Bruce Springsteen in concert, you’re taken through a series of emotional peaks and valleys that all build up to the catharsis when the house lights come on in the encore for ‘Born to Run.’ With McCartney, he bangs out classic after classic and, just when you think he’s done all of your favorites, breaks out ‘Yesterday.’

Some of rock’s greatest frontmen, like Springsteen and Mick Jagger, excel by making a show of how much they’re giving out, exaggerating their gestures to play to the back row, But probably the most incredible aspect of a Paul McCartney show is that he makes it look so natural, drawing the fan in while seemingly not breaking a sweat (OK, on this muggy night he was clearly sweating). And he does it with a fantastic band that strikes a perfect balance on putting its own stamp on parts that are practically embedded in our collective DNA.

Still, for those who have seen McCartney before, it’s easy to look at the set list for this tour and do an eye roll at yet another night of ‘Live and Let Die,’ ‘Let It Be,’ ‘The Long and Winding Road,’ ‘Band on the Run’ and so many well-worn standards. But it becomes even easier to cut all that cynicism loose once McCartney straps on that trademark Hofner Violin bass and turns back the clock. And those who want to go mostly because, with McCartney now 71, they may never get the chance to see him again, will be amazed at how much fun they had.

Top 10 Beatles Paul McCartney Songs

Paul McCartney, July 16, 2013, Set List 
‘Eight Days a Week’
‘Junior’s Farm’
‘All My Loving’
‘Listen to What the Man Said’
‘Let Me Roll It / Foxey Lady’
‘Paperback Writer’
‘My Valentine’
‘Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five’
‘The Long and Winding Road’
‘Maybe I’m Amazed’
‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’
‘We Can Work It Out’
‘Another Day’
‘And I Love Her’
‘Here Today’
‘Your Mother Should Know’
‘Lady Madonna’
‘All Together Now’
‘Lovely Rita’
‘Mrs. Vandebilt’
‘Eleanor Rigby’
‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’
‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’
‘Band on the Run’
‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’
‘Let it Be’
‘Live and Let Die’
‘Hey Jude’

‘Day Tripper’
‘Hi, Hi, Hi’
‘Get Back’

‘Helter Skelter’
‘Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End’

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