MISSOULA — Penny Lane, meet Campus Drive.
Sir Paul McCartney performed to more than 25,000 fans Tuesday in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the first known concert by a Beatle in the Treasure State.
The response on both sides was enthusiastic.
People in the crowd, who had weathered a line snaking around campus after a sweltering tailgate, were rewarded with the largest concert in Montana history.
McCartney was more than willing to give it his all, a feat impressive for a musician of any age, much less 72.
“The jacket’s coming off early,” he said after only two songs. “And that’s going to be the only costume change of the night.”
As in past performances on the Out There tour, McCartney drew heavily on his songs from the Beatles catalog, interspersed with tunes from his Wings albums and solo records, and new singles such as the lively “Queenie Eye.“
He played more than two hours as well, everything from solo ballads to a stadiumwide sing-along of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.“
The massive production included screens bookending the multistory stage, which improved the view for fans in the outer rings of the stadium. Another screen queued up animated collages for specific tunes.
McCartney and his long-running four-piece backing band were just as enthusiastic as prior reviews had hinted.
Songs like “Paperback Writer,” which he played on the guitar used on the original recording, were retrofitted with a harder rock edge than the studio albums.
He even ran through a short instrumental version of “Foxy Lady,” gamely soloing himself and following the tune with a story about seeing Hendrix perform back in the ’60s.
As the sun finally set, McCartney switched to piano for a suite of songs including “Maybe I’m Amazed,” in fine voice during the howling bridge. That performance, dedicated to his wife Linda, segued into an acoustic set, highlighted by “We Can Work It Out.“
Soon the band decamped, and he played the show’s most vulnerable songs alone on acoustic guitar atop a 20-foot riser that had video on the front. There was the timeless “Blackbird,” and “Here Today,” dedicated to John Lennon.
The crowd, comprising all generations, seemed as much in awe of the scale of the event as the music. After all, a performance of “Let it Be,” blown out to the size of a stadium, is a literal once-in-a-lifetime experience for most in Montana.
Tours by living legends can often have an air of suspicion — after so many mediocre Bob Dylan shows, Missoula residents may have wondered what to expect. Is it a real show, or a nostalgia tour?
McCartney, though, has always peppered his music with nostalgia, and that trait has allowed him to age gracefully and energetically along with his massive catalog of songs.
As the lights-and-pyrotechnics production and energy level showed, he’s always been an enthusiastic showman as well as an artist.
That he’s still so good at both is probably why he got the largest standing ovations the state will see in awhile.