- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

Maybe we're amazed at the way we still feel about him. An exuberant Paul McCartney and an emotional, near-capacity crowd embraced each other without embarrassment Tuesday night at MCI Center and didn't want to let go 36 songs and 2 hours later.
Mr. McCartney, returning to Washington more than 38 years after the Beatles' first concert here, made nary a false move. He molded his still-startlingly evocative voice to reach most of the right notes and the hearts of an audience that included children and teens who seemed to know all the words as well as did their aging parents.
From the opening cascade of "Hello Goodbye" to the closing crunch and majesty of "Sgt. Pepper's (Reprise)" and "The End," the energetic 59-year-old founding father of modern British pop sang and played with passionate authority during a well-chosen set of ballads and rockers dominated by selections he made famous with the Fab Four.
Sir Paul, who played a second show at MCI last night, clearly aimed to please. It's hard to find fault with a concert that includes charged readings of "All My Loving," "Can't Buy Me Love," "I Saw Her Standing There," "Getting Better," "Back in the USSR," "Jet," "Let Me Roll It," "Lady Madonna," "The Long and Winding Road," "Let It Be," "Hey Jude" and "Yesterday."
The concert began disarmingly when a troupe of costumed gymnasts, contortionists, dancers and other performers worked their way through the audience and onto the stage, resembling refugees from a masked ball spanning the centuries. The crowd could be excused for feeling as if it were in a play.
Moving easily among bass, guitar and keyboards throughout the evening, a surprisingly youthful-appearing Mr. McCartney also concentrated on songs from his early post-Beatles recordings ("Maybe I'm Amazed" and "My Love" among them), ignoring his 1980s and 1990s solo songbook and performing only the flag-waving anthem "Freedom" and three stronger numbers from his adventurous new album, "Driving Rain" (Capitol).
Together with a delightful version of his Oscar-nominated theme to the Cameron Crowe film "Vanilla Sky," they were the only representations of his continuingly vital studio work but well could drive out-of-touch fans to seek it out.
One emotional peak arrived midway, during a captivating acoustic segment when Mr. McCartney stood alone onstage and performed back-to-back tributes to the two Beatles no longer with us: on guitar, the poignant reminiscence "Here Today" for John Lennon and, on ukulele, a more upbeat "Something" for George Harrison (whose fondness for the instrument was recalled affectionately by his old band mate).
Also featured during the acoustic outing were Beatles favorites "Blackbird," "We Can Work It Out," "Mother Nature's Son," "You Never Give Me Your Money/Carry That Weight," "Fool on the Hill," "Eleanor Rigby" and "Here, There and Everywhere."
The man his fans know as Macca was charming, chatty ("This is rock information of the highest order," he noted during one aside) and visibly moved by the crowd's affectionate response. His performance was propelled by the powerful ensemble playing of longtime keyboardist Paul "Wix" Wickens and a trio of twentysomethings featured on the new album: guitarist Rusty Anderson, guitarist-bassist Brian Ray and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr.
Mr. McCartney convincingly inhabited the mood or sentiment of each selection. He never seemed to be going through the motions or coolly exploiting the often-palpable nostalgia, despite clips of the Beatles and his 1970s band, Wings, that popped up during a seamlessly synchronized light-and-video barrage that accompanied the music on multiple screens behind and above the performers.
"We have come to rock you tonight," he informed the crowd early on.
Judging by the looks on the sea of faces at any given moment, they had no trouble listening to what the man said.

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