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Concert review

Paul McCartney weaves in new bits amidst familiar tunes at Fenway Park

The Patriots tight end danced for the crowd during McCartney’s concert on Sunday night. (Video by Matt Karolian / BostonGlobe.com)
The Patriots tight end danced for the crowd during McCartney's concert on Sunday night. (Video by Matt Karolian / BostonGlobe.com)
Paul McCartney was animated on stage during Sunday’s show at Fenway Park.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

At some point during a Paul McCartney concert, it hits you. Maybe it’s when he strides onstage initially, that customary fiddle-shaped Hofner electric bass strapped on. Maybe it’s when you see video footage of the fresh-faced young Beatles scampering across the field at Shea Stadium, now more than half a century ago, on a screen overhead while McCartney plays “Can’t Buy Me Love” here and now.

For this audience member at a sold-out Fenway Park on Sunday, it hit me just after McCartney delivered “Blackbird” atop a platform that had risen from the stage. Afterward, he strode to one end of the platform and bowed to that side of the stadium. Walked to the other end, bowed again.


There it was. McCartney is as close to a figure of royalty as rock ‘n’ roll has ever produced, a man that the overused term “living legend” actually suits. Yet he still has it in him to play three-hour shows with the same boyish grin you see in 50-year-old footage, even if now it’s framed by temples gone gray, and to show graciousness and humility toward all who come to see him.

Those who claim McCartney’s not lost a note of his estimable range do him no favors by exaggerating. You notice the weather that’s come into his singing in exposed moments, even as you marvel at his undimmed skill on piano, bass, and guitar.

He doesn’t shy away from those moments or shirk them when they come; “Maybe I’m Amazed,” after all, remains in his set list. To recognize that time has passed is no slight, but rather an acknowledgement that even with all that McCartney’s done for his admirers, he’s determined to keep moving, giving, creating.

How extraordinary. What an absolute gift.

If you’ve seen McCartney on his recent tours, like those that set Fenway attendance records in 2009 and 2013, you recognized half of the set list here, or more: big production numbers like “Band on the Run,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Hey Jude,” as well as subtler numbers like “Here Today” in honor of John Lennon, and “Something” on ukulele in George Harrison’s memory.


But there were new bits, as well. Offbeat fare ranged from the quirky 1980 hit “Temporary Secretary” to a stripped-down take on “In Spite of All the Danger” by the Quarrymen, the English skiffle group that birthed the Beatles. Two songs from 2013 LP “New” — the title track and “Queenie Eye” — settled into the mix well; so did a solo take on “FourFiveSeconds,” McCartney’s 2015 single with Rihanna and Kanye West.

The evening didn’t lack for pyrotechnics or special effects — not least the sight of Rob Gronkowski dancing onstage while Dead & Company’s Bob Weir played guitar during “Helter Skelter,” halfway through the encore. But the powerful, generous show McCartney provided with his long-serving band — guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson, keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. — provided all the fireworks any fan could want.


At Fenway Park, July 17

Steve Smith can be reached at steven.smith@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nightafternight.