Cool night, hot show by Sir Paul McCartney 

It really has been a long time since the world’s favorite ex-Beatle has been in San Francisco in the summer — or his people simply didn’t prep him — because Sir Paul McCartney was surprised to be cold amid the characteristic fog at AT&T Park on Saturday.

About a third through the nearly three-hour set, he told the happy crowd of 40,000, “I thought it would be hot. I’d normally have got this jacket off hours ago. It’s not coming off.”

He did take it off later, around the same time the show itself began to heat up.

One wonders how McCartney, arguably the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll songwriter, devises a set list each tour.

Of course he wants to be known for solo material as well as Lennon and McCartney stuff.

But the Wings-heavy beginning of the concert — his first in The City proper since the Beatles’ final public performance at Candlestick Park in 1966 — wasn’t nearly as thrilling as the latter portion, which was filled with sing-along classics (“Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “Lady Madonna,” “Get Back,” Yesterday”), awesome rockers (“Back in the U.S.S.R,” “Helter Skelter”), songs performed for the first time in the area ("Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da") and great tunes he hasn’t extensively done live (“Paperback Writer,” “A Day in the Life,” which nicely segued into “Give Peace a Chance” and “Day Tripper.”)

In contrast, earlier tunes included opener “Venus and Mars/Rock Show,” along with “Letting Go,” “Let Me Roll It,” ’Let 'Em In,” “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” and a few McCartney recorded under an alter ego called the Fireman: “Highway” and “Sing the Changes.”

For the hometown crowd, he served up “San Francisco Bay Blues,” a nice touch.

Surrounded by a big light-and-video show and his tight band — two guitarists, keyboardist and drummer — McCartney alternated between bass, acoustic guitar, piano, mandolin and ukulele, displaying a professionalism that befits the icon
he’s been for so long.

Although his voice might be a tad rougher than it was when he was with the Beatles at the Cow Palace in 1964 (he told a person waving a sign that he remembered them), the 68-year-old sounds and looks better most rock musicians a third (or quarter!) his age.

His advanced years only came into play during fireworks that accompanied “Live and Let Die,” after which he jokingly covered his ears, indicating things got too loud.

“Now we’ve got loud things,” is how he contrasted today’s concert versus those with “great memories from a long time ago.” But he said, “We couldn’t hear a thing we were singing; the girls were all screaming.”

This time around, most fans are wiser and sedate enough to appreciate the quieter parts of the show, particularly a perfect trio of acoustic tunes: “I’m Looking Through You,” “Two of Us” and “Blackbird.”

For many, any time Sir Paul appears, it’s a historic event; add this long-overdue visit by rock’s best to The City to that list of world wonders.

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Leslie Katz

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