No doubt Paul McCartney has seen the rave reviews of 69-year-old Mick Jagger’s ageless performances this year as the Rolling Stones frontman led his band on an improbable comeback tour across the U.S.
On Friday night, an energized, ebullient Mr. McCartney — bounding from guitar to piano and back, clearly enjoying himself — showed a packed house at Nationals Park that his longtime rival isn’t the only graying 1960s icon with a time machine.
The former Beatle, who just turned 71, bounced, sang, joked and sweated through a 38-song, nearly three-hours-long set that featured all the touchstones of a McCartney live show: the singalong “Hey Jude,” the pyrotechnic “Live and Let Die,” the plaintive “Yesterday.”
But there were also surprises, including “Your Mother Should Know,” an often-overlooked slice of shimmery, late-‘60s Beatle-pop, and an extraordinary, stadium-ready reworking of John Lennon’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”
Neither song was ever performed onstage by the Beatles, and their resurrection for this tour — along with show-opener “Eight Days a Week,” a psychedelic-tinged “Lovely Rita” and the silly but infectious “All Together Now” — were just more evidence of the staggering depth of the McCartney/Beatles catalog.
Whether playing instantly recognizable standards, like “Lady Madonna” and “We Can Work It Out,” or digging out 1970s deep cuts like “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” the B-side to megahit “Band on the Run,” the well of songs available for Mr. McCartney to draw from is so varied, so rich and so dazzling, it’s no wonder he’s still selling out stadiums at his age.
The Beatles’ part of that catalog also includes George Harrison’s “Something,” which has become a highlight of Mr. McCartney’s show in recent years — and Friday’s performance was no different: Sir Paul introducing the “Abbey Road” classic on ukulele, poignantly joined by a couple 10,000 or so backup singers in the stands.
Halfway through, guitarist Rusty Anderson weighed in with his muscular take on the ballad’s iconic, soaring guitar solo, and he and the rest of the band drove the song to a crowd-pleasing crescendo.
But it was Mr. McCartney who showed off his own virtuosity on the fretboard with a scorching tribute to Jimi Hendrix, no less. Adding a coda of “Foxy Lady” to the end of a thunderous “Let Me Roll It,” Mr. McCartney followed up with an anecdote about watching, in awe, as Hendrix so abused a guitar at a London show in 1967 that no one — not even guitar-god Eric Clapton — was willing to tune the instrument.
Later, in the show closer, “Golden Slumber/Carry That Weight/The End,” Mr. McCartney and Mr. Anderson ferociously traded licks with Brian Ray, another California guitarist who’s been a part of Mr. McCartney’s band through most of the 2000s.
Tributes were a recurring theme as Sir Paul shared remembrances of loves past and present, dedicating the sweeping piano ballad “Maybe I’m Amazed” to the late Linda McCartney and “My Valentine,” his most recent single, to current wife Nancy Shevell McCartney.
He acknowledged John Lennon with both “Mr. Kite” and “Here Today,” a song Mr. McCartney wrote as a tribute after Lennon’s death. Describing the song as a conversation he wished he’d had with his longtime musical partner, the always sentimental Mr. McCartney urged listeners not to delay telling loved ones how you feel.
A handful of familiar ballads like “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road” will always be an indispensable part of a McCartney show (and he still has the vocal chops to sell them), but at 71, Mr. McCartney takes particular delight in kicking out the jams — bouncing up and down to the raunchy Southern boogie of “Get Back” and screaming his head off in the feedback-drenched “Helter Skelter.”
The only concession to age on Friday night seemed to come at the fireworks-jammed climax of “Live and Let Die,” when a wary-looking Mr. McCartney, anticipating the massive explosions, covered his ears and ducked, waving his hands disgustedly through the smoke as the noise subsided.
In between the ballads and the rockers, Mr. McCartney engaged in an easy banter with the crowd, many still in ponchos and raincoats from the earlier rains that had threatened to put a damper on the outdoor show. He took time to respond to one fan holding a sign asking the ex-Beatle to sign his butt. “Umm. No,” came the response, followed by a pause, then: “Well, maybe. Let’s have a look at it.”
And though he was in the political center of the universe, Mr. McCartney stayed away from politics for the most part. He served up a straightforward rendition of “Back in the USSR,” with not even a hint of wisecrack about Edward Snowden.
And unlike 2009’s stop at FedEx Field, there was no “Michelle” dedicated to the first lady (though there were photos of Michelle Obama and her daughters in the multimedia slideshow backdrop to “Your Mother Should Know”).