“Tonight, it’s all about love,” Paul McCartney announced to a crowd of adoring fans.
Paul McCartney and New York City have a very rich history. There was, of course, the Fab Four’s seminal appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show nearly 51 years ago to the day. He’s also played raucous, oft-cited, and never forgotten gigs at a few other Big Apple places of note: Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, and the Fillmore East, where The Beatles played the Magical Mystery Tour via a newsreel film on August 11, 1968, as part of a benefit performance. After a surprise announcement on Twitter yesterday morning, Irving Plaza became the latest New York City venue to be added to the list, playing host to a surprisingly intimate Valentine’s Day performance from McCartney.
Back in 2007, Live Nation attempted to rebrand Irving Plaza as “The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza.” While the name was changed back in 2010 in the wake of an online uprising, it still serves as the de facto successor to rock promoter Bill Graham’s East Coast music mecca. When The Beatles first played the Fillmore back in 1968, the most expensive ticket was 25 dollars. And on Saturday night, tickets were available for just 40 dollars apiece—in cash, at the venue’s box office—a price well below the several hundred clams fans normally have to pay to see Macca do his thing.
To the delight of those lucky enough to score one of the 1,000-plus blood-red wristbands, no less than 15 of the songs McCartney played were Beatles standards, including the opening number “Eight Days A Week.” That song begins with the now-famous line, “Oh I need your love, babe,” and the audience was more than happy to share their Valentine’s Day with a bona fide rock god.Other tunes included a trio of Wings songs, such as the 1974 ditty “Jet,” as well as various solo numbers like the oh-so-appropriate “My Valentine” from his cheekily-titled 2012 solo LP Kisses on the Bottom. And Macca, ever the gent, dedicated “My Valentine” to his recent bride Nancy Shevell. After crooning the final note, hundreds of paper rose petals rained down on the smitten, sold-out crowd. “That’s the big spectacular production number of this evening,” he said after, flashing that famous smile.
For those unable to cop a cheap wristband, there was an ad-hoc secondary market that popped up on Craigslist, with tickets selling for anywhere from $300-500 each, according to TiqIQ. Over the last two years, McCartney has played 69 shows as part of his “Out There” tour, ostensibly to promote New, his first album of entirely original compositions in eight years. For a pair of sold-out shows at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in June of last year, the average price for floor seats was almost $1,000, which made the $500 secondary-market price for Saturday’s show a deal for someone looking to get up close and personal with the legend.
McCartney is in New York to tape the much-ballyhooed primetime Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special tonight, and Irving Plaza’s VIP section included SNL alums Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, and Kristen Wiig, as well as kingmaker Lorne Michaels himself. Other celebs in attendance included actresses Meryl Streep and Emma Stone; actors Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, and Paul Rudd; football star Peyton Manning; and, last but not least, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. At one point during the set, McCartney urged the crowd to “give it up for SNL,” and they were happy to oblige.
Despite plenty of speculation, Kayne West and Rihanna didn’t make a cameo for a rendition of their recent collaboration with McCartney, “FourFiveSeconds.” While the crowd Saturday night certainly would have buzzed over the novelty of a Yeezy cameo, they were entirely content singing along to the classics, including “Back in the U.S.S.R,” “Let It Be,” and “Hey Jude,” which McCartney played to close out the set before a three-song encore.
While McCartney fans reveled in the past for most of the 100-minute set, it’s clear that even as a grandfather of over 15 years, McCartney hasn’t lost his grip on the culture. Not only is he writing songs with the biggest names in hip-hop and pop music, he’s also playing the most buzzed-about show on a Saturday night in New York City in the heart of New York Fashion Week and NBA All-Star Weekend. At one point during the set, an audience member shouted, “New York Loves You!” to which McCartney responded with a chipper, “And I love New York.” On this intimate and unexpected evening, the feeling was mutual.